A softly spoken, willowy beauty who weeps when she describes her ordeal, Ikumi Yoshimatsu seems an unlikely figure to lead a fight against one of Japan’s most powerful talent agencies.
Yet she has become the heroine in a drama that her supporters say has exposed one of the nation’s dirtiest secrets: claims that the Yakuza helps to run the entertainment industry.
Since she became the first Japanese woman to win the Miss International title, Ms Yoshimatsu says she has been blackballed by the industry, stalked and threatened for refusing to join a talent agency. She is now in hiding after filing a criminal complaint against a top executive with the firm. “I am afraid for my life,” she said in a telephone interview.
Last week, Ms Yoshimatsu went public and accused the executive, Genichi Taniguchi, of starting a campaign of intimidation against her shortly after she was crowned Miss International Japan in 2012. She claimed she refused to sign a contract with Mr Taniguchi when an internet search revealed allegations that his company had alleged links to the Yamaguchi-gumi – Japan’s largest crime syndicate. “I told them, morally and ethically I cannot work with such people,” she said.
In documents and tape recordings submitted to the police, Ms Yoshimatsu claims Mr Taniguchi threatened her and used his industry connections to hound her out of modelling and acting work. At one point, he allegedly burst into a television studio and, she claims, tried to abduct her. Ms Yoshimatsu’s lawyer, Norio Nishikawa, said: “We have recordings proving all this.” He has filed civil and criminal complaints demanding his client be left alone.
Calls to Mr Taniguchi and the talent agency went unanswered, and the police also declined to comment on the case. Mr Taniguchi has denied doing anything to Ms Yoshimatsu. “I’m no stalker,” he told The Japan Times. “I called her father at least twice to try and reach her manager to solve my financial dispute with him. I have no grudge against her.”
Coverage of Ms Yoshimatsu’s claims by the television networks, however, has been strangely muted. Critics claim this is due to the influence of the talent agency and other powerful agencies that keep them supplied with actors and stars. Jake Adelstein, a specialist on Japan’s crime syndicates, said that Ms Yoshimatsu’s fight had embarrassed the industry. “Most of the mainstream media has refused to cover the story because that means no access to talent,” he said.
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