The high-profile drug arrests of singer-actress Noriko Sakai (“Nori P”), 38, and her 41-year-old husband, Yuichi Takaso, have prompted police to institute a “white powder sweep” through the notorious Tokyo entertainment areas of Roppongi and Shibuya, reports Shukan Taishu (Dec. 21).
Both Sakai and Takaso subsequently received suspended sentences, which have led some to question how seriously the cases were handled. “Considering their impact on society, they were treated very leniently,” says a representative within the legal community. “It would have made more sense for them to have served time.”
The police, apparently, feel likewise and, according to the article, have been utilizing undercover officers since the beginning of this month to institute street searches of pedestrians and crack down on neon-lit clubs and bars in Shibuya and Roppongi where methamphetamine distribution is known to be prevalent.
“This is making waves nowadays because of the harm that drugs can do to the general public,” explains retired police officer Akio Kuroki, who is now a journalist. “It is likely then that top members of the police force have been putting pressure on officers to bust places and collect drug evidence.”
The access routes to drugs are different for ordinary citizens and celebrities. Street deals are common for youngsters, but elite members of society will typically utilize people they know or V.I.P. rooms at clubs or “members only” establishments.
A person affiliated with gangster activities says: “As was the case before the Nori P incident, the level of discretion remains high for trading drugs with celebrities. So the sellers still feel comfortable selling to them. On the other hand, dealing to everyday people has been more cautious because of the increased police presence.”
Shukan Taishu says that much of the methamphetamine supplies originate in China and North Korea and arrive in Japan via cargo ships. The sellers of the drugs work for gangster organizations and are usually “bad foreigners” — which up until 2007 constituted Brazilians, Iranians and Filipinos but is now largely comprised of Africans.
“These guys are not stupid,” says the same source with ties to the underworld. “They only carry out transactions with people they know or through referrals. But as we move into December even recognizable faces are coming under scrutiny. They’ll say things like, ‘This is not a decoy transaction, is it?’ In fact, there have been cases of fights breaking out over this kind of questioning.”
In a separate story, tabloid Tokyo Sports (Dec. 9) says that actor Manabu Oshio, who has been arrested twice since the death of hostess Kaori Tanaka in a Roppongi apartment in August, had served as bait to entice young women into purchasing drugs. The paper believes that police are now attempting to cleanse the “behind the shadows” system that results in many women being preyed upon in this way.
Usually club management who are supposed to be monitoring these illegal transactions, serve as sellers themselves. “They’ll tell young female club-goers who are into trendy things that so-and-so is inside the V.I.P. room,” explains a source with knowledge of drug dealing. “Given that they are fans, they will not feel any apprehension in engaging in illicit drug activities. Sometimes they will then go to a hotel room where the usage will include many more people.”
An expert on the entertainment world believes that Oshio, 31, whose second arrest, on December 7, was based on suspicion that he gave Tanaka the synthetic drug MDMA, worked in this way. “Oshio, who is handsome, would act as the draw,” says the source. “Even though he is a B-level actor, it is probably due his ability to attract women that he was able to get a lot of people to take care of him financially.”
But what then happens to these girls duped by this system?
“Because of addiction, there have been many incidents where girls wind up in the fuzoku or kyabakura trade or the adult video business,” says a club employee. “Sometimes they will be shipped to parties to work as entertainers for V.I.P. members from within the worlds of politics and entertainment.”
The recent reporting by the mass media has upped the public’s interest in illicit drugs and fueled demand, a former drug user tells Shukan Taishu. “The Nori P incident resulted in numerous news reports about the ecstasy one can feel when doing shabu and then engaging in intercourse,” the source explains. “As a result a lot of high school girls who had previously never touched drugs were buying them out of curiosity. The price has been shooting up.”
With the crackdown in Roppongi and Shibuya, there is speculation that Ikebukuro is becoming the new location for transactions, or even all the way down in Osaka, where enforcement is extraordinarily lax. “If you go to Osaka, you don’t even have to know the dealer to complete a purchase,” says a freelance writer. “In fact, up until a year ago, you could buy during the daytime from a street yakitori (grilled chicken) stand, even those located near elementary schools.”
Shukan Taishu believes that more developments could be around the corner, speculating that a male member of a group scheduled to perform in national broadcaster NHK’s year-end “Red & White Song Contest” and another idol from a separate unit are under police watch.
Experts are skeptical, however, that such an arrest will come to fruition. “It is a very difficult to arrest a big-name celebrity so it is likely that the police will continue to focus on stopping students and other young people,” believes retired police officer Kuroki. “This questioning process requires consent and there is a limit to what can be revealed. I would prefer that they go after the big names as that would have a bigger impact from a public relations point of view.” (K.N.)
Source: “Sakai Noriko kakuseizai shokku owarazu Roppongi, Shibuya geinokai no ‘shiroi kona kaigenrei,'” Shukan Taishu (Dec. 21, pages 194-196)
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