Japanese YouTuber loses seat in Parliament after not showing up to work

TOKYO — A YouTuber-turned-lawmaker was expelled from Japan’s upper house of parliament Wednesday following his continuous absence from parliamentary sessions since he was elected last year.

Yoshikazu Higashitani, who also goes by GaaSyy, including on a popular YouTube account that has been suspended, lost his seat after he failed to appear in the House of Councilors while residing abroad, angering colleagues.

GaaSyy, 51, received almost 300,000 votes in July in his campaign for the Diet, Japan’s parliament, as a member of a single-issue party that advocates reforms to NHK, the Japanese public broadcaster. He had been living in the United Arab Emirates even before the election and has not returned to Japan since then, citing concerns he might be detained by police investigating defamation complaints stemming from the celebrity gossip that propelled him to YouTube stardom.

GaaSyy said on Instagram last week that he was in Gaziantep, Turkey, to help with earthquake relief and that it was too early for him to return to Japan. He is believed to be back in the U.A.E. city of Dubai.

He is the first Japanese lawmaker to be expelled from the legislature in more than 70 years and the first to be expelled over an extended period of absence. The decision does not bar him from running for office again.