NHK Puts Squeeze On Mob

Some of Japan’s top enka singers were banned from performing on public broadcaster NHK after it became known they had hung out with well-known underworld figures in early October.

The five singers participated in a golf tournament to celebrate the birthday of a high-ranking boss in the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s most notorious yakuza organization.

They also attended a party for the boss following the tournament, according to a weekly newsmagazine.

The singers are regular performers on NHK’s various music shows. The broadcaster is notoriously sensitive about its image, though in recent years it has mostly overlooked the kind of scandals that tended to get artists blackballed from the network in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Commercial network TV Tokyo has cut segments from a recent music program featuring one of the singers, Takashi Hosokawa.

Another singer, Akira Kobayashi, who was Japan’s biggest male pop star in the ‘60s, has been thrown off the Japanese pro golf tour because of the yakuza connection.

Kobayashi was given an honorary JPGA membership last year and has since participated in four tournaments on the senior tour.

The bans are notable in that organized crime has always had its hand in Japanese show business, but the connections were rarely ever discussed publicly.

Citizens in recent years have urged the authorities to crack down on yakuza organizations following violent clashes between rival groups that ended with the deaths of innocent bystanders.