Photo/IllutrationChiba Governor Kensaku Morita explains his whereabouts on Sept. 10 at a news conference at the prefectural government office in Chiba on Nov. 7. (Daiki Koga)

  • Photo/Illustraion

CHIBA--The day after a typhoon pounded Chiba Prefecture in September, leaving tens of thousands of homes without power, officials were also in the dark as to the governor's whereabouts.

Governor Kensaku Morita explained his actions on Sept. 10 at a regular news conference on Nov. 7 at the prefectural government office, insisting that after the emergency management headquarters was set up at the office, he went to his home in Shibayama, about 30 kilometers away.

Morita said he used an official vehicle to get there, then hopped into his private car with a driver for an unofficial inspection of the neighboring city of Tomisato and the surrounding area.

Typhoon No. 15 ripped through the prefecture on Sept. 9, leaving up to 641,000 households without electricity and damaging more than 56,000 homes.

Amid the chaos, prefectural officials had no idea where Morita was or what he was doing the following day. They also apparently had no means of getting in touch with him.

The "scandal" of his whereabouts in the aftermath of the disaster was reported by weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun.

Initially, Morita insisted that on the day the typhoon hit, he was at the governor's official residence in Chiba to gather information on the typhoon, and that after the emergency management meeting the following morning, he went to Tomisato.

However, an article in the issue released on Nov. 7 reported that Morita was at his "vacation home" in Shibayama in the prefecture on Sept. 10.

Responding to the article, Morita said at the news conference that he went to his home, not a "vacation home," that day.

"I wanted to see the conditions, even if from inside a car," he added.

He said that he tried to arrange for his own car from the prefectural office, but was unable, so he went home in a government vehicle, then changed cars and drove around Tomisato for 30 to 40 minutes.

Morita, who took office in 2009, said he conducted a similar inspection following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

"I did it before and it was productive. That's my governing style," he said.

Records released by the prefectural government for the governor’s official vehicle show no mention of Morita's visit to Shibayama and provide no details of his inspection.