TOPTokyo LifeNews & OpinionNews Roundup: Japanese Director Sion Sono Accused of Sexual Assault

News Roundup: Japanese Director Sion Sono Accused of Sexual Assault

Following scandals involving another director and actor last month, Japanese cinema seems to be having its #MeToo moment

By Matthew Hernon

In this week’s news roundup, we report on the recent sex assault scandals damaging Japanese cinema. Following last month’s revelations about director Hideo Sakaki and actor Houka Kinoshita, this time it was filmmaker Sion Sono under the microscope. We also have the latest on Japan’s response to the war in Ukraine and mourn the passing of a manga legend. In sport, it’s the group of death for Japan at this year’s soccer World Cup in Qatar.  

Sion Sono Accused of Sexual Assault  

Famed movie director Sion Sono has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by two unnamed actresses. The allegations appeared in Shukan Josei magazine on Tuesday. One of the women reportedly told the publication that the 60-year-old filmmaker attempted to force her to have sex with him. When she refused, he called on another actress he previously worked with and they engaged in sexual acts in front of her.  

Another actress said Sion coerced her into sex on the premise of getting a film role. She claims he said: “I want to screw you while you’re talking to your boyfriend on the phone.” When she told him she didn’t have a boyfriend, he allegedly replied: “Get one, I like that kind of thing.” Sono, who directed Nicolas Cage in last year’s horror Prisoner of the Ghostland, apologized “for causing a disturbance to everyone,” but claimed many points in the article were untrue and that he would be taking legal action.  

Actor Yuki Matsuzaki

Actor Hits Out at Japan Film Studios  

In light of the accusations against Sono, actor Yuki Matsuzaki (Letters From Iwo Jima, Pink Panther 2) took to Twitter to highlight the lack of response by Japanese film studios to recent sexual assault allegations. “Jpn industry is known for its poor record in dealing with sexual harassment and abusive behavior by filmmakers,” he wrote. “When allegations against Hideo Sakaki came to light, a few known directors put out a statement condemning such behavior, but film studios didn’t.” 

He’s referring to a petition signed by prominent filmmakers such as Hirokazu Koreeda (Shoplifters) and Koji Fukuda (Harmonium) expressing outrage over sexual abuse following revelations about director Sakaki. In an article by Shukan Bunshun last month, four women stated he coerced them into having sex. His movies, Mitsugetsu and Hazard Lamp, were subsequently canceled. Actor Houka Kinoshita (Ichi the Killer) also announced that he would be pausing his career after three women made similar accusations against him. 

Japan Welcomes 20 More Ukrainian Evacuees  

20 Ukrainian evacuees arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon on a special government plane. It was arranged by Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi who arrived shortly before them on a separate flight. “The government of Japan is committed to providing the maximum support to these 20 Ukrainians. We aim to help them live with a sense of peace in Japan,” said Hayashi prior to his departure from Warsaw.  

The foreign minister was in Poland on a special envoy of the prime minister to show Tokyo’s commitment to supporting Ukrainians forced to flee their country due to the war. The 20 people, aged between six and 66, join around 400 other refugees who’ve arrived here this year from Ukraine. This, however, was the first group to come via a special government plane. Japan will provide support for them for at least six months including housing, employment and language lessons.  

Fumiya Takagaki in Bucha, a city in Ukraine’s Kyiv Oblast

Japan’s PM Speaks of “War Crimes” in Bucha   

Japan is planning to impose more sanctions on Russia after reports of civilians being killed in Ukraine. Images of dead bodies on the streets of Bucha – a town of roughly 35,000 near the capital Kyiv – shocked the world last weekend. Leaders from around the globe voiced their outrage including Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “The killings of innocent civilians are war crimes. I’ve been in deep shock. The aggression and war crimes should never be tolerated,” the PM told reporters on Thursday. 

Fumiya Takagaki, a Japanese citizen living in Kyiv, went out to see the damage in Bucha. “Residents there told me Russian soldiers killed civilians and stole their money,” Takagaki told TW. “Not all soldiers but some of them. They were using the civilians as human shields. Nearly 500 people died from the attacks. I saw many broken houses and wrecked cars. It was a miserable place.” Takagaki interviewed locals in Bucha for his YouTube channel. 

Leading Manga Artist Passes Away  

Popular manga artist Fujiko A. Fujio was found dead in his apartment in Kawasaki on Thursday. He was 88. Born Motoo Abiko, the Toyama Prefecture-native was most well-known for stories such as Ninja Hattori-kun and The Laughing Salesman. He previously formed a partnership with childhood friend Fujiko F. Fujio (real name Hiroshi Fujimoto), creator of Doraemon. The duo moved to Tokyo in 1954, enjoying success with the series Obake no Q-taro. They dissolved the partnership in 1987.  

In happier entertainment news, two Japanese classical musicians received Grammy Awards in Las Vegas on Sunday. Mihoko Fujimura was part of the group that picked up the Best Choral Performance prize. It was awarded for a rendition of Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 8,” conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Eru Matsumoto, meanwhile, was part of a group that won Best Classical Solo Vocal album for Mythologies. Korean group BTS surprisingly missed out on the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award to Doja Cat and SZA.  

Japan Given Tough World Cup Draw 

If Japan are to reach the knockout stages of the soccer World Cup, they’re going to have to do it the hard way. At last Friday’s draw in Qatar, Hajime Moriyasu’s men were placed in a tough group with 2010 champions Spain, four-time winners Germany and the victors of the play-off between New Zealand and Costa Rica. They kick-off their campaign against the Germans in Al-Rayyan on November 23.  

Takuma Asano will be hoping to be part of Moriyasu’s plans for that game. The diminutive striker bagged a brace on Saturday as Bochum won 2-1 away at Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. Barring injury, Junya Ito is a guaranteed starter for Japan. He scored and won a penalty in the Belgium Pro League on Sunday as Genk thumped Eupen 5-0. In other sporting news, speed skater Nana Takagi announced her retirement from the sport on Tuesday. She won two gold medals at the PyeongChang Games in 2018.