Pop star Tatsuya Yamaguchi to take ‘hard look at himself’ as he apologizes for forcibly kissing teen

by Alex Martin

Staff Writer

Teary-eyed and his voice shaking, pop star Tatsuya Yamaguchi apologized Thursday for kissing and engaging in indecent behavior with a high school-aged girl in a career-crushing scandal leading to his indefinite suspension from show business.

“I will spend my days taking a hard look at myself and praying that the victim, her family and her friend can someday be at peace and return to their lives before this took place,” said Yamaguchi, the bassist for the popular all-male idol group Tokio, during a hastily arranged news conference at a hotel in Tokyo.

News broke Wednesday that Yamaguchi, 46, had been referred to prosecutors for allegedly kissing the girl against her will at his home in Minato Ward, Tokyo, in February.

A lawyer representing Johnny & Associates, the powerful talent agency that manages Tokio, told a packed room of journalists that Yamaguchi will be indefinitely suspended from activities.

Wearing a dark suit and black tie, a visibly distressed Yamaguchi and the lawyer described the lead-up to the night of Feb. 12 when a drunken Yamaguchi called the girl and her friend, both minors, to his home.

They didn’t, however, elaborate on the details of the interaction, citing an ongoing investigation. Alcohol appeared to have played a prominent role in the incident.

The lawyer said the matter has been settled privately and that the girl has already withdrawn the complaint she had filed with the police.

Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to indict Yamaguchi, but the chances he will face charges could be significantly reduced with the withdrawal of the complaint despite a revision to the Penal Code last year which lets prosecutors charge a suspect of an indecent assault even without a complainant.

During the news conference, the lawyer read aloud a letter from the parents of the girl asking Yamaguchi to think about his future and acknowledge the psychological damage their daughter suffered.

Yamaguchi said he had been working from a hospital since around Jan. 15 to “rest his liver” and improve its function. “I’ve been told by my company not to drink too much,” he said.

He was discharged on the morning of Feb. 12 and went home to sort out his belongings. He said he eventually began drinking and recalled being drunk by the time he contacted the girl, who he knew through work. According to police, he said she visited his home with a friend at around 8 p.m.

Yamaguchi claimed his memory of the encounter is fragmented due to his drunken state — he said he had downed a full bottle of shōchū (a type of Japanese spirit) that day — and said he later heard from the girl and her friend that they had left after 30 minutes to an hour.

He said he was contacted by police in late March about the incident and reported it to Johnny & Associates in early April.

It seems the incident is bringing an abrupt end to the career of the popular TV personality.

Yamaguchi had been an emcee for national broadcaster NHK’s youth-targeted program “R no Hosoku” (“R’s rules”) and made regular appearances on the morning news program “Zip!” and Tokio’s high-rated variety show “The Tetsuwan Dash!!,” in which he frequently displays his passion for the outdoors.

According to media reports, Yamaguchi and the girl in question knew each other from working on the NHK program.

The incident could also affect the other members of Tokio, a five-member group that made its debut on the music scene in 1994 and has since become a staple of TV variety shows.

Members of Tokio have been working as special ambassadors to promote the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games flag tour, in which replicas of the official Olympic and Paralympic flags will tour across Japan in the run-up to the Games.

All the group’s members released statements Thursday condemning Yamaguchi’s actions.

“I don’t know what to do when I think of what they must be going through,” a sobbing Yamaguchi said when asked about his comrades of 23 years. He did, however, seem to cling to a glimmer of hope that someday they could be reunited.

“If my seat is still left, if I can go as Tokio again…,” he said without finishing the sentence.

Yamaguchi married in 2008 and divorced in 2016. He has two children.