What happens to celebrities in Japan if they are caught taking drugs?
Why Japan Is So Strict About Drugs
If you’re in Japan, keep this mantra in mind: Never do drugs in this country. Ever.
As previously reported, actor and musician Pierre Taki was arrested earlier this week on suspected cocaine use. What happened next seemed inevitable. Sega pulled Judgment, a PS4 game in which Taki voices a character. Walt Disney Japan said it was considering replacing him as the official Japanese language voice of Olaf in Frozen 2. Taki’s television shows were cancelled, and Sony Music stopped sales of his music.
Pierre Taki has not been convicted of any crime, but Japan is a country with a conviction rate of over 99 percent.
The United States is hardly perfect with its drug laws. Numerous lives have been ruined by its zero-tolerance policy. American celebrities, however, have long appeared to play by different rules. This is not true in Japan, where if the rich and famous are caught with illegal substances, it’s not a speedbump on their careers, but a stop sign.
Taki’s is a story that has played out countless times over the years in Japan, with arrested celebs booted from TV and sales of their music ceased. For example, when musician Suzuki Shigeru of the seminal rock band Happy End was arrested in 2009, his recordings were pulled from store shelves.
That same year, pop star Noriko Sakai was also brought up on drug charges, destroying her goody two-shoes image. Initially, Sakai fled the authorities, ditched her mobile phone, and then dyed and cut her hair, perhaps to avoid having to take a drug test that might come out unfavorably. Authorities found a small amount of stimulants at Sakai’s apartment. She turned herself in and was given a three year suspended sentence. Her albums were pulled, her TV commercials stopped airing and her clothing line was no longer carried in stores.
This isn’t mere ostracization or punishment. All of these are examples of what is called jishuku (自粛) in Japanese, which means “self-restraint.” This is not unique to Japan; people all over the world feel self-restraint. But in Japan, companies and media conglomerates feel it acutely and quickly. They are not required to take these actions but do so because they are expected to. Sega’s official statement about pulling Judgment actually contains the word jishuku (as in 販売自粛 or hanbai jishuku, meaning “restraining oneself from selling”).
Japanese society is built on very high expectations. The expectation is that if some has broken the law, a company should not profit from that person’s work. The taint of crime, especially drug-related, is seen to reflect on the larger group. Making money off an alleged criminal is certainly not a good look in image-conscious Japan. What complicates thing is that in the case of Pierre Taki, he’s not the only person involved in making Judgment. He’s not even the star of the game. There is a great deal of collateral damage in jishuku. Companies know that, which explains why they always apologize for any trouble their decision causes, for whatever that’s worth.
Kinda bizarre, isn't it, that they would stop selling a game that was made by who knows how many people and how many man-hours of work it took to create, because one guy involved was suspected of taking drugs. Now that
is social pressure. They are not legally required to do this. It's just a social expectation.
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
William Shakespeare (probably Socrates originally)