National / Crime & Legal

Pop star Aska pleads guilty to drug charges

Prosecutors seek three-year prison term; singer apologizes to fans, says he will fight addiction

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Prosecutors demanded a three-year prison term for disgraced pop singer Aska on Thursday as his trial over illegal drug use kicked off at the Tokyo District Court.

The singer, half of the long-running duo Chage and Aska, pleaded guilty to all charges, including breaking the Stimulant Control Law and the Narcotics Control Law.

“I’m terribly sorry for betraying my fans and anyone concerned,” said the 56-year-old, whose real name is Shigeaki Miyazaki.

“The whole time I was using stimulant drugs, I was turning a blind eye to which drug I was using,” he told the court, at times slurring his words. “It may take me some time to return to being a decent human being, but I will battle my addiction under a doctor’s care.”

As for his music career, Aska said he “has no idea” whether he will return to performing. His sentence will be handed down on Sept. 12.

Prosecutors said that Aska repeatedly failed to resist the temptation to use illegal stimulants, including the euphoria-inducing rave drug MDMA, and that the fact he had a large quantity in his possession hints at the malicious nature of his addiction. They concluded the defendant thus merits “severe punishment.”

Aska said he began using stimulants in the summer of 2010, partly out of curiosity but mostly to make up for the dwindling effects of sleeping and “anti-sleeping” pills he had been prescribed since around 2000. He became addicted to the drugs and was using them on and off until just before his arrest in May. He has also confessed to buying 100 pills of MDMA in March, out of curiosity.

At the urging of his suspicious wife, Aska began to have his urine tested weekly in May 2013. While he assured his family that he wasn’t under the influence of drugs, he secretly continued to use them, carefully timing their intake to make sure his urine would test negative.

Since his arrest in May, media reports have surfaced detailing his multiple lovers. One is 37-year-old Kasumi Tochinai, his mistress of six years, who was arrested with him in May on suspicion of using illegal drugs. In her first court appearance last month, she pleaded not guilty, even though her urine tested positive soon after her arrest. Aska defended her innocence on Thursday, denying the prosecutors’ allegation that Aska enjoyed using the drugs while having sex with her.

According to the district court, a whopping 2,646 people lined up in nearby Hibiya Park on Thursday morning to participate in a lottery for 21 gallery seats in the courtroom.

One of them, a woman in her 40s who claimed she was a hard-core fan of the duo for more than 20 years, said she felt betrayed after learning of Aska’s arrest and the cascading media allegations about his purported infidelity.

“What he did is terribly wrong, but we all make mistakes,” she said. “So for now I could only hope that he will truly rehabilitate himself and atone for his crime.”