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Sakaki Hideo, Japanese Actor and Director, Arrested After Sexual Assault Allegations

Sakaki Hideo, a well-known Japanese actor and film director, was arrested on Tuesday in Tokyo on suspicion of sexual assault.

Japanese media, quoting police reports, said that the arrest relates to an alleged incident in May 2016. They also cite Sakaki’s denial of the charges, which he calls “false accusations.”

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The assault is alleged to have occurred at Sakaki’s apartment, where he took an actor in her 20s in order to give her acting advice. During the course of their encounter, Sakaki is alleged to have asked the woman to take off her clothes so that he could check for tattoos and suggested that she should get used to nudity in her acting career.

The actor and her lawyer consulted with Tokyo police in September that year, and filed a formal complaint in 2023.

The alleged incident was first reported in the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine in March 2022, which accused Sakaki of assaults against four women.

Following the Shukan Bunshun report in 2022, Sakaki issued an apology, but refuted parts of the article. He admitted to having sex with three of the women and said that these relations were consensual. He denied any relationship with the fourth woman.

Japanese media has also reported that Sakaki’s wife, music composer Sakaki Izumi, has apologized for her husband’s behavior and said that she was trying to end their marriage.

Sakaki has had a successful career since directing a segment of the 2003 anthology “Director Infection.” His 2010 buddy comedy “Kidnap Rhapsody” won an audience award at the 2010 Udine Far East Film Festival and his 2013 film “Disregarded People” premiered in competition at the 2013 Tokyo International Film Festival.

The release of his directorial film “Mitsugetsu” (aka “Honeymoon,” aka “Confession”) was canceled. So too was that of another picture, “Hazard Lamp.”

The Japanese film and TV industry has long harbored stories of sexual abuse and abuse of power by senior figures, but little of it comes to the surface in a public fashion. The #MeToo housecleaning that swept the English-speaking industries after the Harvey Weinstein scandal has did not take root as quickly in Japan.

More incidents are now coming to light. In April 2022, the Shukan Josei Prime magazine made allegations of multiple assaults against women by Sono Sion, a self-proclaimed maverick director who was known for raunchy indie movies including “Love Exposure” and “Antiporno.” Actor Kinoshita Houka, a close friend of Sakaki who appeared in several of his films, has also been accused of sexual assault by three women.

Last year, kabuki acting star Ichikawa Innosuke was accused of sexual and power abuse. This may have led him to take violent action. Publicly-owned broadcaster NHK reported that Ichikawa made a confession to Tokyo Metropolitan Police. The broadcaster quoted Ichikawa’s statement from the indictment: “The publication of articles about me, [alleging things] such as power harassment and sexual harassment, in a weekly magazine was a major trigger for my suicide [attempt].” He was later charged with assisting his parents’ double suicide.

Allegations have also been made against Kagawa Teruyuki, a leading a film actor and a cousin of Innosuke, and against film producer Umekawa Haruo.

Japanese authorities and mainstream media have long been reluctant to investigate abuse claims within the entertainment industry. It took a BBC documentary early last year against the deceased leading industry figure Johnny Kitagawa, after decades of sexual abuse against boys and young men, to kick off more investigations. His Johnny & Associates talent agency has since restructured and renamed itself Smile Up.

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