Japan’s entertainment industry is infested with organized crime and despite crackdowns on “yakuza Hollywood” nothing much seems to change. For example, last month 10 comedians from the colossal Yoshimoto Kogyo talent agency were caught up (innocently, they said) in a yakuza insurance fraud scheme involving, ahem, free massages. The scam reportedly netted over a million dollars. Who will be prosecuted remains murky. And that’s business as usual.
What is unusual is for a yakuza boss to break the code of silence and discuss how the talent agency he worked for intimidated its stars and the media, even using other yakuza to get the job done.
As reported in The Daily Beast previously, when the first Japanese woman to win the Miss International title in over five decades, Ikumi Yoshimatsu, refused to go to work for any mafia-connected talent agency, she found out that standing up for the right thing is a sure way to get knocked off your throne and be ostracized from the Japanese entertainment world.
The reign of the talent agencies is severe and oppressive-only recently did a Japanese court rule that it was unacceptable for an agency to forbid a female idol to have a boyfriend. Her agency had even sued her for daring to have a personal life.
In the Yoshimatsu case, in December 2013 she and her lawyer held a press conference at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan to explain the sequence of events that led to her filing criminal charges and a restraining order against one of Japan’s most powerful talent agency executives.
Her alleged stalker was Genichi Taniguchi, also known as Motokazu, the president of Pearl Dash and an executive at K-Dash, one of Japan’s biggest talent agencies, which ranks among its luminaries Ken Watanabe of The Last Samurai and Inception.
According to the beauty queen Yoshimatsu and her lawyer, who have substantial documentation, including video and audio evidence, her problems began before she was crowned Miss International in October 2012, while still being handled by a smaller talent agency.
Japan’s anti-stalking laws are very weak, thus giving the yakuza harassment as a powerful tool. Public support for Yoshimatsu in Japan and abroad has been strong partly because she has spoken out on the problem of stalking.
The far-right wing Kasaoka told the The Daily Beast during our interview: “I’m not fond of Yoshimatsu’s political views,” which are much more liberal than his, “and I hesitated to speak up on her behalf. Yamaguchi-gumi members told me not to discuss Burning Productions. Even the police, many of whom retire to posts with Burning, have harassed me for speaking out. But I’m an old man with a bad heart valve and I’d like to do something decent before I go. Thugs and bullies and yakuza shouldn’t run Japan’s entertainment industry. That’s why the quality is so poor. It’s time for a change. But the courts, the cops, the media-they support the status quo, whether it’s wrong or right. That’s Japan.”