Japan’s Entertainment Industry Pressured to Break Ties with Yakuza

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The entertainment world has come under mounting pressure to break off its ties with gangsters after popular comedian Shinsuke Shimada was forced to retire from show business over his relations with a senior member of a crime syndicate.

It has recently come to light that a financial institution refused to have transactions with an executive of a major talent agency because of the executive’s relations with yakuza. Most financial institutions have an anti-gang clause in their regulations, allowing them to cancel their contracts with customers who have relations with gang groups.

The anti-gang campaign has gained momentum as a Tokyo metropolitan ordinance aimed at getting rid of gangs is set to come into force on Oct. 1.

Specifically, the ordinance will require businesses in Tokyo to confirm their customers are not linked to crime syndicates. If it surfaces that businesses have paid off gangs and do not comply with the local or national public safety commission’s advisory that they sever their ties with the underground organizations, the companies’ names will be released as organizations linked to yakuza.

“If the names of companies that have ties with crime syndicates are disclosed, it’ll enable financial institutions to suspend transactions with them under the anti-yakuza clause,” explained a senior official with the Metropolitan Police Department.

Broadcasters and the entertainment industry are also stiffening regulations on individual entertainers’ ties to yakuza.

Five major Tokyo-based TV stations are considering incorporating an anti-gang clause in their contracts with TV personalities, such as singers and actors, at the request of the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan.

The Japan Association of Music Enterprises, comprised mainly of talent agencies, says it will try to keep its members informed of the purpose and details of the anti-gang ordinance.

However, freelance journalist Atsushi Mizoguchi, who is familiar with crime syndicates’ activities, has expressed concern that the show-business world cannot easily cut off its longstanding ties with yakuza.

He pointed out that the entertainment industry and crime syndicates have been interdependent on each other for many years, with showbiz relying on yakuza for organizing performances and settling disputes.

Mizoguchi added that apart from Shimada, many other entertainers have come under fire for their ties with gangsters.

Lawyer Hiroshi Inuzuka, who is an expert in local governments’ anti-gang ordinances, expressed hope for the Tokyo anti-gang ordinance.

“The entertainment industry, which isn’t under any particular ministry’s supervision unlike the banking and brokerage industries, has been late in its efforts to sever its ties with crime syndicates. I hope the ordinance will encourage the showbiz world to eliminate gangs’ intervention in its activities,” he said.

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