Arrest, drugs shatter Sakai’s ‘pure’ image

Kyodo News

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Actress Noriko Sakai’s arrest and the discovery of illegal stimulants and drug paraphernalia in her home have shocked fans in Japan and elsewhere who believed in her “pure and straight” image.

The case is also posing a daunting challenge to the police, who are trying to crack down on deep-rooted drug use in the entertainment industry.

Until the arrest warrant was actually issued Friday, Sakai’s fans and production office were concerned for the safety of the 38-year-old actress. But it soon became apparent she was merely to evade the police.

Sayuri Kobayashi, a Beijing-based journalist, said Sakai is the most well-known Japanese actress among Chinese in their 30s and 40s.

“She is very popular in all of the Chinese-speaking region in Asia,” she said.

Music analyst Takashi Usui said Sakai’s successful return to acting after childbirth turned her into a role model for many women.

“Because of that, she may have suffered from tremendous stress that we can never imagine,” Usui said.

Insiders in the entertainment world say the use of illegal drugs may be becoming fashionable among younger entertainers and that police are growing more concerned about the strong influence they have on society.

While arrests over marijuana have been on the rise, those for stimulants have been declining since peaking in 1984, police data show. Compared with about 24,000 in 1984, arrests have dropped to less than half, reaching about 11,000 in 2008, police said.

However, arrests linked to drugs in the entertainment world have jumped in recent years, they said.

“People in the entertainment industry have a huge influence in society. We must strictly tackle the problem,” a senior official of the National Police Agency said.