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Former Mistress of Prime Minister Appears on Television

June 26, 1989

TOKYO (AP) _ A 40-year-old former geisha, whose identity had been withheld, appeared on television Sunday and said she was paid by Prime Minister Sousuke Uno to be his mistress in 1985.

Mitsuko Nakanishi said Uno was high-handed with her. She was shown in an interview with the Tokyo Broadcasting System at a temple in Kagoshima prefecture in southwestern Japan.

″I think a person who does not understand the weak could not conduct good politics,″ she said.

Ms. Nakanishi said she had not expected her story, first published in a weekly magazine, would generate so much interest. The report in the magazine, Sunday Mainichi, did not name her.

″I just wanted to tell the facts,″ Ms. Nakanishi said.

After the story appeared, opposition parties and some womens’ groups demanded an explanation from Uno. They said they were concerned the reports might damage Japan’s reputation abroad.

Uno has refused to talk publically about the alleged affair, saying it is a private matter.

Uno was the head of research committee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in 1985 when Ms. Nakanishi said she became his mistress. She said a contract was signed with her geisha house and a small ceremony was observed.

She said in the interview that under the contract Uno paid the equivalent of $14,280 to the house and later gave her $7,140. That was in addition to monthly payments of $2,100 over four months, Ms. Nakanishi said.

Uno became foreign minister in 1987 and on June 2 was chosen prime minister after a long search for a politician with a clean image to help the Liberal Democrats overcome a widespread influence-peddling scandal.

In the interview, Ms. Nakanishi said she kept her silence when Uno became foreign minister but was indignant when he emerged as prime minister.

When the interviewer asked whether keeping silent about relations with customers was a rule among geishas, Ms. Nakanishi said she was ″not a criminal″ for disclosing her relationship with Uno.

″There should be no discrimination by job. ... Even the geisha pays taxes,″ she said. ″Mr. Uno is a public figure.″

Ms. Nakanishi said she was no longer a geisha, although she did not specify her current job except to say that she worked for a company.

The interviewer said Ms. Nakanishi had gone to the temple for purification rites and had been advised by a priest to tell her story on television.

The earlier story involved a break with the usual Japanese practice of not releasing information abouat the private lives of politicians. Some editors have said they believe the public’s attitude toward the country’s leaders is becoming stricter.

Contrary to some beliefs, geisha are not prostitutes but highly trained entertainers. Most work in traditional restaurants where guests are primarily male. Some become the mistresses of favored patrons.

In the late 1970s geisha numbered about 17,000, but their number is believed to have dwindled.

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