Ikeda is a pleasant city on the outskirts of Osaka prefecture and home to one of Japan’s two Cup Noodles Museums, honoring its inventor Momofuku Ando. But for the past few months a scandal has put its mayor, Hiroki Tomita, in hot water like so many dried noodles in a Styrofoam cup.
It all started in September of this year, when Mayor Hiroki Tomita brought a home sauna to his office and installed it in a small room next to the waiting room. During his lunch break, Tomita would slip into something more comfortable and take a steam for about 20 minutes.
However, around mid-October, Tomita’s wife advised him to rethink the practice, because a mayor having a sauna, that he installed, in his office probably wouldn’t go over to well with the general population. He agreed and pulled it back out.
Only he was not fast enough, it would seem. On Oct 22, a news website broke the story of Tomita’s workplace sauna and the people were steaming mad. The following day, Mayor Tomita held a press conference to apologize for his sauna and “mixing public and private matters.” He also promised to reflect on what he did and reimburse the electric costs.
Normally, that would be the end of it, but suddenly on Nov 17, Tomita once again called the press to declare that he had successfully worked out the electric costs of his sauna. He claimed to have used the sauna 30 times in the office for periods of 50 minutes, including the time it took to heat up. Rounding up at a rate of 23 yen per kilowatt hour, that worked out to 690 yen, all of which he dutifully returned to the city’s coffers.
Online readers of the news, most of whom lived outside of Ikeda, were confused, both by the tiny refund and over what the big deal was in the first place.
“That’s kind of funny. Were they really angry about this?”
“The labor costs of calculating the bill was probably higher.”
“It’s not a matter of money, it’s about morals.”
“He’s a little ‘different’ from normal mayors, isn’t he?”
“What about the cost of installing the sauna?”
“It’s fine, I bring stuff from home to work to make myself more comfortable too.”
Added to these sentiments is one overlooked but important factor that Tomita brought up in his initial apology. He was a high school and college football player.
As a result of his student athletics, he developed a herniated lumbar disc among other injuries, and used the sauna alleviate the pain.
Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, My Game News Flash
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