TOKYO - Award-winning Japanese actor Hirofumi Arai was on Friday (Feb 1) arrested on suspicions of sexual assault.
The prolific 40-year-old, who made his on-screen debut in 2001 and won the Japan Academy Prize for Best Supporting Actor in 2016 for the movie "Hyakuen no Koi" (Hundred Yen Love), is accused of sexually assaulting an outcall masseuse in her 30s on July 1 last year.
Arai, who was reportedly drunk at the time of the incident, had called the woman to his residence in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, near Shibuya, at about 2.30am.
She filed a police report on the same day, Japanese media reports said, and investigations culminated in a search of Arai's residence on Friday.
The woman, who has quit her job, was working as a masseuse at a business that provides outcall services. Arai had reportedly engaged the shop for the fourth time, and had signed a contract with the business to acknowledge that sexual activity was prohibited.
It was the first time he had met the woman.
The Yomiuri daily quoted the Tokyo Metropolitan Police as saying Arai largely admitted to the allegations during questioning, though he has denied some of them. "There are things that I did, but there are things that I did not do, like hold her head down," he is said to have told the police.
Arai was born in Hirosaki city in northern Aomori Prefecture in 1979, and made his debut in the award-winning Isao Yukisada film Go in 2001.
He is a lead actor in the upcoming movie "Taifu Kazoku" (Typhoon Family), which is slated for release in June. The production firm said it has not made any decision on the release of the movie.
However, BS Fuji Television said it will cancel a television programme starring Arai that was slated to air on Feb 10.
Arai has not issued a public statement on his arrest, but as of 11.30pm (10.30pm in Singapore) on Friday, there were over 1,200 comments to the latest, albeit unrelated, tweet on his official Twitter page.
User @sato_tomy said: "Rape is forbidden for whatever reason. Even celebrities, no matter how great their acting, are equal under the law as ordinary people. A grave mistake can destroy you.
"I liked you as an actor. But as a person, I despise you."
In response to Arai's arrest, his management company Anore said in a statement issued to domestic media: "While we have not been able to confirm the detailed facts, it is deeply regrettable that such a situation has occurred. We would like to profoundly apologise to the victim and all concerned parties."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.