Local MP caught violating smoking ban at high school baseball game in Japan

A member of the Kumamoto Prefectural Assembly was caught smoking a heated tobacco product in the smoke-free stands of Hanshin Koshien Stadium during the National High School Baseball Championship in August, it has been reported.

Nobuo Ide, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who is serving his sixth term in the Kumamoto Prefectural Assembly, attended a baseball tournament quarter-final on August 18 to see his alma mater Kyushu Gakuin Lutheran High School , based in Kumamoto City, play. He was seated in the stands at third base with people affiliated with the school.

Kumamoto Prefectural Assemblyman Nobuo Ide, center, is seen with what appears to be a heated tobacco product in his mouth in the stands of Hanshin Koshien Stadium. He was surrounded by children, including students from Kyushu Gakuin Lutheran High School, cheering on their team. (Partially edited photo courtesy of someone affiliated with the school)

Smoking, including heated tobacco products, is prohibited at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, except in designated smoking areas. According to a source linked to the school, Ide was smoking a heated tobacco product in the stands from the first half of the game. A student at the school’s cheerleading club performing a routine near the assembly complained that she didn’t feel well because of the smell of cigarettes, and a school employee told Ide “You can’t smoke here. Please stop because we have students here too.”

In video recorded by someone affiliated with the school, a man who appears to be Ide in clothing bearing the school’s name can be seen holding what appears to be a heated tobacco product.

When approached by the Mainichi Shimbun on September 9, the 63-year-old MP admitted to smoking in the stands and apologized, saying, “It was a huge mistake on my part to smoke. I been negligent.” He added: “I only smoked once and switched to a nicotine replacement product after I was told to quit.”

However, several sources affiliated with the school told the Mainichi Shimbun that Ide continued to smoke even after being asked to quit. A source testified: “He said ‘OK, OK’ and continued to smoke.”

Nobuo Ide (Photo from Kumamoto Prefectural Assembly website)

A person associated with the school said: ‘It was not a mature thing to do and I felt sorry for the pupils who did their best to encourage their classmates. Meanwhile, the tournament organizer’s secretariat office told the Mainichi Shimbun, “It’s unfortunate if someone was smoking in the stands. We want everyone to follow the rules.”

Ide was first elected to the prefectural assembly in 1999 and served as its chairman from 2019 to 2020. He is currently the vice chairman of the LDP’s Kumamoto prefectural chapter.

(Japanese original by Hayato Jojima, Kyushu News Department, and Sonoko Nakamura, Kumamoto Bureau; video courtesy of a source associated with the school)