Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, enjoys drinks with fellow Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers on July 5. (Captured from Yasutoshi Nishimura's Twitter account)

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Critics blasted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers for attending a drinking party after western Japan came under the threat of torrential rains that eventually caused widespread death and destruction.

The drinking party was held on July 5 at the building where housing quarters of Lower House members are located. And it appeared to have been a cordial affair, judging by a picture of the smiling party-goers that was posted online.

Even an LDP lawmaker was critical.

“It would be preferable if we refrained from holding such events at times when heavy rain and damage are forecast,” Hiroshi Moriyama, chairman of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee, said at a July 10 news conference. He did not attend the drinking party.

The party was held hours after the Japan Meteorological Agency issued the warning about possible record rains in western Japan. The downpours did set records over the next few days, causing flooding and landslides that have killed more than 150 people.

Fumio Kishida, the LDP policy chief, Wataru Takeshita, the LDP General Council chairman, and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera were also in attendance at the party.

That night, Yasutoshi Nishimura, a deputy chief Cabinet secretary, posted the photo of the smiling lawmakers raising their glasses on his Twitter account, along with the comment, “Amid a very friendly mood, even younger lawmakers were taking photos all over the place.”

Online critics questioned why the lawmakers were drinking during an emergency. Others asked why the party was not canceled.

Opposition party lawmakers were also vehement in their criticism.

“I could not believe it when I saw the photos of the enjoyable party,” Renho, the Upper House secretary-general for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said on July 10. “There was a total lack of any sense of responsibility.”

Onodera said his attendance at the party did not hamper the Self-Defense Forces’ efforts to deal with the impending disaster because he was in frequent phone contact with subordinates at the Defense Ministry.

Takeshita was more apologetic.

“I will accept any form of criticism that may arise. I myself never expected such a level of damage (from the rain),” he said at a July 9 news conference.

The following day, the LDP faction headed by Takeshita as well as the one headed by Shigeru Ishiba, a former party secretary-general, decided to postpone study sessions scheduled for mid-July.

“The effect from the criticism about the drinking party was large,” an LDP executive said. “The factions likely did not want a recurrence.”