Japan Fair Trade Commission Investigates Unfair Entertainment Contracts: 4 Case Studies

The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) published a 27-page preliminary report structured as a dissertation proposal exploring unfair contract agreements in the Japanese entertainment industry.

The JFTC is a federal commission of the Japanese government responsible for regulating economic competition, as well as enforcement of the Antimonopoly Act which prompted the commission’s creation during World War II.

It seems as if multiple times a year there are more and more reports of entertainers having trouble leaving their agencies, most recently seeing a rumor about Rola and her agency Libera as well as Maki Nishiyama and her office.  This report in particular focuses on unfair contract between entertainer and agency of which we’ve seen clearer conclusions for, and provides 4 study cases which include highly publicized contract disputes with Fumika Shimizu, Namie Amuro and SMAP.

Regarding the relationship between celebrities and their affiliated offices, there are cases where contracts have been signed that restrict entertainment activities after leaving the office unless given explicit consent by the original agency, which is usually uncommon because…money. These unfair contractual agreements are behind trouble concerning the independence and transfer of celebrities that is seen way too often in the industry, and often leads to a loss of popularity due to the following period of inability to move forward in their careers, or in extreme cases, an early retirement.

For these reasons, the JFTC has found that this is a violation of the Antimonopoly Act and an investigation has begun with concerned parties.

The JFTC report begins with recent examples of issues between entertainers and their agencies, and then was followed with history on entertainment contracts within Japan which will be touched upon in a future article.

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  • Comments

    • AiAi

      “The agency forced her to wear revealing clothing for photo shoots and handshake events, and as a result, it brought upon stress that gave her suicidal thoughts and homicidal ideas about killing the agency’s chairman.”

      Interesting that the investigation lead to this. Two girls in Hello!Project this year announced mental issues (the former with panic attacks and the latter with anxiety issues) and were put on hiatus. Out of all the years Hello!Project has been around, Japanese fans suspect it’s the regular and very, very long (some take all day) handshake events they subject their members to. I hope more investigations go into idol companies that expose their idols to fans.

      • Babi Hong

        H!P treats their girls well overall, must be horrible for the indie idols or ones from other companies

        • miki

          that’s funny. sato masaki injured her back in 2015, UFA admitted they didn’t take it as seriously as they needed to. girl needed to be strapped to a bed for a month because of their incompetence. now asakura kiki, aged 16, also has a lumbar disc hernia. i’ve been following idols for a long time, i’ve NEVER heard of idols getting hernias like this. especially TWO in such a short span of time.

          that being said, they’re obviously better than indie idols because indie idols let wota touch their idols for photo ops.

          • ProllyWild

            Health is second to profits. Not because business people are horrible but just because the mentality in japan is to push through to the end if and whenever possible. Too many entertainers go beyond their limits to please others.

          • M

            I don’t know where UF apparently admitted this… But Masaki said herself on her blog that she didn’t take the doc’s words seriously and continued performing despite their recommendations and her pain. I do think UF should have stepped in and forced her to take a break, but Maa-chan said it was her choice for the most part.

            Disc hernias happen a lot to many people for all sorts of reasons. As someone who’s only 21 and had a seriously bad one one myself at 17 that required surgery, I can tell you this for sure. It doesn’t necessarily say anything about how UF treats the girls. My doctor told me, when I asked her how this could have happened to me and if it was something I did, that people get hernias just carrying too many groceries at a time or bending down to tie their shoe too quickly, among other things (like stretching, sports, dancing, etc). It can happen to anyone. In most cases, you never know why.

            So both those happening (Kiki’s and Maa’s) near the same time could simply be coincidental. And in regards to mental health issues, that’s always been an issue – UF’s just more open about it now. How many girls have had to be off because they were “sick” in the past, with little detail given about it? I think after Riho’s possible depression issues, they’re just now more honest about why the girls are off, and more importantly, they’re letting them off for mental health breaks when needed rather than making them work through them and eventually breaking down and choosing to leave the group because they can’t do it anymore (and we don’t know how many really have – many girls have left with the reason to “pursue a normal life”, which is often a cover-up for many other different reasons).

