Japan has seen some recent victories on the #MeToo front. For example, Ito Shiori’s court victory over her rape case against TBS journalist Yamaguchi Noriyuki. However, the battle is, unfortunately, far from over. Sexual abuse and harassment runs rampant in the entertainment industry, with new cases coming to light by the day. The most recent case highlights accusations again well-known Japanese indie film director, Sono Sion.
Sono Sion Accused of Sexual Assault by Multiple Victims
On Monday, April 4th, Japanese entertainment news site Shukan Josei PRIME published a lengthy account of sexual harassment allegations against Sono Sion. Sono is mostly known for his raunchy indie titles such as ‘Love Exposure’ and ‘Antiporno’, and more recently his 2021 Hollywood debut with Prisoners of the Ghostland starring Nicolas Cage. However, within the industry, it seems he is well-known for something far less applaudable: a reputation as a sexual predator. The Shukan Josei article documents several sexual assault incidents from victims in disturbing detail.
One victim recalls a meeting with Sono before her appearance in one of his films. She claims that upon entering his office, Sono demanded sex from her. When she refused, he called up another actress from a previous film, and they began having sex in front of her. Too stunned to move, she felt a wave of relief when the assistant director came to escort her out. However, that relief was short-lived, as immediately after, he tried to bring her to a love hotel. 
Sono Didn’t Always Act Alone
Sono didn’t always act alone. The article also details an incident from 10 years ago where a colleague acted as an accomplice. The accomplice, whom the article refers to only as ‘T’, allegedly lured the victim to Sono’s home. He then left the victim alone with Sono, who proceeded to sexually assault her. 
The accomplice wouldn’t remain nameless for very long, however. On April 5th, Japanese actor Sakaguchi Tak released an apology video on his own Youtube channel revealing himself as ‘T’. In the video, he confesses: “I’m Tak Sakaguchi, the person they called ‘T'” (in the article). However, although he proceeds to apologize for his role in the incident, he never mentions Sono by name. Understandably, this led to criticism from those who viewed this as a cowardly, insincere excuse for an apology. 
Voices In The Industry Speak Up Against Sono
Apparently, Sono’s actions were no secret in the industry. After the allegations came to light, several other voices from the Japanese film world chimed in, including men who’d worked with Sono. (If this was all such an open secret, it’s a dim reflection on the culture of the industry that men in high places hadn’t previously felt the need to speak up on the topic.)
At least one actor, Matsuzaki Yuki (with appearances in films such as Letters From Iwo Jima and The Pink Panther 2), said this was Sono’s “usual MO”. He continues in a Tweet: “There are dozens of victims”. He later adds in an English post, “Do you believe me now?” In a separate post he writes, “Now that Sion Sono is outed as a sexual predator who preys on young actresses luring them with roles in his films, I wonder if ANY of the major Japanese film studios and TV networks would condemn such predatory practices?” 
Other voices condemning Sono’s actions included actress Yoshitaka Yuriko, who made a statement on Twitter indirectly criticizing Sono and offering sympathy for the victims, and comedian Ota Hikari, who repeatedly criticized Sono on his TBS Radio show on April 5th. 
Sono Sion Incident Revives #MeToo Movement in Japan
The Sono incident comes as a recent slew of cases against other Japanese film directors and actors in the industry in what seems to be a ‘revival’ of the #MeToo crisis in Japan. (Although one can argue, did it ever really go away?) Sono’s incident follows sexual harassment charges by other well-known names in the industry, including film director Sakaki Hideo and actor Kinoshita Houka. 
In response to the allegations, Sono Sion offers “sincere apologies” on his website, not to the victims, but for “causing a disturbance to everyone,” and for his lack of “awareness as a film director” and “consideration for people around me.” He ends his statement with a criticism of the article’s “differing points from the facts”, and insists he will “take legal action”. 
Sono was known to shamelessly boast of his sexual advances on “most of [his] leading ladies”. When former actress and sexual assault victim Milla Araki reached out to Sono last month requesting “cooperation in supporting sexual abuse victims,” Sono’s response was “Of course, that’s impossible for me”.  It’s clear that Sono Sion knew what he was doing all along. He isn’t sorry at all for what he did. He’s only sorry he got caught.
As long as we continue to let celebrities get off easy with a slap on the wrist, insincere apologies, and consequences no more serious than hiatuses or event cancellations, the issues will only persist. If we really want to tackle sexual harassment in the film industry (and in general), a lot more work needs to be done.
 園子温の性加害を出演女優らが告発！「主演にはだいたい手を出した」と豪語する大物監督の”卑劣な要求”. Shukan Josei PRIME
 坂口拓の釈明動画に疑問の声 園子温氏の名前出さず、核心にも触れず「何の謝罪？」. Excite News
 爆問太田「映画をナンパの道具に使うんじゃない」園子温監督を痛烈批判. niftyニュース
 吉高由里子「名前を見るだけで、深く長く強く苦しむ」園子温監督をめぐる性加害報道を非難か. niftyニュース