TOKYO (TR) – Though her political career is not even a month old, Eriko Imai, the 32-year-old vocalist of J-pop group Speed, is already facing her first potential scandal.
According to Sports Nippon (Feb. 20), the boyfriend of Imai was arrested in March of last year for employing three underage girls (aged 14, 16 and 17) to engage in sex acts with customers at an adult-entertainment parlor he managed in Okinawa Prefecture.
The boyfriend, who was not named, did not face prosecution. He was released from custody one month after his arrest. He then resigned from the business.
Imai, a native of Okinawa, and her boyfriend were classmates. They currently live together.
When contacted for comment on the matter, a representative of Imai’s talent agency said that the report was correct. The person added that the boyfriend had transferred management of the business to another party at the time of the arrest.
Imai, who is a single mother with an 11-year-old son who suffers from a hearing disability, announced on February 8 that she will run as a candidate of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) through the proportional representation system in the upper house election this summer.
“I want a society in which children with disabilities can have hopes that are brighter than now,” Imai said via sign language at a press conference on the day after the announcement of her candidacy, according to the Asahi Shimbun (Feb. 9).
The conservative LDP hopes that Imai’s appeal — Speed had a number of hits in the 1990s — will help spread the party’s policies among younger voters. “If the LDP gets the cooperation of young people, it will form a tailwind for (Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s) initiative regarding all (of the roughly) 100 million people playing an active role in society,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, according to the Saga Shimbun (Feb. 10).
But she is not off to a smooth start. First reported in the March 4 issue of Shukan Post, which hits newsstands on Monday, the incident involving Imai’s boyfriend could unhinge Imai’s political career before it gets started.
“There is a concern that her image will suffer,” an LDP member is quoted by Sports Nippon.