Think nap pods and free snacks are cool office perks? Think bigger.
A Japanese mayor took relaxation to the next level by setting up a personal sauna in his office, although the move put him in hot water and ultimately cost his job.
Hiroki Tomita, who has been the mayor of the city of Ikeda in Osaka since 2019, installed a home sauna in his office in July, saying it was for “his health.” The 44-year-old used to play American football and suffers from a lumbar disc hernia, an injury usually caused by excess strain on the spine.
But Tomita has been forced to resign after his office amenity came to light in news reports and drew criticism for misusing government office space.
“With this sauna problem, I’ve caused an inconvenience to this city’s residents. I sincerely apologize,” Ikeda said at a press conference on Monday.
His resignation comes as Osaka reckons with its deadliest wave of the coronavirus.
In the last few weeks, the prefecture has repeatedly reported over 1,000 new daily cases, the highest numbers in the country.
Osaka entered a third state of emergency on April 25, which will last until May 11, at the end of Japan’s week-long national holiday.
Public frustration with government officials and their response to the pandemic has intensified following the virus’ resurgence.
The Tokyo Olympics are less than 90 days away, but just over 1 percent of the entire Japanese population has been vaccinated, owing in part to a late start in the country’s vaccination drive and low public confidence in vaccines.
Additionally, local officials have been repeatedly caught flouting lockdown rules. Last week, an Osaka mayor revealed that more than 1,000 city government employees disobeyed prefectural lockdown recommendations, dining out in groups and late at night.
For Tomita, Ikeda’s mayor, a personal sauna may only be the last straw that caused his downfall.
Tomita reportedly brought to his office gym weights, a microwave, and hair dryer for personal use, and he was found sleeping in his office for 17 nights between September and October.
Tomita has also been accused of harassing several colleagues, including yelling and forcing them to wash his dirty towels.
Criticized for adding to the city office’s energy bill, Tomita has pledged to calculate his electricity use and pay for it out of his own pocket.
The mayor said he would leave his position once the vaccine program for the elderly in his city has been largely completed.