Mobster Shakedown

Attention in the Japanese show-biz world has been riveted with the affair of comedian Shinsuke Shimada, whose ties to organized crime were revealed in an article by a weekly magazine Aug. 26.

Three days before the article was published, Shimada and his management company, Osaka-based Yoshimoto Kogyo, held a press conference where Shimada announced his sudden “retirement” from show business.

Shimada is one of the most ubiquitous personalities on television, hosting six weekly variety programs, and makes more than 400 million yen ($5 million) per year.

His value to Yoshimoto, one of the most powerful talent agencies in Japan, is incalculable.

However, media commentators are saying the agency had no choice.

The national police have announced that starting in October they will crack down on companies who do any sort of business with organized crime.

Shimada’s association with a particular yakuza boss, according to the weekly, goes back more than a decade when the gangster helped him smooth out a disagreement with a right-wing group.

Ties between organized crime and the entertainment industry in Japan are practically elemental. The whole concept of traveling live performances in Japan was originated by yakuza groups near the beginning of the last century.

Mobsters are said to be particularly involved in the pop music performance field, controlling both venues and which promoters get to work with which artists.

The implication is that, after October, these companies will be raided by the police, leaving companies trying to jettison as many tainted charges as they can, though the real problem seems to be structural.