Feature

Japan: Where stars cozy up to gangsters

“Until the entertainment business gets together and cuts all ties with organized crime, celebrities will probably continue to be taken advantage of,” said an editorial at Yomiuri Shimbun.

EditorialYomiuri Shimbun

The revelation last week that Japan’s biggest TV star has ties to gangsters shouldn’t have come as a shock, said the Tokyo Yomiuri Shimbun. Shinsuke Shimada, the highest-paid and most popular TV host in the country, is the very definition of an industry insider, appearing on six shows every week, as well as writing hit songs for top pop stars. So it’s hardly surprising that he fell prey to the yakuza, the crime syndicate whose tentacles grip the entertainment world.

The links between organized crime and show business “go back to the years after World War II, when gangs began arranging musical and theatrical events.” Nowadays the yakuza gangs do favors for stars in order to gain control over them. In Shimada’s case, a yakuza gang helped him out after he became the target of harassment by a right-wing group because of a comment he’d made on a variety show. One favor turned into more, until he was firmly in the gang’s debt—for which he has now resigned in disgrace.

“Until the entertainment business, which is an influential force on society, gets together and cuts all ties with organized crime, celebrities will probably continue to be taken advantage of.”

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