Japanese stars to face drug testing

Talent agencies to conduct 'voluntary' tests in scandal wake

TOKYO -- Industry backlash against a recent spate of drug scandals in the entertainment world has begun as talent agency Stardust Promotions announced its intentions to administer “voluntary” drug tests to its talent.

At the beginning of August actor/musician Manabu Oshio was arrested after a club hostess with whom he was taking ecstasy ended up dead in an apartment in the Roppongi Hills luxury
complex. Oshio, who fled the apartment after calling his manager, tested positive for the drug while being questioned by police.

Around the same time, Noriko Sakai, a singer and actress who had enjoyed fame across much of Asia in the 80s and 90s, was arrested on suspicion of using crystal methamphetamine after her husband was charged with the same offense. Sakai, whose squeaky-clean image took a further battering when it emerged she was the daughter of a yakuza boss, went on the run for 10 days prior to giving herself up.

Sakai’s albums were promptly pulled from stores and her advertising deals swiftly canceled.

Next up was Erika Sawajiri, still suffering from the effects of a press conference tantrum two years ago. Just rumors of her drug use while living in Europe appear to have been enough for Stardust to cancel her contract at the end of September.

The agency said it will conduct drug tests, with the permission of talent, which includes Kou Shibasaki and Masanobu Ando. It will be difficult for anyone to plead a civil liberties case in the current climate. Similarly, it will be difficult for other agencies to not follow suit.