Television chatshows carried looped footage of a press conference in which Ryutaro Nonomura wails and bangs his fists on the desk as tears stream down his face.
He shouts incoherent excuses in between gut-wrenching sobs, punctuated by the long intakes of breath necessary to power the next outburst.
Nonomura, who was elected to the assembly in Hyogo in western Japan in 2011, is suspected of misusing ¥3m (£17,000) of official allowances.
According to media reports, he spent the money on 195 trips he made to four locations in one year, including 106 visits to the same hot spring resort, all without producing a receipt or a report.
During the three-hour press conference in Kobe he cried while saying: “I finally became an assembly member … with the sole purpose of changing society … This Japan … I want to change this society … I have staked my life … Don’t you understand?”
Social media users were merciless in their response. “Is he alright as a member of society, let alone a member of an assembly?” asked Twitter user @nagatokimura
“There was a kid like that when I was in elementary school. A kid who tried to explain by crying like that. lol,” wrote @chiko86
One YouTube posting had been viewed more than 600,000 times by Wednesday afternoon.