TOKYO – A member of the popular Japanese male pop group Tokio apologized Thursday for forcibly kissing a teenage girl at his home.
Tatsuya Yamaguchi, 46, said he would suspend work with the band and other entertainment projects.
Yamaguchi acknowledged at a news conference that he kissed the girl at his home in February when he was drunk. The girl, who was with her friend, fled and reported it to police, prompting an investigation.
“I’m so sorry that I caused her to suffer,” Yamaguchi said. “As a minor, she must have been frightened by an adult male.”
Yamaguchi has not been charged and his agent, Johnny & Associates, said in a statement that the two sides have reached a settlement. Public broadcaster NHK said prosecutors are likely to drop the case after the girl’s side retracted their complaint.
The case is the latest in a series involving sexual misconduct that have rocked Japan, where awareness and support for victims and the #MeToo movement have been slow to grow.
Yamaguchi said he was not aware of what he had done to the girl until he was contacted by police more than a month later. He said he fell asleep after talking to the girls for about an hour and they were gone when he woke up.
Yamaguchi and other members of the group are “special ambassadors” on an Olympic and Paralympic Flag Tour project promoting the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The organizing committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government are co-sponsors.
“Given Mr. Yamaguchi’s significance to us as a special ambassador to the Flag Tour, it is very disappointing for Tokyo 2020,” the organizers said in an email to The Associated Press. They said they will discuss how to respond to the situation.
“It’s extremely regrettable. That’s all I can say,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said.
The suspension of Yamaguchi’s work has forced Japanese television networks to change their scheduled programs. Shops and restaurants in Fukushima prefecture removed posters showing Yamaguchi, who helped campaign for the region’s recovery from a severe accident at a nuclear plant.
In recent weeks, a senior Finance Ministry bureaucrat resigned over sexually suggestive remarks to a female reporter, and the governor of Niigata prefecture stepped down after acknowledging he gave cash and gifts to women he dated from an internet site.
Former Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda resigned last week after a magazine published sexual comments he allegedly made to a female reporter.
Responses by the ministry and other top officials have tended to put the blame on the victim instead. Finance Minister Taro Aso has defended Fukuda, repeatedly suggesting that the reporter might have framed him, adding to the outrage of women’s groups and opposition lawmakers who are now demanding Aso’s resignation.
Associated Press sports writer Stephen Wade contributed to this report.