Japanese TV Star Shimada Shinsuke retires before yakuza ties exposed

(Note: This article was originally written before the 10 pm press conference on the 24th. There is an update here on The Atlantic Wire. )

Shimada Shinsuke (島田紳助) one of Japan’s more prominent television personalities is scheduled to announce his retirement from the industry or at least his talent agency, Yoshimoto Kogyo (吉本興業) at a press conference at 10pm today. Allegedly, the reasons behind his retirement are  that his close ties to a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi Kyokushinrengo (山口組極心連合)might be exposed in a weekly magazine.

According to police sources, for several years Shimada Shinsuke was close to Goto Tadamasa, the former head of the Yamaguchi-gumi Goto-gumi, until Goto was forced to retire on October 14th, 2008. It was from that time that Shimada allegedly became close to a senior member of the Yamaguchi-gumi Kyokushinrengo. Several months ago, Shimada apparently made the mistake of making deragatory remarks about Mr. Goto, which did not sit well with the former crime boss. Shimada even allegedly did the unthinkable, referring to Mr. Goto without any honorifics at all, an act in Japanese society which is called 呼び捨て (yobisute). This so offended Mr. Goto that he leaked information to the press about Shimada’s friendly relations with organized crime.

In Goto Tadamasa’s best-selling autobiography, 憚りながら (Habakarinagara) Goto refers to Shimada as a hypocritical little チンピラ(chinpira) which is yakuza slang for the lowest level of yakuza. The publisher of Goto’s book, Takarajima, in a book released this March (平成タブー大全)in a chapter written by yakuza expert Mizoguchi Atsushi, discusses in details Shimada’s close relationship to the Kyokushinrengo leader, Hashimoto Hirofumi.

Shimada has been in trouble before, for a case of assault, in 2004, in which he dragged a 40 year old female employee into his dressing room by pulling on her hair, and then slapped her repeatedly. She had failed to show him the proper respect, he felt. It was certainly thuggish behavior and he was fined for the assault.

The talent agency he belongs to Yoshimoto Kogyo, has been rumored to have yakuza ties for years. The company was listed on the stock market for a short time but then later withdrew as a listed company on their own, or after considerable pressure from the police.

It remains to be seen what will be the official reasons announced for his retirement.

UPDATE: Shimada’s relationship to the yakuza boss in question allegedly included cash gifts to the boss for “looking after me.”  The police are taking an interest in the reasons behind the alleged donations. Police sources have said they now consider Shimada to be a yakuza associate or in police lingo, 準構成員 (junkoseiin).

26 thoughts on “Japanese TV Star Shimada Shinsuke retires before yakuza ties exposed”

  1. I don’t understand this stuff well, but why would it matter if he was exposed as having yakuza ties? would it hurt his career? 1) doesn’t everyone already know that the talent in Japan is controlled by yaks? 2) yaks aren’t illegal or anything.. Wasn’t there a video of a bunch of celebs kissing up to some yakuza boss (I think it was Goto) on his birthday? Did they all need to retire after that video came out?

    Cheers,
    Max

  2. Guy needs to retire because he’s a grade-A jerk. I cannot stand him. I recall that he got in trouble for spitting in some woman’s face. I think the woman was some sort of cleaning staff. Who does that? If I’m not wrong, that guy is an ass. If I am wrong, that guy is still an ass. I freaking hate him so much. I like watching “Nandemo Kanteidan” except for his parts. Guy is straight up rude. and nasty. To be extra snarky, I’m gonna say I hate looking at his ugly mug sitting atop his little man-boy body. Good riddance!

  3. Color me surprised. I figured this was the case when they were showing off his posh place in Okinawa and were talking about the ridiculously cheap price he had gotten it for because the landlord was so“nice. ” I wish I had a link because it was quite fishy.

    As for your comment Max, I imagine the understanding is similar to the one with cheating on your spouse for some Japanese people: Stars can be suspected of it and everyone pretends it’s not happening. But once it becomes a problem someone has to go.

  4. Thanks Ryan. Max, Ryan says it pretty accurately. A similar thing happened when the popular singer Matsuyama Chiharu, was written up in the weekly magazine Friday as to having extensive organized crime associations. There was even a picture of him at a yakuza boss funeral. He was getting ready to run for office–that pretty much ended his career. In September of October of 2008, Shukan Shincho wrote a piece about famous celebrities attending the birthday party of Goto Tadamasa. NHK banned a famous enka singer who had been at the party from appearing on the channel, other celebrities suffered fall out. The accepted understanding is that yakuza are anti-social forces and palling around with them is a sign of condoning their behavior. So although everyone knows that the major talent agencies are run by the yakuza and/or heavily involved with them, when specific ties are proven–the protocol is for that entertainer to apologize and retire and then “reform.” Another factor in this case is that the new Tokyo Organized Crime Exclusionary Ordinances (暴力団排除条例)go into effect in October. The laws criminalize pay-offs to the yakuza or engaging in any activity that profits them. It’s loosely defined. For Yoshimoto Kogyo, Shimada represents a serious problem because it brings into question whether or not the entire firm is connected to anti-social forces. They don’t want that kind of attention.

