National

Pop singer Makihara given suspended sentence

Popular singer-songwriter Noriyuki Makihara was sentenced Wednesday to a suspended 18-month prison term for possessing amphetamines at his Tokyo home. The Tokyo District Court found Makihara, 30, guilty for violating the Stimulant Drugs Control Law, but suspended his sentence for three years. He was arrested after the drugs were found at his home in August, and prosecutors had sought an 18-month sentence. Makihara pleaded guilty at his first trial hearing last month, saying he used the drugs because at times he could not tolerate a life surrounded only by music. Presiding Judge Yutaka Kubo said Makihara has a strong influence on the public as a popular singer, and thus his responsibility is grave, but the sentence would be suspended because the defendant owned up to the charges and was repentant of his acts. After the ruling, Makihara released a statement and apologized to the public and his fans. “When I came to Tokyo 10 years ago, I hoped to help people (through music),” he said. “I am determined to make songs with those feelings in my heart.” According to the court, Makihara was found in possession of 0.875 gram of amphetamines concealed inside a sofa at his apartment in Tokyo’s Minami-Aoyama district on Aug. 26. He and a friend, Shuichi Okumura, 23, purchased about 2.5 grams of the drug from a dealer for 100,000 yen earlier that month, it said. Makihara began using drugs in summer 1997 when a friend offered him some, the court said. When he became acquainted with Okumura in January 1998, the two started using drugs together. Okumura received a suspended sentence earlier. Debuting while a student at Aoyama Gakuin University in 1990, his hit song “Donna Tokimo” (“Always”) climbed to No. 1 on the charts in 1991, earning him the award for the most promising newcomer from the Japan Record Academy that year.