An excellent piece on the Japanese entertainment industry and it's strong yakuza ties,
by journalist colleague, Gavin Blair, writing from Tokyo.
The yakuza have strong links to the entertainment biz, but the times may be changing as the government cracks down on gangs.
TOKYO — The sudden retirement of Shinsuke Shimada, one of Japanese TV’s biggest stars, on Aug. 24 after links to a boss in the largest yakuza gang were exposed is bringing attention to the long and deep ties between organized crime and showbiz.
‘Various parts of society have made active efforts to eradicate links with crime syndicates, but the entertainment world is yet to follow suit,” opined an Aug. 30 article in the Daily Yomiuri, the English edition of Japan’s, and the world’s, biggest newspaper by circulation.
Police are now asking for an explanation of the underworld ties from Shimada’s powerful agency, Yoshimoto Kogyo, which has been rapidly expanding overseas in recent years, signing deals from Hollywood to Shanghai.
Shimada hosted no fewer than six weekly TV shows on some of Japan’s biggest networks until it emerged that a weekly magazine was about to run an article detailing his friendship withHirofumi Hashimoto, head of the Kyokushin-Rengo, a gang affiliated to the huge Yamaguchi-gumi.
Shimada’s troubles started 10 years back when, during a variety TV show, he compared the chrysanthemum-shaped symbol of an ultra-nationalist group to a certain nether region body part. With the chrysanthemum also being the symbol of the Japanese imperial family, the extreme right-wingers were not amused. They sent sound trucks blaring out abuse about Shimada — a standard modus operandi of Japanese nationalist groups — to his house, the offices of Yoshimoto Kogyo and the TV station in Osaka. For the rest of the story go to The Hollywood Reporter site here.
UPDATE: The Tokyo Metro Police Department Organized Crime Control Division （警視庁組織犯罪対策部） formally interrogated Yoshimoto Kogyo officials about the background of Shinsuke’s connections to the yakuza and the company’s compliance issues on August 31st and are continuing to meet with company officials and pursue possible criminal charges against Shinsuke Shimada, related to his business dealings with the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest organized crime group.
For more on the story please check out these two pieces I’ve written for the The Atlantic Wire. I’m working on a third.