Popular Japanese comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto on Monday sued Bungei Shunju, the publisher of the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine, seeking ¥550 million for defamation over a report concerning sexual assault allegations against him.

According to Matsumoto’s lawyer, he is suing the publisher and Shukan Bunshun's editor in chief over an article that was published in the magazine and online on Dec. 27.

The article detailed sexual assault allegations brought forward by two women who claimed that they were forced into sexual activities at private parties in upscale hotels in 2015 by the member of the popular comedy duo Downtown.

Matsumoto has denied the allegations and made clear on Monday that he will fight in court to prove that they are baseless.

Earlier this month, Matsumoto halted all professional activities amid the sex scandal to “focus on the lawsuit,” affecting the multiple TV shows that he regularly appears on.

Matsumoto is a household name in Japan and is also an ambassador for the 2025 World Expo in Osaka.

The allegations follow the sexual abuse scandal around late entertainment mogul Johnny Kitagawa that rocked the entertainment industry and led to the dissolving of renowned talent agency Johnny & Associates last year.

Bunshun was one of the first publications to cover the abuse allegations involving Kitagawa, as early as 1999.

Information from Kyodo added