      • circe154

        Shortly after Ai Kago’s “scandal”, I remember reading a translation of an interview with her mom (or grandmother?). It was the norm for her to get less than 3 hours of sleep a nigh and spend the rest of the day working. She was barely a teenager at the time she started. Its amazing more of them haven’t cracked up.

    • Cassy

      Please someone enlighten me about SMAP. I don’t understand why is YamaP’s name there…

      • Kanna Mirabella Tachibana

        Actually, Yamapi’s name wasn’t mentioned in the article but they are part of the same entertainment agency which is Johnny’s & Associates. As far as i know, Yamapi is not a part of the SMAP’s contract issue but he’s involved in another big issue in the jimusho that “allegedly” was the root cause of SMAP’s disbandment (It’s not mentioned in the article). Both Yamapi and SMAP (and many other acts in johnny’s) are being managed by Iijima Michi, a candidate in becoming the next president of Johnny’s (Because Johnny-san is too old already, so they are already fighting for his position). She became a powerful figure in the industry when SMAP, which (as far as i know) she had been managing since their debut, rose to fame. And because of this, she was dubbed by many people in the agency as the next president but Mary Kitagawa (Johnny-san’s sister) was against her having the position. Instead, she wants her daughter Julie Kitagawa, who manages Arashi, Kanjani8 and the like, to be the one to get it. So basically it’s a fight between two top managers in the Jimusho, Julie Kitagawa and Iijima Michi. This fight has been around for a long time now and it’s very apparent. None of the details that we know are confirmed but it’s so, no one can unsee it. That is also one o

    • deebosco

      Namie is one of the rare cases in this situation, especially in Japan. But it is also because she’s been in VF/Rising for 22 years and she’s been in the industry for years. Rising has its peak in the 90s but it has lost most of its money makers, connections and power after its CEO being arrested in 2002. But as an outsider, it’s hard for us to tell what actually happened and who was actually involved. Namie surely has a strong back-up other than Nishi from On The Line and Matsuura Masato. Matsuura definitely helped her a lot though, who actually helped her break through in 1995 by producing TRY ME for her and in 2014 helped her transition from VF to stella88. It’s even more complicated situation for a singer, due to all the copyrights, especially when you are a singer who has numbers of million hits in the past. Namie managed to take all of them with her as well. (She performed a few songs from her TK era in the past few tours and had no problem releasing it in DVD.) As a fan, I am glad that she’s still in the game and staying relevant in the industry. I was actually very worried in 2014, knowing what happened to Nakamori Akina and Suzuki Ami years ago. Also, I remember Namie saying something like this in her 20th Anniversary interview when the interviewer asked her about 25th Anniversary live in Okinawa: “I would love to do it if I can. But I honestly don’t know how long will my career last at this point. It’s hard to say at the moment.” Sorry for the long post.

      • ProllyWild

        Things are not at all smooth for Amuro unfortunately. Rumor has it her team is basically like 3 people now and while she can still do her business, she is likely strained to get the kind of movement she needs.

        • deebosco

          But honestly, if her team of 3 people got her the tie-up of all the movies and dramas theme songs in the past year, all her CM deals and her tie-up for NHK Olympic, I think those 3 people are everything she will need.

          • ProllyWild

            Getting projects for a name like Amuro is not a problem. Promotion, tours, marketing and all the other various aspects that usually require dozens of people between management and label being bottle necked through 3 people is not sustainable. If any of those remaining people get sick or quit, it’s a game changing impact.

          • ProllyWild

            Also I should add, tie ups are generally handled by the label in most cases, since they hold the main rights to the music being used in the commercial projects. Things involving image are handled more by the management and that’s where the strain of three is to be felt. Avex can keep her busy, but keeping her image intact and her project moving requires more than what she was rumored to have around this time last summer.

