Japanese pop idol-turned-actress-turned-drug user Sakai announces return to showbiz

Kyodo

Former pop idol-turned-actress Noriko Sakai, who was convicted on drug charges in 2009, on Saturday announced her return to the stage, thanking her fans and those who supported her during the past several years.

“It’s been a long and difficult time but I would like to express my gratitude (to my fans and supporters) as I’ve been able” to make a comeback, Sakai said at a packed news conference in Koto Ward, Tokyo, revealing she will play the role of feudal warlord Oda Nobunaga’s sister, Ichi, in a period play in December.

About 250 reporters, photographers and cameramen, including from overseas media outlets, attended the news conference since Sakai’s fame and popularity began to spread to other Asian countries in the early 1990s, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

On her decision to return to the entertainment industry after recently studying nursing care at a college, Sakai said, “The feeling that I wanted to become a performer again grew stronger” during the years she spent out of the business.

In November 2009, Sakai was found guilty of possessing and using stimulant drugs and received a suspended 8-month prison term.

On her past drug use, Sakai simply responded, “It was nothing more than a foolish act.”

The play will be performed for 10 days from Dec. 15 at a hall in the Shibuya Cultural Center Owada in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.