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Japanese star apologizes for naked romp

A JAPANESE pop star who was arrested last month after dancing drunk and naked in a Tokyo park returned to the limelight yesterday.

Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, 34, a member of the five-member singing group SMAP, had voluntarily stayed out of the public eye since his April 23 arrest on suspicion of public indecency. But prosecutors dropped charges after Kusanagi profusely apologized in a nationally televised news conference and promised not to overdrink again.

In Japan, misbehaving celebrities voluntarily stop working, sometimes for years, if the scandal is serious, because they are expected to be role models in a conformist and reserved society.

In his comeback news conference, Kusanagi, wearing a dark suit and tie, sometimes paused over his words, overcome with emotion, when he vowed to never cause such hardships for his fellow SMAP members, who had repeatedly bowed in apology on TV shows. One had even wept.

"I was overcome with joy," he told reporters when recalling his telephone conversations earlier in the day with SMAP members. "I am so happy that I am going to be able to work again with them."

His arrest was the top news item in the country with major TV networks repeatedly broadcasting footage of a glum Kusanagi being escorted to a police van. Almost immediately, public sentiments went out to him as a police raid of his home failed to turn up evidence of more serious crimes. High-profile commentators said he should be forgiven.

"The support of my fans was what kept me going and I am filled with gratitude," he said.


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