The sole female councilor in Kusatsu, Japan, has been forced out of her seat after residents decided her sexual assault claim against the mayor had damaged the town's reputation. Now, officials worry the decision has put a black mark on the town on the international stage. Shoko Arai, 51, first claimed last November that she was forced "into sexual relations" with Mayor Nobutada Kuroiwa in his office in 2015, per the Guardian. She described how the 73-year-old had "suddenly pulled me closer, kissed me, and pushed [me] down on the floor." The council responded by voting to expel Arai, not Kuroiwa, though the decision was appealed and reversed by prefectural authorities, reports CNN. In the aftermath, residents led by council Chair Takashi Kuroiwa (no apparent relation) submitted a new request to have Arai dismissed, resulting in a townwide vote on Sunday.
Some 90% of 2,835 voting residents approved the measure, which claimed Arai had damaged the reputation of the mayor, who denies wrongdoing, and "degraded" the women of Kusatsu, a hot-springs resort town northwest of Tokyo, per the Guardian. The measure, describing Arai's salary as a "waste," referenced her claims that women are "treated as objects" in the town in Japan, where sexist views are prevalent. The mayor said the vote had preserved the "dignity of the town," per the Asahi Shimbun, via the New York Times. But Arai, who'd maintained her seat as an independent since 2011, said the vote was "unjust and unreasonable" and that it was the mayor and his allies who'd done damage. At least some locals agree, per the Guardian. The town is also facing numerous complaints from outside Kusatsu, per CNN. "We worry the image of this town is damaged," an official says. (Read more Japan stories.)