The dark powers
December 14, 2013 9:35 AM   Subscribe

In the last few weeks, extensive evidence has emerged that Japanese show business is saturated with the yakuza’s influence. Police records and sources, along with testimony from current and former yakuza members, have revealed that many powerful Japanese talent agencies and production companies are not simply fronts for the yakuza—they are the yakuza.

Yakuza Goes Hollywood – Jake Adelstein reports on recent attempts to remove the yakuza from the entertainment industry
posted by timshel (18 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Jake Adelstein's book on the Yakuza and crime in Japan is an amazing read - it was so odd to me that organized crime was such an integrated part of life in Japan, the Yakuza even had their own corporate headquarters. I take it there has been a crackdown in the last couple years, though.

Also, this prev, where he reviews the Yakuza video game, is good.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:49 AM on December 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

Shinsuke, while in Osaka, had an angry encounter with a right-wing group in which he compared the emperor’s imperial crest to his anus. He then denigrated the right wing on an Osaka television program

Ok I actually like this guy now. Because fuck those Uyoku guys
posted by Hoopo at 9:54 AM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Jake Adelstein's book on the Yakuza and crime in Japan is an amazing read

The epilog to that book enraged me with his casual destruction of other peoples' lives, he even seems proud of it. Now he claims that it's being made into a movie. I am sickened at the thought.

I remember Adelstein being a participant on a Japan forum that I will not name because I am embarrassed to have ever been associated with it. At the time, he was a "reporter" only in the sense that he did have text published in the Yomiuri English edition, he had a column that searched the scandal sheets for the most lurid sex crime stories and translated them into English.

One day, somebody noticed all his past posts had been edited and replaced with one word, "sorry." It appeared he was trying to cover his tracks and redact everything he ever wrote. He provoked some dangerous people and then he tried to hide from the consequences. That's what he does. He tried to get the Yomiuri to protect him and they kicked him to the curb. He deserved it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:07 AM on December 14, 2013 [9 favorites]

Everything I know about the connection between entertainment and the Yakuza I learned from Sion Sono's Why Don't You Play in Hell?
posted by thecjm at 10:51 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unless I missed something, this article is from 2011. Have there been any recent updates on the topic (especially in light of the return of Abe to the Prime Minister post)?

This October article from the Independent was the most credible recent piece I could find--but I'm not a Japan expert. There's also this recent Adelstein piece from the end of November for the Daily Beast, but both of those concentrate on the banking industry (latest crackdown target) rather than entertainment.
posted by librarylis at 11:55 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding charlie don't surf's comment.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 12:18 PM on December 14, 2013

I hope flaplack 12 PM weighs in on this. I only played music in Japan for a couple of months, and, although I never saw any missing pinkies, my bosses always seemed a little shady to me, although my understanding of Japanese culture is pretty minimal, despite three visits there.
posted by kozad at 12:24 PM on December 14, 2013

Tokyo Vice was a fantastic but crushingly depressing read for me because it was less "here is a bunch of stuff about yakuza organizations, how they operate and the extent to which they are enmeshed in Japanese society" and more of a memoir-confessional partly about that, but also partly about the author's own observations and experiences witnessing cruelty and dysfunction from all angles and often acting in ways that are destructive to himself and others. It didn't read as proud of that at all, to me; the tone was frequently mournful and regretful and numb.
posted by byanyothername at 3:04 PM on December 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

The Japanese mafia (yakuza) hold over the entertainment industry is still quite powerful.
Ikumi Yoshimatsu, the first Japanese woman to win the Miss International title found herself the target of malicious stalking and intimidation after refusing to work with a mob backed talent agency.
After winning the crown:
" In the middle of (December), at what was supposed to be a meeting with her management at the time, former K-1 fight promoter Kazuyoshi Ishii, who has been convicted of tax evasion and destruction of evidence, abruptly entered the room and made his own proposal.
He had several times suggested in the past that she work with Taniguchi, who is a close personal friend of Ikuo Suo, chairman of Burning Productions, Japan’s most powerful talent agency.
At that meeting, Ishii allegedly urged Yoshimatsu to sign with an entertainment agency affiliated with Burning Productions. She adamantly refused, noting the Burning group was long rumored to be affiliated with the yakuza. Indeed, police files that were leaked on the Internet in 2007 list the firm as a client of the Yamaguchi-gumi. (Japan's largest crime group)
I noticed Charlie Can't Read Japanese's comments. If what he had to say was true, he'd use his own real name. I'm using mine. I believe that he has a personal grudge against me. I'm certainly not proud of mistakes I made as a journalist. The yakuza in Japan do not engage in wanton killing like the mexican mafia, but they are nevertheless, capable of judicious sanctions. If you're really interested in how far the yakuza links to the ruling powers extend, please read this rather lengthy piece I wrote for Foreign Policy.
The supporting evidence I posted at Japan Subculture Research Center, including the political donation records (which are in Japanese).
posted by jakeadelstein at 3:42 PM on December 14, 2013 [11 favorites]

This article is interesting but pretty well out of date. It implies that a big rout of yakuza from the Japanese entertainment complex was on its way...well, did it happen? That was two years ago.
posted by zardoz at 4:25 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Two interesting comment threads of one-star reviews of Tokyo Vice on Amazon.
posted by Quilford at 4:25 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agree with the negative comments on Adelstein -- I live in Tokyo, and he's a joke in both local and expat communities. He is a guy you go far out of your way to avoid at parties, etc. Why are we looking at a 2-year-old poorly sourced article he wrote?
posted by Vcholerae at 5:18 PM on December 14, 2013

Why are we looking at a 2-year-old poorly sourced article he wrote?

We are looking at it because I found it interesting.

I live in Tokyo, and he's a joke in both local and expat communities. He is a guy you go far out of your way to avoid at parties, etc.

Poorly sourced
posted by timshel at 7:36 PM on December 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

Thank you for this article and your writing in general, jakeadelstein; I first heard of you through an excellent interview you did with Marcie Sillman at KUOW in Seattle.

As I read what you said about the yakuza in entertainment, I found myself wondering what role they might have played at Fukushima before and after the disaster, and ended up reading the excellent article you wrote for the Daily Telegraph: How the Yakuza went nuclear.

And discovered that the situation is far more dire even than I'd imagined.

Please keep up the good work and thanks again.
posted by jamjam at 8:36 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

One of the on-star reviews in Amazon that Quilford mentions downplay's Adelstein's reporting that Yakuza head Tadamasa Goto (and three of his cronies) were put in front of the line for a liver transplants at UCLA.

I don't know whether or not Adelstein 'broke' the story, but his story sure had a lot of influence in the US, leading to a special 60 minutes episode, and lots of public denials and eventual changing of practices at UCLA.
posted by eye of newt at 9:03 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

This reminds me of the comment thread on Amazon. Sorry, "reviews." It's never pretty when an author gets into it on Amazon - I remember reading a funny one linked here a few months ago.

But if Adelstein is published by Foreign Policy, he must be a credible reporter, despite his alleged personality problems or whatever in "the expat community."

Now, Tokyo Vice was a pretty sleazy book, but I like a little exotic sleaze between more serious reading excursions.
posted by kozad at 7:15 AM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

alleged personality problems or whatever in "the expat community."

This is such a can of worms even without bringing Adelstein into it, I wish it hadn't been brought up. Sometimes it was like junior high with the expats over there.
posted by Hoopo at 9:33 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

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