TOKYO — Former Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura has come under fire for posting a collection of photos of overseas women on his official website for more than 10 years, titled “Picture Book of World’s Beauties entire”.
The photo gallery posted by Nishimura, 59, a member of the House of Representatives from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has become a hot topic on social media, prompting criticism such as “It’s disgusting”. In response, Nishimura removed the photo collection from his website and explained on his blog on June 3.
“I stopped updating it (the photo collection) in August 2017, but I forgot to delete it,” Nishimura told Mainichi Shimbun. A gender expert says the lawmaker’s messages in the photos were “inappropriate”.
Nishimura is currently serving his seventh term, representing Hyogo Constituency No. 9 in the lower house. Under the former regimes of prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga, Nishimura served as minister for economic revitalization and minister for coronavirus response. He is now general secretary of the largest LDP faction led by Abe.
Since at least around 2008, Nishimura had published the photos of women abroad under the title “Picture Book of Beauties Around the World”. When the Mainichi Shimbun checked the photos before they were removed from its website, a photo apparently taken in Belgium in 2008 was found with the title “Picture Book of Beauties Around the World – Part 21”. The caption for the photo read: “While traveling in Brussels, Belgium. As expected, it’s cold in the evening. A back shot of a beauty (?) returning from shopping (?).”
Another snap apparently taken in Ecuador showed a woman in the distance as she took a commemorative photo. The caption read: “A woman taking a commemorative photo in front of an equator monument in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Her smile is quite charming, even from afar.”
The collection of photos went viral on Twitter from May this year, drawing a wave of criticism. One tweet read, “Did he get permission from the women he photographed?” while another said: ‘It’s so disgusting he’s released the photos as a collection under the title ‘Beauties Picture Book’ working with taxpayers money?’
Nishimura’s office had deleted the photos on June 2. Following an interview request from Mainichi, the lawmaker responded by fax saying, “I stopped updating the website in question from August 2017, but forgot to remove it (the photo the collection).” The statement continued, “I assume some people were offended by this. I have removed them all. I will be very careful to prevent this from happening again in the future.” While the Mainichi also asked him why he started posting the “beauty collection,” the lawmaker didn’t answer the question.
On June 2, there was a blog post on its official website, titled “Regarding photos that were displayed on the homepage in the past.” The message read: “Generally speaking, photos taken in public places are rarely edited on television and other media, but because it has been pointed out that some people feel uncomfortable, I deleted them.”
However, Nishimura’s excuse that he ‘forgot to delete them’ sparked further backlash, with one person saying, “He’s not aware of the problem. It’s a pattern of the individual not trying not understand.” Another comment said: “He hasn’t apologized for posting the photos. He makes it look like an apology, but he distracts from what is being criticised.”
Fumio Sunaga, an associate professor at Showa University in Tokyo who is well versed in gender issues, commented, “He (Nishimura) may have shed some light on women. The old male-centric sense of values has changed, and as a politician who is supposed to have acute sensitivity, he belittled social trends and that was inappropriate.”
(Japanese original by Tsuyoshi Goto, Digital News Center)