The 64-year-old, an employee of the waterworks bureau in the western city of Kobe, was fined and reprimanded after he was found to have left his desk just three minutes before the start of his designated lunch break on 26 occasions over a seven-month period.

Senior officials at the bureau then called a televised news conference, where they described the man’s conduct as “deeply regrettable” and bowed in apology.

A spokesman for the bureau told AFP: “The lunch break is from noon to 1pm. He left his desk before the break.”