            • deebosco

              In Namie’s case, I don’t think Avex handles any of her tie ups, even in the past. We all know Avex sucks at finding good drama tie ups because Sony and Universal got them all. Look at Ayu, even in her hey days she only got 1-2 drama tie up and the rest are just some trashy CM tie ups. Namie also has Nishi Shigehiro, who is the CEO of ON THE LINE. One of the big concert planning and management agencies in Japan. So I don’t think touring or promotion is a problem for her at this point.

              • ProllyWild

                I think you misunderstand the distribution of labor between those 3 entities. On the line is a live seisaku company that handles her concerts booking and stage production and the footwork of a tour. Anything they do has to be worked out with the management because they are the owners of Namie’s brand. Meaning every detail, every expense, every change in schedules or logistics meeting has to have at least one member of her team confirming and approving the things on the line does.

                If I recall correctly in regards to cms, back avex was more focused on pushing out TK stuff and wasn’t the company it is now that has quite a few game, anime, Disney and other distribution outlets. In the past Sony’s tie ups generally fell under the Sony umbrella of media and goods. Universal got many tie ups back lacked the internal network to get them automatically. Current avex has many avenues for tie ups and regardless, if they still own portions of the rights to namie’s music, they would likely be the go-through between certain (but not all) brands and Namie for use of her music. In the best case and most usual scenario they’re doing that. If not, then you can take another of namie’s alleged 3 person staff and put them in the position of having to find her all her media related projects.

                So with one handling her lives, and one handling all of her media, you have one left to handle her, her schedule, her travel, her online media management, contracts, and booking of various things from make up artists to even private support.

                So again, 3 is a strained staff and the general impression from the rumors of her team troubles is that when she’ll be fine getting jobs because she’s Amuro Namie, people are worried it will all come crashing down if she can’t get her team back together.

                • this unnie is weird

                  That’s actually very insightful, thanks for posting this.

        • this unnie is weird

          She always had a tiny team though, that’s what one of the main things she talked about when she did TV back in 2007 during PLAY era. She always said she preferred an intimate staff rather than how she did things in the 90’s.

    • rshina

      ‘However, recently, despite her strong wish to appear in humanitarian films, the number of work that did not adhere to her beliefs increased such as roles in which the character consumes human flesh, etc.’

      wait, so that means one of the reason for her early retirement is because off Tokyo Ghoul?
      anyway, I’m happy she is starting again. looking forward to her another project

    • Dalooshe

      The cases mentioned here are exceptional because the stars are household names… Imagine what the smaller ones have to go through when they sell their souls to the devils day and night just to be recognized :/

      • ProllyWild

        The pretty much implied message in the article really has to do mostly with very powerful management/label groups, and small ones who are lacking in business skills and ethics. I don’t think the business is completely traumatic for every person that gets involved, but there are plenty of bad companies out their with too much ambition and too little heart that definitely ruin some people’s lives.

    • disqus_fnwCMQDX7u

      Where’s the tea on smap tho? No new info there at all…

      • ProllyWild

        Stay tuned

    • yamakita

      Better late than never, but why now? They could be paying attention to this kind of stuff long ago. This is not anything new. The cynicism in me thinks that there are bigger issues the Japanese government doesn’t want people to pay attention to so it distracts with this.

      • ProllyWild

        Changing of generations. A lot of the business is changing heads and people who have had unquestioned power for decades are dying out or quitting and now there’s a mess to sort through since these bad business practices are not helping the image of business in Japan, nor are they ultimately saving the industry via these methods.

    • AoZora

      Its good that at-least they bothered to investigate these cases. Hope they get proactive in future and stop such malpractices… I feel pity for many entertainers in Japan where the agencies call the shots and also because of the unfair contracts they sign with them..

    • james

      That’s weird, I’ve never seen Fumika Shimizu wear revealing clothes before…

      • anon

        she did wear swimsuit, just google her out

    • Mayura

      If I remember correctly, actress Miki Mizuno also had the same problem in the past.

    • Kaido

      Eh, Makiko Esumi retired? Hope JFTC can help and actually fixes this mess.

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