Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso speaks in a street in Tokyo's Akihabara district, Japan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008.
While much of Japan is grappling with deepening economic turmoil, the country's new prime minister has come under fire for enjoying a lavish nightlife.
Since taking the helm a month ago, Taro Aso has spent all but four nights out on the town at posh bars and eateries, according to leading local newspapers.
Aso's haunts include an upscale hotel bar where coffee is poured out at $15 a cup, and a ritzy restaurant where the grilled eel starts at $175 a serving.
The opposition has seized on Aso's nights on the town, claiming the 68-year-old political blueblood and scion of a wealthy family is out of touch with the people.
"He won't understand the real concerns of people by going to such places," said Susumu Yanase, a lawmaker from Japan's largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan.
Aso, who is well-known for favoring cigars and meticulously tailored suits, has defended his nocturnal habits, saying visits to less exclusive places would be a security headache for others.
Besides, he said, he's not charging the government for his fun.
"Don't you know bars at hotels are not so expensive?" Aso said when challenged over his spree.
"Fortunately, I've got money, so I'm paying the bills myself."
The PM is now making efforts to develop a common touch. He visited a supermarket in downtown Tokyo last week to see how shoppers were being affected by price increases.
Since taking office on Sept 24, Aso has been under pressure to boost the popularity of the ailing ruling party before he calls snap parliamentary elections.