April 24, 2020 / 5:40 AM / a month ago

Shopping behaviour: Japanese mayor's social distancing remarks upset women

TOKYO (Reuters) - The mayor of the western Japanese city Osaka came under fire on social media on Friday after saying women take longer than men shopping for groceries as he tried to promote social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the city.

FILE PHOTO: Mayor of Osaka and leader of the Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) Ichiro Matsui attends a debate session with other party leaders ahead of July 21 upper house election at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Japan July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Friday morning there were nearly 1,500 coronavirus cases in Osaka and the prefecture that surrounds it, making it the second hardest-hit after Tokyo, national broadcaster NHK said.

Mayor Ichiro Matsui has been appealing to people to take steps to reduce the risk of virus infections, but his remarks over gender shopping behaviour stirred controversy.

“When a woman goes... it will take time,” Matsui said when asked by a male reporter about possibly reducing shoppers’ entry to supermarkets to lower the risk of coronavirus infections.

“If it was you, if you were told to get this or that, then you would go directly... and go home,” he said. “It’s also fine for men to go shopping while avoiding contact.”

Matsui, who also said married couples should avoid going shopping together, drew criticism on Japanese Twitter over his remarks, with users saying they were sexist.

“Japan is a country where these words come calmly out of a mayor’s mouth. Deplorable,” said one user on Friday.

Another user said the remark showed politicians don’t think enough about what parenting, household work and nursing involve.

“When I hear remarks like this... I feel the need for people with diverse backgrounds to participate in politics,” the user said.

Matsui actually got things the wrong way around, another user said, saying women needed less time than men when going out shopping.

“Women are deciding more quickly when shopping,” the user said, adding he took longer to find the right aisles for items he needed.

Matsui on Thursday also said people should limit how often the go to the supermarket to shop, suggesting people born in months with an even number should only go on even dates, and those with uneven numbered months should go on uneven dates.

Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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