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Last updated at 14:26 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

Japanese pop star goes on trial


26 October 2009

More than 6,000 people have queued for the 20 seats in a courtroom public gallery in Japan to see a famous singer and actress go on trial. Noriko Sakai has pleaded guilty to using and possessing illegal drugs.

Roland Buerk

Noriko Sakai

Noriko Sakai


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When she sang and acted, Noriko Sakai could always draw a crowd but rarely as big as the one that turned up to witness her downfall. 6,615 people queued, some all night in pouring rain, to get into the courtroom in Tokyo. Officials set up tents and handed out numbered armbands before holding a lottery draw to decide who would get the 20 seats in the public gallery.

When the hearing began the 38-year-old pleaded guilty to possessing 0.008 of a gram of what's been described as stimulant drugs, and using drugs too.

Noriko Sakai has been famous since she was a teenager, first as a J-pop singer, later as an actress. But her girl next door image was shattered in August when her husband was arrested over a drugs offence. She went on the run for several days before turning herself in. In the meantime the police have found more drugs in her flat.

In court, Noriko Sakai said she wanted a divorce and to make a fresh start, studying nursing care for the elderly. Her lawyers pleaded for leniency. The prosecution is seeking an 18-month prison sentence.

Roland Buerk, BBC News, Tokyo


Click to hear the vocabulary:


could always draw a crowd

was popular enough to be sure that her performances as a singer or actor would always attract a lot of attention (from her fans, the press etc.)

turned up to witness her downfall

came/arrived to see her failure

pleaded guilty

publicly declared in court that she was responsible for her wrongdoing


short for Japanese pop, a style of music that began in the 1990s and has its origins in 1960s music, such as The Beatles

girl next door

someone who is sweet, wholesome, modest and easy-going and seen as very feminine in the traditional way

went on the run

disappeared, was hiding (usually to be on the run means to be hiding from the police or authorities)

turning herself in

coming to the police

to make a fresh start

to begin living her life differently

nursing care

when someone is professionally trained to look after sick, elderly or disabled people and does it as their job

pleaded for leniency

asked for a less severe punishment; asked to show mercy

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