There are two classic taboo rumors about the Japanese entertainment industry. The first is that organized crime runs the artist management business. There is a lot of evidence to back this up — convicted tax-evading jimusho bosses claiming the need for “underground financing” in the courtroom, bullets fired into management company windows, a well-known historical precedent for entertainment being a yakuza racket, Misora Hibari’s manager being a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi, etc., etc. But if you are a television network or publishing company dependent upon the very same entertainment companies to provide celebrities to attract viewers and readers, you are not exactly going to start blabbing about anything sinister. The entertainment companies are not dumb either, working at all costs to preserve the “wholesome” image. Who would think that the mob runs an industry where smoking a cigarette at age 19 can end your career as an idol?
The other persistent rumor is that model agencies — especially for gravia idols — prostitute their employees off on the side. A lot of the lower-ranking and newer idols must pay for their own dancing and singing lessons and are allegedly introduced to possible “buyers” by management company employees to secure an extra source of income. There are also apparently hostess clubs directly managed by the modeling agencies where up-and-coming talent can meet television executives and other powerful figures. In the past, there has been a lot of “Marxy, you are paranoid and crazy” in regards to my belief in this gossip. (And not just on this blog. My friend was pounding me on this just yesterday evening.)
Kohinata Minako Komukai Minako’s recent confession to these practices, however, is a huge leap forward for anyone wanting to pull back the curtain. I seriously doubt the story will get any legs — any talk of prostituting idols is still a massive taboo in the media, and almost no one has any stake in making the cheery idol business look seedy. Idols are the public face of many respectable businesses and government bureaus, so exposing the dark side of the industry is not just a hit for the management companies, but a hit for the entire Japanese national tatemae.
Many people often think, who cares where the money comes from? These revelations, however, show exactly why organized crime probably should not be free to hold the reigns to the pop cultural industries. They have too much temptation to milk as much money from their employees in any way possible, with basically no chance at legal recourse from their labor. And when the guys who run artist management companies and the guys who run brothels are in the same “fraternal organization,” crossover seems like an obvious occurrence.