A private photo of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, taken at his official residence, was leaked by a magazine on Friday, with critics arguing the action was inappropriate and generated security issues at what they consider a public facility.
The picture was taken at the residence during a family function at the end of last year. The facility serves as both the prime minister's personal dwelling and a public venue for hosting guests and conducting official duties.
Kishida defended the leaked private photograph, telling reporters, "I dined with my family members and relatives" at the private space of the official residence, which is just a few minutes away from the prime minister's office.
"I do not believe I did something inappropriate in the public area" of the residence, Kishida said.
The fresh revelation of the snapshot comes after Kishida's eldest son, Shotaro, was fired from his role as executive secretary to the prime minister amid growing criticism over inappropriate photos, apparently taken on the same occasion.
The prime minister posed for the photograph with 17 family members and relatives, including Shotato and his wife Yuko, and it was unveiled in the latest edition of a weekly magazine called Friday.
At a news conference on Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, the top government spokesman, did not directly answer a question about whether a series of leaked private images of the internal layout of the facility to the media could create national security issues.
Late last month, a different weekly magazine reported Shotaro and several of his relatives had posed for photos in symbolically important parts of the residence in a manner some considered disrespectful, prompting the government to say that their actions "lacked appropriateness."
Matsuno has acknowledged that Kishida made an appearance at the year-end party, although he did not provide specifics about his actions or the duration of his presence.
Kenta Izumi, head of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, expressed concern about the leakage of the snapshots, saying, "It is a significant issue" as the "structure of the official residence could become public."
Shotaro, a former employee of Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co., has been a repeated source of trouble for the prime minister since he was tapped for the role of executive secretary in October 2022.
In January, Shotaro came under fire for inappropriately mixing public and private interests by going sightseeing while accompanying his father on visits to other Group of Seven countries ahead of the G-7 Hiroshima summit that ended May 21.
After the report of the leaked snapshots last month, Kishida initially issued a strong warning to Shotaro but eventually decided earlier this week to sack him with backlash intensifying over retaining his son at the post.
The prime minister has said that Shotaro has refused to accept his severance pay and bonus.