Japanese government minister apologizes for high-fashion modeling shoot inside parliament

By Mari Yamaguchi, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

Japan minister apologizes for modeling inside Diet

TOKYO — A Japanese Cabinet minister apologized Friday for posing inside parliament for high-fashion photographs that opposition conservatives criticized as extravagant and a possible breach of rules.

The six-page spread in November’s Vogue Nippon shows Government Revitalization Minister Renho wearing designer dresses in photos taken inside the Diet building this summer.

“If the location of the photo shoot was inappropriate or has caused concerns, that was not my intention,” Renho told a televised news conference Friday. “I apologize straightforwardly.”

Renho, who uses just one name, said her intention was to get more people interested in politics and that she obtained permission for the photo session from the secretariat of the upper house, of which she is a member.

However, the way she appeared in the magazine “does not seem to fit the claimed purpose,” an upper house spokesman said on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue. “The problem is how she is presented.”

Photography inside parliament is permitted only for activities related to parliamentary affairs, and personal advertising and commercial activities are not allowed, he said.

The upper house rules and administration committee is still investigating if Renho breached regulations and should be punished. The official said the committee is also considering tightening parliamentary photography guidelines.

“It’s outrageous that a minister who has boasted of taking the people’s perspective and eliminating wasteful use of their tax money is wearing such (expensive) dresses,” opposition lawmaker Ichita Yamamoto said.

Renho was also verbally reprimanded by senior members of her own party, said Yuichiro Hata, parliamentary affairs chairman for the ruling Democratic Party.

In one photo, she stands against a marble railing, dressed in a white jacket with a big collar, a white mini skirt and black boots — all from Valentino, with the price of each item listed on the same page and totaling more than 1.31 million yen ($16,000.)

In another photo, she is wearing a Giorgio Armani red jacket and a black skirt priced at 294,000 yen ($3,585) and 378,000 yen ($4,600) respectively.

The Japanese offices of Vogue declined to comment.

A second-term lawmaker in the upper house, Renho won a reputation for toughness by grilling bureaucrats during televised showdowns over government-funded projects seen as money-wasters, and became the youngest member of the Cabinet.

While at college in Tokyo, she won a contract to model in ads for an audio company. She then appeared in TV variety shows and became a talk show host and newscaster. She moved to Beijing to study Chinese in 1995 and was elected to the upper house in 2004.

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