(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).