TOKYO - Japanese actress Noriko Sakai was released on bail Thursday, 41 days after she was taken into custody on drug allegations that triggered a media frenzy and concerns about growing drug use in Japan's entertainment business.
Police arrested Sakai, 38, in early August after she turned herself following a weeklong disappearance.
She was later formally charged with violating an anti-stimulant law and is to go on trial beginning October 26. The Tokyo District Court approved her release this week on 5 million yen ($55,000) bail, Tokyo police said.
Escorted by police, Sakai walked out of the police station as hundreds of tabloid photographers, reporters and fans waited.
"I'm truly sorry," she said, bowing deeply.
Sakai was initially seen as a distraught wife who went missing after her husband's arrest on drug charges, but later became a suspect herself. Her husband faces similar charges and will be tried separately.
The scandal has dominated headlines for weeks in Japan, and authorities have said they will crack down on drug use in the entertainment industry.
"Actions by celebrities could make a big social impact, especially on young people," National Police Agency chief Masaharu Ando said last month. He urged the entertainment industry "to eradicate drug problems."
Sakai debuted in 1986 at age 15, but rose to fame through acting in TV dramas and singing in the 1990s. She was among the first Japanese actresses to perform and gain popularity in Asia, including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Her promotional deals, including one with carmaker Toyota, were pulled and her contracts canceled after the scandal emerged.
If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison. But most first violations bring suspended sentences.