  5. Yeah, I saw his exit: If he is really off the air… wow, will I be thankful.

    What an unfunny, self-righteous dickhead this guy is. (For those who are unsure of who the chap is, picture a dickhead… now picture a dickhead that thinks he is funny, but in fact is not…. now add into the equation that this particular unfunny dickhead is so full of himself that he talks down to nearly everyone, and doles out advice on any topic as if he were the epicentre of knowledge – that, in a rice husk, is the TV “talent” in question).

    As for the commenter named max, I assume you are writing tongue-in-cheek, since what you wrote seems to be a google search mish-mash plus unknowledgeable rambling.

  6. What’s the attraction in entertainment companies for boryokudan? Is it a lucrative revenue stream? Is it a desire to become friends/associates of celebrities, or is it ultimately about making money, like having the ability to blackmail the stars or charge money to have access to these entertainers? I suspect the latter.

  7. It has long been the case that when entertainers want to put on a show, they have to go through the local yakuza and get their cooperation, which obviously involves payoffs. The yakuza have been preying on the entertainment industry for many decades.

  8. Hi Jake,

    Off-topic but since reading Tokyo Vice I’ve wanted to express my admiration for your persistence and courage in unveiling some of the more sinister aspects of Japanese society. I spent seven years in Japan myself, and went through a great personal disenchantment when I gradually realized that, far from being the harmonious and unconflictual country I had first naively believed it to be, it was also a place of hidden despair and violence. If I hadn’t loved Japan so much I wouldn’t have cared, so, again, thank you for having the balls to show how deep is the collusion between the criminal, political and economic spheres there.

    1. Hey, that’s very nice of you to say. I like Japan a lot and it feels like my home.
      There was a saying attributed to the Cherokee Indians that I read as a little boy that always stuck with me.
      “He who is present at a wrongdoing and does not lift a hand to prevent it–he is as guilty as the wrongdoers.”
      Albert Einstein also said the same thing eloquently, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
      I choose to do something. There is a certain amount of futility involved, but sometimes I get something good done or help someone out and that makes me love my job.

  9. Jake –
    I can only echo what Aymeric writes. I just finished Tokyo Vice a few days ago and found it surprisingly touching. It felt like a brave and honest book about everything – including the things you regret doing. What’s going on with The Last Yakuza?

  10. Now if we can only get rid of the equally, if not more arrogant Akashiya Sanma. Surely there must be some dirt somewhere on .

  11. Kinda funny how the Heisei Nihon Taboo books from back in 2006 (I know, not the most reputable source) wrote about how mobbed-up Yoshimoto was. They described a few of Shinsuke’s assault incidents and how he never really got punished because he had friends in the yakuza and how much clout Yoshimoto has. I hated who he was personally, and the way he ridiculed the talent on his shows grew tiresome quickly, but I did like the shows he was on, mainly due to the other comedians. Looks some of them will try to continue on without him.

    1. It’s not a coincidence it got recycled and republished this year by Takarajima, which also published Goto’s book. Actually, Takarajima does tackle some taboo subjects that no one else will. And sometimes they are very accurate.

  12. I’m not sure I understand Michael’s criticism. Max brings up a good point- why are some celebrities punished when their yakuza ties are revealed and why do some get away with it?

    If he is an asshole, that is another issue – but doesn’t explain why his OC ties are damning. Can you explain a little more Jake?

  13. The Cherokee and Einstein say it well, but it still takes a rare kind of individual to face the actual and physical dangers involved in naming names and writing about big-scale collusion. I frequently rubbed shoulders with low rankers in Tokyo, mostly through boxing, and that was enough to convince me I’d never have the guts to take them -or their higher ups- on outside a gym.

    But enough sucking up to you. Just wanted to sort of shake your hand.

  14. I readily understand why most foreigners hate the guy. A couple of things in his favor, though. One, the “trouble” he got into more than 10 years ago was that he said something on an Osaka TV show that pissed off a right-wing group, which then showed up at the TV station with their sound trucks. About the only people in Japan that can shut up such a group are the yakuza. Second, Shinsuke has an incredibly sharp mind. His quips are amazingly fast and come in quick succession. I guess he can also be credited with introducing a large number of people who are now active in show business, though his record there is spotty, considering the level of talent.
    If we could trade him for Sanma, though, I’d do it in an instant.

  15. It’s great that perhaps the stinkiest turd on J TV finally got flushed. I don’t watch much TV but back in the 80’s Peter Barakan used to have a cool show called Poppers MTV, used to wait for it as radio was primitive and there was no cable. One day the TV Guide had a show called Shinsuke’s MTV instead of Peter’s show. When I checked it out Peter was gone and this asshole Shimada was there, show totally sucked. Still hate the guy for that.

  16. Maybe that’s the price one pays for getting the ire of someone. There are hundreds even thousands who give yakuza some pay offs yet they aren’t asked nor expected to retire. Even big companies do it as attested from my readings. of your articles and book. Personally except for the killing part, the yaks are just plain workers and businessmen on the other side of the fence. Some didn’t even had a choice.

    1. Well-put. The world is not just nor does it make sense. That only happens in fiction. The difference between yakuza and investment bankers is sometimes very small. The word yakuza is misleading. There are hundreds of groups, each one of them different, some more ethical than the others, in their own ways.

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