Tokyo's governor will take time off to recover from severe fatigue, the metropolitan government said on Wednesday, one month before the Olympics begin. As the host city's leader, Gov. Yuriko Koike has been deeply involved with preparations for the Olympics and Paralympics as well as leading the capital's coronavirus response. She often worked weekends and late at night on coronavirus measures and holding meetings with senior officials, and would speak briefly to reporters who waited to speak to her at the entrance of the metropolitan government building.
At an online meeting related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, she apologized for her hoarse voice. Japanese media including NHK public television reported Koike was hospitalized. The Tokyo metropolitan government officials said they cannot confirm the report and only said Koike has severe fatigue requiring rest and will take time off from work through the end of the week. Deputy Gov. Mitsuchika Tarao is taking over Koike's official duties while she rests, the government's statement said.
Wednesday marks one month before the Olympics open on July 23, and Koike's absence comes just before campaigning begins for the Tokyo metropolitan assembly elections, in which she heads a local party, Tokyoites First. Earlier this week, Olympic representatives decided to allow the public to attend the Games, though caps were set on spectators at Olympic venues. Health experts have expressed deep concern the Games could cause the virus to surge in the Tokyo region. Koike, who turns 69 on July 15, has belonged to Japan's ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party for about 20 years and has served in key Cabinet and party posts.
A media savvy, and stylish TV newscaster-turned-politician, Koike is still rumored as a future prime minister candidate and her political activity is closely watched ahead of national elections later this year. She was Japan's first female defense minister and set her sights on becoming Tokyo's first female governor after failing to win the LDP presidency. She won her second term as governor last year. As governor, Koike has pushed for populist measures such as administrative reforms, wiser spending and reviewing costly venues for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Koike had insisted on holding the Olympics as planned last year until the last minute, then began pushing for the government to urgently fight the coronavirus pandemic and declare a state of emergency, while the central government was criticized for being slow to take those steps.