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Friday, April 24, 2009

SMAP star's public nudity spurs arrest

Drunken Kusanagi bares all in Roppongi park, loses sponsors


Staff writer

What's wrong with a little public nudity?

News photo
Tsuyoshi Kusanagi KYODO PHOTO

It's a crime called public indecency. But for pop group SMAP's 34-year-old member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, it also means angry sponsors and the cancellation of lucrative advertising contracts, including one from the government.

The singer, actor and TV celebrity from the ubiquitous pop group was arrested early Thursday on suspicion of public indecency after stripping down in Hinokicho Park by the tony Tokyo Midtown complex in Roppongi. He was heavily drunk at the time, Akasaka Deputy Police Chief Michitaka Sugahara told reporters.

"The windows were closed, but I heard a man yelling 'Woooo' and 'Ohhhh.' I wondered if my baby would wake up," said a woman who lives nearby.

A naked Kusanagi was found after police received a call from a Tokyo Midtown resident at around 2:55 a.m. complaining about someone making noise in the park and sent three officers to investigate, Sugahara said. When they arrived, they found Kusanagi naked, his clothes and other belongings piled nearby.

"What's wrong with being naked?" Kusanagi reportedly asked the officers as a bystander looked on.

The pop star was wrapped in a sheet and put into a squad car. He was not cuffed at the park, Sugahara added.

Kusanagi lives nearby in one of the complex's luxurious apartments in the entertainment area. He was drinking with two acquaintances in the Akasaka district before the incident, police quoted him as saying. His blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.8 mg per liter and a urine test was negative for drugs, they said.

Akasaka police said they also searched his house to determine his motive for the stripping act and to dig up more details, without elaborating.

"I'm sorry I became naked. I don't remember why I became naked," Kusanagi was quoted as telling police.

SMAP is extremely popular, and Kusanagi is regarded as the quietest and gentlest of its five members. The group also has followings in other parts of Asia, and Kusanagi is known for being able to speak fluent Korean.

The reaction from private and public sponsors was immediate. Toyota Motor Corp. and Procter & Gamble responded by halting all ads featuring the pop star, even his frequent TV commercials.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, which recruited Kusanagi to promote the nationwide conversion to terrestrial digital broadcasting, said it will immediately stop distributing flyers and posters with Kusanagi in them.

"It's embarrassing. He is a character who is calling for public understanding of the cancellation of analog broadcasting, which will burden the people. I have no choice but to think he is a disgusting person," communications minister Kunio Hatoyama angrily told reporters.

Likewise, the Association for Promotion of Digital Broadcasting has decided to stop airing Kusanagi commercials.

Kusanagi's agent, Johnny and Associates, later in the day released the statement: "We deeply apologize for causing lots of trouble and worry to fans and many other people."

The idol will refrain from entertainment activities for the time being, the company said Thursday evening.

Kusanagi debuted with SMAP in 1991 and later starred in several TV dramas and movies, gaining fame elsewhere in Asia as well, including South Korea.

South Korean media issued news flashes about the star's arrest, describing the event as "shocking." Its two biggest Internet portals said key words tied to the arrest were simultaneously ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 search terms at one point Thursday.

Information from Kyodo added



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