• Kyodo

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Popular singer-songwriter Noriyuki Makihara pleaded guilty Tuesday to possession of illegal drugs in the first hearing of his trial at the Tokyo District Court, with prosecutors seeking a two-year prison term.

Prosecutors said the 51-year-old had been using the liquid inhalant isobutyl nitrite, a type of “popper” commonly known in Japan as “Rush,” for about 30 years as well as an illegal stimulant drug since at least 1999, even after he was found guilty of a drug charge the same year.

“I am sorry for all my fans,” Makihara said, adding that he had not taken any illicit substances for several years and had cut ties with his former dealer. “I feel happy enough even without using drugs.”

His defense lawyer said Makihara had remained in possession of drugs only because he had yet to dispose of them, asking for a suspended sentence.

The district court is due to hand down a ruling on Aug. 3 for the musician, who is known for a number of hit songs since his debut in 1990, such as “Donna toki mo” (“Anytime”). He also composed “Sekai ni Hitotsudake no Hana” (“The One and Only Flower in the World”) for now-disbanded male idol group SMAP.

In 1999, Makihara was arrested for stimulant possession and later given an 18-month jail term, suspended for three years.

Before the start of the hearing on Tuesday, a total of 510 people lined up to draw lots for the 29 public gallery seats available in the courtroom, reduced by two-thirds from normal capacity as a measure against the novel coronavirus.

“(Makihara) created great songs for all time. I don’t understand why he touched drugs again,” said Yoshitaka Hirayama, 48, who came with his wife from Saitama Prefecture. “I want to listen to his own words as there are many drug scandals in show business.”

According to the indictment, Makihara had kept about 3.5 milliliters of Rush at his home in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, in February of this year. He is also alleged to have had about 0.083 gram of the illegal stimulant drug as well as about 64.2 milliliters of Rush in his possession between March and April 2018 at his condominium in the capital’s Minato Ward.

Makihara was released on ¥5 million bail in March, two days after he was charged.

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