One of the most famous faces on Japanese television has retired from showbusiness after his friendship with a member of a notorious "yakuza" gang was revealed
Shinsuke Shimada, 55, called a press conference late on Tuesday night to announce that he would be retiring immediately, although he maintained that he did not believe his behaviour was inappropriate.
"I didn't think that I was doing anything wrong," he told reporters. "Personally, I thought it was fine, but I found out the day before yesterday that it was considered unacceptable."
Shimada has been almost ever-present on prime-time Japanese TV for more than two decades, appearing as a stand-up comedian before turning his hand to presenting light entertainment that included game programmes, chat shows and quizzes.
Until his resignation, Shimada was appearing on no fewer than five weekly TV shows and, at his peak, was on television here more than 48 hours a month.
Shimada was aggressive and combative both on screen and away from the cameras. In 2004, he was suspended from work by his management agency and fined £2,370 after being found guilty of assaulting a female employee of the agency. Shimada allegedly locked the woman in a room, beat and spat on her for not talking to him in a sufficiently polite way.
Ironically, Shimada's links to organised crime came to light when a series of emails to Hirofumi Hashimoto, head of the Yamaguchi-gumi Kyokushinrengo gang, were leaked to the media after the TV presenter infuriated another senior gang member by making derogatory comments and using impolite terms of address.
"Shimada referred to Tadamasa Goto without an honorific – which is called 'yobisute' in Japanese and is really rude," Jake Adelstein, a yakuza expert and author, told The Daily Telegraph. "This became known to Goto, who in his autobiography called Shimada 'a tiny chimpira'."
A "chimpira" is the lowest level of gangster and a term reserved for the most stupid gang members.
"Goto swore to his pals that he would crush Shimada and, according to my police sources, he outed the relationship between Shimada and Hashimoto, told the press and then contacted Shimada's management agency," he said.
Shimada's relationship with a member of an organised crime group is not illegal under Japanese law and there are no suggestions of financial motives, but companies in Japan do try to distance themselves from the underworld.
In a statement, Shimada's management agency, Yoshimoto Kogyo, said, "Regardless of the reason, it is not permissible for a performer who exerts such a strong social influence on mainstream TV to have these ties."