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TW Pop Culture Update: Japanese Celebrities Open Up About Mental Health

Some Japanese celebrities have taken a step back to prioritize their own well-being

By Cezary Jan Strusiewicz

After a number of Japanese celebrities took their lives last year, including Yuko Takeuchi, Haruma Miura, and Hana Kimura, Japan had a nationwide discussion about the importance of mental health. Sadly, it remained exactly that: all talk. Since then, the country hasn’t really implemented many official, systemic changes to help people struggling with mental health issues. However, the celebrity suicides did seem to prompt many people to talk more openly about their personal struggles. Some have opened up about starting to prioritize their own mental health over work.

Serina Hasegawa and Aisa Takeuchi Take Mental Health Breaks

A few months back, Serina Hasegawa of the Little Glee Monster J-pop band, announced that she would be temporarily leaving the group to focus on her health. Not many details were available at the time, but in early June, Hasegawa confirmed that she was stepping back from her music career to treat her bipolar disorder and ADHD. To this day, both disorders remain woefully misunderstood and stigmatized in Japan. This makes a high-profile celebrity opening up about her struggles with them so admirable. Hopefully, it has made those living with bipolar disorder and ADHD in Japan feel a little less alone. Hasegawa is reportedly doing better and is thinking of rejoining the group soon.

TW Pop Culture Update: Japanese Celebrities ADHD

Around the same time, up-and-coming actress Aisa Takeuchi (Detective Novice, 12 Suicidal Teens) announced that she had left her talent agency Sweet Power to treat a panic disorder. Takeuchi started experiencing panic attacks around February, finally getting an official diagnosis back in May. Like Hasegawa, she set a positive example by choosing to prioritize her mental health over her career.

Naomi Osaka Throws a Spotlight on Mental Health Too

Naomi Osaka is currently not only one of the most famous athletes in the world but also one of the most resonating voices to speak about mental health after the tennis player withdrew from the French Open to focus on her mental well-being. This proved that even the strongest people can suffer from mental health issues. And Osaka is the definition of strength, from her playing style to how she always carries herself. That strength is also the focus of an exclusive interview she did with Vogue Japan for the August 2021 issue which features Osaka on the cover. It went on sale on June 28.

What’s New on Japanese Twitter

The Johnny & Associates agency has been in the entertainment business for nearly 60 years. Today it represents some of the biggest performers and bands in Japan. That includes the likes of Kat-tun and Takuya Kimura. Yet despite having such a huge impact on Japanese pop culture, Johnny & Associates had no English online presence, with all of their official pages being exclusively in Japanese. That changed a few weeks ago when the talent agency finally started an English Twitter account. It has been verified and already boasts more than 350,000 followers.

And yet, that still wasn’t the biggest thing to happen on Japanese Twitter this month. The new Johnny & Associates account was quickly followed, and eclipsed, by famed manga artist Rumiko Takahashi (of Urusei Yatsura and Inuyasha fame). She created her own Twitter account which has also surpassed 350,000 followers. Far from simply being a place for Takahashi to post updates about her work, the 63-year-old artist is using Twitter to collect and answer fan questions. For example, in her latest Q&A, Takahashi revealed that she always tries to get inside the head of her characters to better depict their emotions, which at one point resulted in her tearing up when drawing a scene of a character crying.

Yoko Kumada to Divorce Her Husband

Back in May, the husband of Yoko Kumada reportedly assaulted the popular gravure idol and TV personality at her home. It was Kumada herself who later apologized in an official statement. Female celebrities saying sorry for causing “trouble” with their personal lives is sadly par for the course in Japanese show business. That announcement, however, was then followed by news that Kumada had petitioned for divorce to do “what’s best for her and her three daughters.” As later reported by a few tabloids, the cause of the assault might have been a suspicion of infidelity, as if that excuses it. This, again, is sadly also par for the course in the Japanese entertainment industry.


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