Japanese officials have apologised in a televised news conference after it emerged a civil servant occasionally took his lunch break three minutes early.

The unnamed 64-year-old, who worked at the  waterworks bureau in Kobe, was docked half a day’s pay over the “habitual” slipping away from his desk just before noon, which he did 26 times over a seven-month period.

The “misconduct” as “deeply regrettable” and bowed in apology in front of the press conference cameras. “We are sorry,” one added.

He was discovered by a colleague, who spotted his illicit trips to a nearby restaurant through the window of the director’s office.

“The lunch break is from noon to 1pm. He left his desk before the break,”

The worker was apparently in violation of a public service law demanding officials “concentrate on their jobs”.

The employee reportedly said he occasionally left early to buy a bento lunch.

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