Hashimoto not to quit party post, fate hinges on upper house election

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who recently made controversial remarks about Japan's system of military brothels during World War II, said Monday he will not quit his post as co-head of the Japan Restoration Party for now.

"We were unable to gain public support in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election, but I would like to seek again a public mandate in the upper house election," Hashimoto told reporters, after his party secured only two seats in the 127-seat assembly in Sunday's election.

The outspoken mayor said at Osaka city hall that the "crushing defeat" of his party's candidates in Sunday's election was "entirely my fault" and admitted that his remarks changed the public's perception of the party from "trust to disappointment."

In May, Hashimoto said women at the brothels, euphemistically called "comfort women" in Japan, were "necessary" for front-line soldiers during the war, sparking criticism at home and abroad.

Hashimoto also said he had urged U.S. forces in Okinawa to make use of Japan's legal adult entertainment industry to prevent sex offenses by servicemen.

Although the Osaka mayor later retracted the comment and offered an apology to the U.S. military, he has continued to defend his remarks related to the "comfort women" by saying he did not personally hold the view that the women were necessary but was describing the situation during wartime.

"I do not think what I said was a mistake," Hashimoto said Monday.

Shintaro Ishihara, the other co-head of the party and just as outspoken, hinted before a separate group of reporters in Tokyo that their political fates are likely tied to the outcome of the House of Councillors election on July 21.

"There is no point in going on and on about (what happened)," Ishihara said. "We will focus on constitutional revision and give our best to fight it out in the upper house election."

Following the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's triumph in Sunday's assembly election, the opposition party led by Ishihara and Hashimoto as well as the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan are likely to hold off from assigning blame to their leaders.

DPJ leader Banri Kaieda said he will remain in his post.

The DPJ only managed to win 15 seats in the Tokyo assembly, compared with the LDP's 59 seats and the 23 won by the LDP's coalition partner the New Komeito party.

The Tokyo assembly election was widely viewed as a test of voters' confidence in the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who heads the LDP.