Apology culture in Japan: Takahata’s mother says sorry for adult son’s alleged sexual assault

by

Staff Writer

Actress Atsuko Takahata delivered a groveling apology Friday for the actions of her adult son, Yuta, who was arrested Tuesday over a sexual assault.

It was a time-honored piece of choreography: a parent apologizing, and the 300 or so reporters and photographers present knowing just what to expect. The actress said that, as a mother, it is her who is partially responsible for her son’s actions.

The 22-year-old actor allegedly dragged a hotel worker into his room in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, and assaulted her.

Some say it is uniquely Japanese for family members to make such apologies.

American TV commentator Dave Spector said such a scene would be unthinkable in the U.S.

“A recent example is Michael Douglas’ son, who was in prison for seven years for drug dealing. But it has no effect whatsoever on the father,” Spector said.

As for Japan, Spector believes celebrities in particular face heavy expectations for a perp walk.

“There is certain amount of responsibility felt by the Japanese when their offspring do something bad, no matter how old they are,” he said.

In June, actress Reiko Takashima faced reporters on behalf of her husband, Noboru Takachi, when he was arrested on a drugs charge. Her apology? She bore responsibility for “being his wife.”

Similarly in 1998, when 18-year-old actor Yuya Takahashi was held over a drug offense, his mother, actress Yoshiko Mita, convened a news conference and voluntarily stayed off TV for 10 months. Advertisers dropped her from seven commercials.

Spector said Mita’s career suffered heavily because the news conference was seen as taking place too late. He credited Atsuko Takahata with responding swiftly, potentially limiting the damage to her career.

She has, however, already suffered fallout, with cosmetics manufacturer Kao dropping a TV commercial she stars in.

But she is still listed as appearing in an upcoming play, “Yukimaroge,” which begins a nationwide tour from late September.

Takayuki Asami, a lawyer who specializes in crisis management, said Atsuko Takahata’s agency did well to arrange a prompt public apology.

“Parents make apologies on behalf of their children partially to protect their own image, to underscore that they did nothing wrong,” Asami said. “It’s good that the agency is protecting the career of their talent.”

The news conference was organized jointly by Seinenza Theater Company, Atsuko Takahata’s agency, and stage promoter Toho Co.

Her son is represented by Ishii-Mitsuzo Office. The agency’s president, Kumiko Ishii, has so far released only a short written statement that was sent to media by fax. Contacted by The Japan Times, an official said no news conference is scheduled at the moment.