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Thursday, Sep. 1, 2011
Unsavory ties for an entertainer
Popular TV personality Shinsuke Shimada and his agency Yoshimoto Creative Agency Co. hastily called a news conference on the night of Aug. 23 to announce his retirement from the entertainment industry, effective immediately, because of his relationship with a gangster.
TV stations reported the retirement of Mr. Shimada, one of Japan's highest-paid TV program hosts, as the top news item.
According to investigative sources, Mr. Jiro Watanabe, a former super flyweight world boxing champion who became a yakuza member, served as a go-between for Mr. Shimada and the gangster, and the latter helped resolve trouble that Mr. Shimada had had with a rightist group over a remark he made during a TV program more than 10 years ago.
Sources identified the gangster as the No. 4 man of Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest underworld syndicate.
In mobile phone text messages he sent to Mr. Watanabe from 2005 to 2007, Mr. Shimada expressed his concern over the Yamaguchi-gumi official having been arrested by the Osaka police on suspicion of obstructing a public tender process as well as his thanks for his ordering expensive foods and drinks at a bar owned by him (Mr. Shimada), according to the sources.
In mid-August, Yoshimoto obtained the information and concluded that, although Mr. Shimada did not violate any law and neither received benefits from the gangster, nor give them to him, his relations with that person was unacceptable as a personality appearing in mass media.
Mr. Shimada told the news conference: "I did not feel that I was doing something wrong. To me (the relationship) was 'safe.' But I was told by my agency the day before yesterday that it was 'out.'"
It must be said that Mr. Shimada was careless and thoughtless about his relationship with the gangster. Because he appeared in many TV programs, with the potential to influence a large number of viewers, he cannot evade his social responsibility.
Entertainers and their agencies need to keep in mind that gangsters often look for chances to take advantage of entertainers. Both the entertainment industry and TV stations must consider what concrete actions they should take to expel the influence of underworld organizations and gangsters.