With midwinter-level cold and rain at the outdoor Tokyo Marathon awards ceremony, Yuriko Koike wanted to warm her hands, but started a firestorm.

The annual Tokyo Marathon took place last Sunday. As one of the six events in the World Marathon Majors series, it attracts an international field of athletes, and the winner of the men’s division was Ethiopian runner Birhanu Legese, who completed the course in two hours, four minutes, and 48 seconds.

Among the dignitaries waiting for Legese at the finish line were Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, the first woman to hold the position following her election in 2016. Koike offered the 24-year-old Legese her congratulations as she placed the winner’s medal around his neck and shook his hand, but it’s what she did with her hands afterwards that incited a backlash on social media.

After posing for a photo with Legese, Koike stepped back towards the rear of the podium as another presenter came forward to place a crown of laurels on his head. At that time, Koike, feeling the chill of the unseasonably cold and rainy weather (the temperature was around 6 degrees Celsius [42.8 degrees Fahrenheit] during the race), slipped her hands into the pockets of her jacket.

Unfortunately for Koike, placing your hands in pockets (whether jacket or pants) is considered an extremely casual posture by traditional Japanese etiquette standards. Even if she was no longer the center of attention, several online commenters felt that by placing her hands in her pockets, Koike was being disrespectful to Legese.

Angry remarks left on Twitter included:

“Get your hands out of your pockets.”
“So it’s cold. Deal with it.”
“No common sense on her part. If your hands are too cold to leave outside your pockets, then wear gloves.”

“Absolutely unbelievable.”
“When you’re up on stage at a ceremony, you take your hands out of your pockets. They teach you that before your elementary school graduation ceremony.”
“These kinds of mannerisms really reveal a person’s true character.”
“How can we expect her to show sufficient hospitality to athletes during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?”

A number of commenters also called Koike out for the fact that she had a kimono-clad attendant holding an umbrella for her, while Legese was left to stand in an uncovered section of the podium as the rain that had been coming down all day continued to fall on him. It’s worth pointing out, however, that the two male presenters, who kept their hands out of their pockets, also had umbrellas shielding them at the back of the stage.

Even before the social media backlash, Koike was asked about her hands-in-pockets conduct by reporters following the awards ceremony, and even she herself allowed that it had been inappropriate. “I apologize. That was rude of me,” the governor said, and it’s likely she’s happy that Tokyo will be hosting the Summer Games in 2020.

Sources: Nifty News/Nikkan Sports, Goo News/Sports Tsuchi, Jin, Heavypeat
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