The Tokyo Detention House where American citizen Julian Adame has been held in a single cell for nearly nine months is a far cry from home.
The 12-story concrete complex in a northeast ward of Japan‘s bustling capital often houses high-profile detainees, including Carlos Ghosn, the former Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance chairman and CEO who is accused of financial misconduct. And then there’s Adame, a 22-year-old college student from Sacramento, California.
Adame is accused of obstruction of the performance of official duties after a night out in Tokyo led to an alleged altercation with police in the early morning hours of May 22, 2018. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of three years or a fine of up to 500,000 Japanese yen ($4,750). He has pleaded guilty but his trial has been postponed to mid-February.
Adame was allowed to speak to ABC News for several minutes in the detention facility’s interview room Thursday morning. A guard escorted him into the room, where a glass barrier with a narrow screen along the bottom separates inmates from visitors. Adame, who was earlier visited by U.S. embassy staff, was dressed in a dark blue button-down collared shirt. He appeared healthy and seemed to be in relatively good spirits.
“I’m doing OK,” Adame told ABC News upon sitting down on the other side of the glass. “I really want to go home now. It’s been some time.”
Adame recounted what happened last year. He said he arrived in Tokyo on a Monday morning around 9:30 a.m. local time. The University of Redlands student had just finished a study abroad program in Bali and booked a red-eye to Japan on a whim, deciding to explore a new country for five days before meeting up with his friend Kate Emmons in Thailand. He planned to return home in time for a summer job that was slated to begin June 8, he said.
He said he eventually checked into his room at the stylish Wise Owls Hostels in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward and dropped off his bags. The hostel staff confirmed his reservation, telling ABC News that the next time they saw Adame he was in a police car and officers were looking for his passport. The officers came back for his bags a couple days later, according to the hostel staff.
Adame said he spent the day exploring Tokyo, seeing Shibuya Crossing, which is famous for being the busiest intersection in the world, and going to the fashionable Harajuku district. He said he then returned to his hostel to change for dinner and began chatting with some foreigners in the lobby, including two other Americans. He agreed to go out with them for a drink, he said, though he was exhausted after a sleepless flight.
The group of young men walked to Shibuya Crossing and went to a bar nearby where Adame said he had one drink. They befriended another foreigner, he said, who suggested they all go to Scramble Cafe & Bar, a small, casual establishment with a blue exterior situated beneath the railway tracks across from Shibuya Station.
“I didn’t have my wallet with me,” Adame told ABC News. “I only had my phone on me because I didn’t want to spend money. So I was like, ‘I’ll go but I don’t care about drinking. It’s a Monday night, I’m exhausted’. So we get to Scramble and I remember having a drink and then… like, and then a mess.”
Adame said he must have fallen asleep at the bar because his memory goes blank.
“I think it was a mixture of I’d been drinking, I’d no sleep, I was dehydrated from the flight,” he said. “I’d walked probably seven miles that day. I was, like, trying to find my hostel for a good three hours in the Tokyo heat. I don’t know, I think it was a lot of different factors.”
The next thing Adame said he remembers is waking up in the bar and being approached by men in black vests and white shirts who demanded he pay a thousand dollars for breaking a lamp. Adame said he didn’t know at the time that they were uniformed police officers.
“I was like, ‘I don’t have that money on me,” he recalled. “I don’t have my money on me. I don’t have my wallet on me. So I don’t know what you guys want me to do,'” Adame told ABC News. “And they were like, ‘Well, you need to pay the money.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. I want to pay for this but I don’t have the money on me. It is as simple as that. I don’t know what to do. I am really sorry.'”
Adame said he recalled something one of the foreigners told him earlier that day — about how he had been warned of Tokyo’s “mafia members who dress up as fake police officers and go up to foreigners and rob them, steal their passports.”
Suspicious of the men before him, Adame said he tried calling “911” thirteen times.
“Apparently that was them (the police) the whole time … I couldn’t tell because it was my first day here,” Adame said. “The officer in his testimony confessed to asserting physical force on me. So yeah, it was a pretty scary time.”
Tokyo police declined to comment on the case.
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo confirmed that Adame was arrested on May 22.
“The safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas is one of our highest priorities,” the embassy said in a statement to ABC News. “We are providing all appropriate consular assistance to Mr. Adame. Consular officers are in contact with Mr. Adame’s family and friends, and visit him at the Tokyo Detention Center regularly.”
Adame’s friend, Emmons, told ABC News that she has visited him at the Tokyo Detention House where he’s “in his own cell,” but she declined to share further details of his case, including the name of his lawyer.
Adame’s mother, Leath Smith, told Fox News Sacramento affiliate KTXL that her son was startled and accidentally struck one of the officers while trying to run off to get help.
“At one point the police officer grabbed his arm and it snapped back and hit the officer in his chin,” Smith told KTXL.
ABC News was unable to reach Adame’s mother or other relatives. Adame did not mention his mother or any family members to ABC News during Thursday’s brief interview. But he said he was extremely grateful for Emmons, who has raised nearly $7,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to bring Adame home.
“I’m nothing without all of this help. I could never do it alone,” he told ABC News.
The University of Redlands in Southern California confirmed to ABC News that Adame is a senior there and was studying abroad in Bali for three months before getting arrested in Tokyo.
“We are aware that Julian Adame remains detained in Japan after events that occurred during personal travel, not associated with a university program,” the university said in a statement to ABC News. “We have been in contact with local and international law enforcement agencies in Japan to ask for status, express our concern and offer our assistance.”
The manager of Scramble Cafe & Bar, who asked ABC News not to use his name, said he was there that night and has a different version of the events that transpired.
According to the manager, it was after midnight and Adame was sitting on top of the bar when he reached up and pulled on one of the four pendant lamps hanging from the ceiling over the counter. The lamp fell and broke, the manager said.
The manager showed ABC News an empty light fixture above the bar where he says the pendant lamp once hung.
Adame then fell off the bar and appeared to become unconscious, according to the manager, who showed ABC News a photo on his cellphone he said he took of Adame that night. The image appears to show Adame lying face up on the floor with his eyes closed.
“I went over to scold him. When I tried to wake him up, he didn’t respond,” the manager told ABC News. “I think he was faking it. Soon after, the cops came.”
According to the manager, the pendant lamps were specialty items each priced at 160,000 Japanese yen (about $1,500), but the owner of Scramble Cafe & Bar bought them at half price. The manager said he told police the lamp was worth an estimated 90,000 Japanese yen (about $850).
The manager said Julian wasn’t acting out prior to the incident and didn’t appear to be very drunk. He said he witnessed “some turmoil” between the police officers and Adame, but didn’t see anyone get hit.
The manager said he had no idea Adame was being detained in Tokyo all this time. The owner of Scramble Cafe & Bar has not yet been reimbursed for the lamp. Adame’s attorney contacted the bar’s owner in June but they haven’t heard back since, according to the manager.
“They probably forgot about us,” the manager told ABC News. “I’m the victim. I haven’t said anything to anyone yet. I would like to hear from the lawyer.”