Police Investigate Kodansha Over AKB48 Idol Kasai's 'Inappropriate' Photo
posted on by Sarah Nelkin
Asahi, Sankei, and other news organizations reported on Friday that Kodansha is under investigation by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department for possible child pornography charges due to AKB48 idol Tomomi Kasai's photo collection book. The police called Kodansha to request an account of the incident on January 11, and Kodansha's staff in charge of legal compliance provided an account to the police on Thursday.
The book's one-page promotion in the January 12 issue of Kodansha's Young Magazine (pictured right) featured an "inappropriate" photo of Kasai, and that led to the issue's delay and recall. The cover of the Tomo no Koto, Suki? photobook, as previewed inside Young Magazine, would have featured Kasai nude from the waist up with a child standing behind her and concealing her nipples. The photo book was originally scheduled to ship on February 4, but now has no definite release date as it is being revised.
The police will take into consideration Kodansha's decision to delay the magazine issue and book. According to Sankei, the investigators said that since a boy of European descent was used as a model, they are considering the possibility that this may be an international matter because some countries have stricter child pornography laws than Japan. Kodansha's public relations office declined to comment on the police investigation because it could not confirm the information.
The maximum sentence for distribution of child pornography in Japan is five years in prison and a 5-million-yen fine (about US$56,000) fine. Sankei reports there is also a possibility of a child solicitation charge, which carries an additional maximum sentence of five years and a 3-million-yen (US$33,000) fine.
Kodansha posted an apology on the matter on Thursday. All serialized manga that were supposed to be featured in issue 7 of Young Magazine are now being moved to issue 8, which will be released on January 21. Going forward, Kodansha said that while it will maintain its utmost respect for creators' freedom of expression, it is also committed to legal compliance and publishing ethics.
Without citing a reason, AKB48 announced on Saturday that Kasai will not attend a handshake event that was scheduled for Sunday at Kyocera Dome Osaka. The Yahoo Auctions! Japan site informed its users on Thursday that the recalled magazine issue is prohibited, and thus it will cancel any auctions of the issue it finds, without offering refunds.
Translator Dan Kanemitsu and lawyer Tōru Okumura noted that the book's cover image can be considered child pornography under the legal definition in Japan. (The definitions in other countries such as the United States may vary.)