Miss Japan Ikumi Yoshimatsu joins battle against mafia in the media

A beauty queen is in hiding after exposing a major talent agency’s alleged links to a crime syndicate

Tokyo

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.

On Tuesday last week, the scandal deepened at a Tokyo ceremony to hand the Miss International crown to Ms Yoshimatsu’s successor, Bea Rose Santiago of the Philippines. The chair of the current title-holder was empty because, Ms Yoshimatsu claimed, she was barred from attending. She said sponsors and shareholders had been threatened and she was told to “play sick” and stay away. When asked about the situation, a spokesperson for the event organiser, International Culture Association, told the AP news agency it did not want the controversy “to overshadow the event”.

Ms Yoshimatsu’s international-events manager, Matt Taylor, said her refusal to play ball with the industry has cost her $2m (£1.2m) in cancelled contracts. “She is the first woman in this situation to speak out,” he added.

Anti-Yakuza laws introduced two years ago theoretically stop companies from knowingly engaging in business with the gangsters. But analysts say the mob remains strong in the finance and entertainment industries. “Most stars accept it as an unavoidable reality,” Mr Adelstein said.

Ms Yoshimatsu said she had little faith in the police, and hopes that her very public campaign will force the authorities to act. “I want to change the law to protect the victims,” she said. “I will not keep silent and I will not appease my tormentor.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect