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Summary translation of 4/17 Gendai article

By Zach Arnold | April 17, 2006

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By Zach Arnold

This is a summary translation of what was written in today’s newest article published in Shukan Gendai.

The Fight World and the Yakuza

An official questionnaire to Fuji TV and Nippon TV

The producer of the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003 show, Seiya Kawamata, risks his life to break the wall of denial. What is the social responsibility for this incident?

The Yakuza are Dispatched

“At 2 AM on April 10th, two suspicious-looking Asian men rang the chime of the place I am staying at while I am hiding overseas. They yelled, “Open up, we’re the police and we have something to discuss with you.” It is weird that the police would be coming to my place at this time, so I called the police who sent a patrol car. At that time, the two men had already left. As soon as I became involved in the fight game, I was targeted by the yakuza. How long will I be a target to get hit by the yakuza?”

We continue the third part in our expose of the connections between the yakuza and the fight game.

Mr. Seiya Kawamata was the producer of the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003 event, broadcasted by Nippon TV. Kawamata was threatened by the yakuza of a rival promoter, DSE (Sakakibara) and was forced to flee for his life overseas. The main incidents relating to the threats and extortion made to him are as follows:

  1. On December 21st, 2003, at the Akasaka Tokyu Hotel, Kawamata was summoned to a room by a top-ranking yakuza from X gumi (family), who was accompanied by the actual yakuza owner of DSE, Mr. I (Ishizaka) and Sakakibara. Another yakuza, Mr. S (Sakamoto) from the P gumi (family) was also present at this meeting. These yakuza held Kawamata against his will and threatened him not to have Fedor fight at this event.
  2. On December 31st, 2003, at the Hotel Okura in Kobe, Fedor was able to appear at the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003 show. However, Mr. S (Sakamoto) from P gumi forced Kawamata to sign a contract under which Kawamata acknowledged that DSE had an exclusive contract with Fedor. At that time, S (Sakamoto) was accompanied by the high-ranking yakuza from X gumi and also Sakakibara.
  3. On January 1st, 2004, S (Sakamoto) summoned Kawamata to a meeting at the head office of P gumi. “Who allowed Fedor to appear at your event? Pay us 200 million yen immediately.”

On February 24, 2006, S (Sakamoto) and others were arrested for threats and extortion. However, on March 16th, they were released due to a lack of evidence. According to various newspapers, other yakuza were to be arrested. However, they escaped and so the investigation has been hampered by the escape of these other yakuza. One of the yakuza who escape is the real owner of DSE, Mr. I (Ishizaka).

From the occurence of these events, it has been confirmed that PRIDE has close relations with the yakuza. Our magazine has covered this incident in the last 3 issues and even though Japan’s leading TV broadcasters have had this issue brought to their attention, they are still broadcasting fight events. Our magazine has requested interviews with Fuji TV & Nippon TV. However, a totally irresponsible response is all that we have received.

Nippon TV’s ex-President Hagiwara Approved Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003

Based on all of these facts, our magazine officially puts the following questions to Nippon TV and Fuji TV. First, we will deal with Nippon TV.

On New Year’s Eve 2003, there were a number of events competing with NHK’s Kohaku (Red & White Music Festival) for ratings. N-TV had Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003, Fuji TV had PRIDE’s Otoko Matsuri (Man Festival), and TBS had Dynamite!! The average ratings were 5.1% for N-TV, Fuji was 12.2%, and TBS was 19.5%. N-TV was a disaster. Due to this, on January 3rd, 2004, Nippon TV unilaterally reduced the amount payable to Kawamata from the agreed 800 million yen to 600 million yen. Kawamata, who had paid a lot of money in advance, that night escaped from Japan with his wife and children.

In May of 2004, Kawamata sued Nippon TV for breach of contract. Originally, Kawamata had planned to cooperate with DSE for the New Year’s Eve 2003 event. In September 2003, suddenly Nippon TV started to aggressively approach Kawamata.

According to Kawamata, “I was asked by the boss of a powerful entertainment company to meet with (Shuji) Miyamoto from Nippon TV. When I met him Miyamoto said, “If we don’t do something, we will lose the ratings war with Fuji TV, so please do an event with Nippon TV.”

After this, Kawamata met with Nippon TV together with DSE’s Sakakibara. “Sakakibara wanted to be associated with both the Fuji TV & Nippon TV events, and did not make any clear preference so I decided to work with Nippon TV myself,” stated Kawamata.

When Kawamata signed a contract with Nippon TV, Kawamata didn’t want to have problems in the future, so he clearly confirmed his yakuza history and background to Miyamoto and Nippon TV’s Director of Broadcasting, Tanaka. According to Kawamata he said, “Nippon TV, do you know my history and background? Is it OK for a person like me to be the producer of this event?” Tanaka then replied, “I have heard about this from our President Hagiwara, and you’re not a yakuza any more. In that case, everything is fine.” I also explained in detail to Miyamoto about all of the pressure and actions of DSE’s yakuza against me in relation to Fedor’s appearance. Even so, in the civil case between myself and Nippon TV, Nippon TV says that they didn’t know about the involvement of the yakuza in the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003 event.”

Nippon TV’s PR department has responded to us: “The first we heard about the yakuza being related to the event was when we read it in the newspapers. We never knew about Kawamata’s past as a yakuza. If we knew about Kawamata’s yakuza history, Miyamoto would not have made a contract with Kawamata.”

According to Nippon TV staff, “Nippon TV is aware that the yakuza were involved in the event. However, we can’t admit this in public. Internally, at that time, the then President Hagiwara decided this contract with the President of a powerful entertainment company so nobody had anything to say about this.”

Nippon TV Plans to Broadcast PRIDE

Around New Year’s Eve of 2003, Nippon TV was involved in a scandal concerning falsifying ratings results and there was an internal investigation into Nippon TV at that time. The same Nippon TV staff has the following to say: “Hagiwara took responsibility for this scandal by being demoted to Vice President, but even though Chairman Ujiie was removed from the top position in Nippon TV, in reality he was still the top man. Internally, many people believed that in this unstable situation in Nippon TV at that time, that we shouldn’t have done the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003 event.”

Even though many people have objections to this, Nippon TV is looking to work with PRIDE for their Bushido series. Actually, after the PRIDE Bushido event held on April 2nd, Sakakibara held a press conference and said, “There is no TV network that wouldn’t want to broadcast this hot event. We will decide whether to work with Fuji TV or another broadcaster within this week.”

Based on these actions of Nippon TV, we want to make the following questions to Nippon TV:

  1. Did Nippon TV really not know anything about the yakuza involvement in the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003 event until February of 2006 (when Sakamoto and other Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza members were arrested in Shizuoka prefecture, Yoshida-cho)?
  2. According to Shuji Miyamoto’s sworn testimony in the civil case between Kawamata and Nippon TV, Miyamoto said, “I first heard about the involvement of these people (yakuza) around the time that Kawamata was first held against his will (on 12/21/2003).” Which is the truth? Miyamoto’s sworn testimony or Nippon TV’s PR statements?
  3. Nippon TV must be aware of the investigation by the Kanagawa police into Kawamata’s criminal complaints. Does Nippon TV intend to make any internal investigation about this incident?

The relations between Fuji TV & DSE

Next, we deal with Fuji TV. It is confirmed that Kawamata’s introduction to DSE’s Sakakibara was made by Fuji TV’s producer. Kawamata says, “In April of 2003, Mr. A (producer from Fuji TV) said, “Please meet with Mr. Sakakibara from PRIDE.” I replied that PRIDE is owned and overrun by the yakuza and I don’t know who has the right to speak for that organization, so I don’t want to work for them. However, Mr. A said, “I know that there are a lot of issues with PRIDE, but Sakakibara works very well with the yakuza, so it’s OK.” Based on this, I met with Sakakibara and we started to work together.”

During the December 21st, 2003 incident between Kawamata and the top-ranking yakuza from X gumi, they said to Kawamata, “Mr. A, producer, ordered us not to allow Fedor to fight at your event. If Fedor fights at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003, A said that he would cut his contract with PRIDE.”

According to Kawamata, “When I was threatened at the Hotel Okura in Kobe, Sakakibara was also there. PRIDE had their event that day in Saitama and I wondered why the man in charge would come to Kobe on the day of his big event. The reason was that he forced me to sign the agreement in relation to Fedor and he had to bring this agreement back to Saitama that day. For Mr. A producer, if PRIDE had lost to Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye in the ratings, A would be able to make excuses internally in Fuji TV that this time it was a DSE problem that Fedor fought for Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye but in the future, he could guarantee that Fedor would fight for PRIDE. I believe that was the reason that Sakakibara came to Kobe that day.”

In response to our request to Fuji TV for an interview, Fuji TV said: “Your current investigation and reporting is not adequate.” According to their warning letter to us, “If you continue to report without the full facts and mislead the public, we may take further actions.”

We responded to Fuji TV: “Don’t you think that you’re continued relations with the yakuza is a major problem?” Fuji TV responded, “In response to your question about whether we are aware of the yakuza being involved in PRIDE’s matchmaking process, we reply that we are not aware of this.” Fuji TV said that they are not involved in the contracts between PRIDE and their fighters. Since Fuji TV is not responding properly to our questions, we do not accept that their responses are serious. Since it has come to this stage, we put the following questions to Fuji TV:

  1. Is it true that one of your employees has been questioned by the police in relation to Kawamata’s criminal complaint against the yakuza?
  2. Kawamata has claimed in our articles that the yakuza are involved in the ownership and operation of PRIDE. Knowing this, why did you broadcast the PRIDE Bushido show on April 9th?
  3. Do you have any intention of establishing an investigation committee to investigate the claims of the relations between PRIDE and the yakuza?

If you cannot respond to these questions, we believe that both Fuji TV and Nippon TV should have their broadcasting licenses revoked.

Topics: All Topics, Japan, Media, MMA, PRIDE, Yakuza, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

4 Responses to “Summary translation of 4/17 Gendai article”

  1. Taizo says:

    Gryphon seems to think that there’s a good chance that this issue will fade away. The questions raised by the tabloid are blustery, rhetorical, evangelist, and more than a little bit whiny. The TV networks’ strategy of not responding is a simple but very effective one. As Gryphon rightly observes, no matter how many scoops this tabloid can pick up from Kawamata, this scandal won’t pick up steam unless other media, etc. (especially the mainstream) start to focus on it. And there are no signs of that happening.

    But at least Kawamata seems to have a good chance to win his breach of contract claim against NTV. That might be all he was after in the first place.

  2. Zach Arnold says:

    [As Gryphon rightly observes, no matter how many scoops this tabloid can pick up from Kawamata, this scandal won’t pick up steam unless other media, etc. (especially the mainstream) start to focus on it. And there are no signs of that happening.]

    If they start losing sponsors due to public or media pressure, then it will give some other media outlets a reason to continue to pick up the story.

    I think this story is far from over.

  3. […] On April 2, 2006, Sakakibara proudly announced that he was having a competition between Fuji TV & Nippon TV about which one of them would be broadcasting Bushido on golden time, and that he would make an announcement within a week. However, two months have passed and we haven’t heard anything further on this. […]

  4. GTE says:

    I don’t know wether we have seen the last fo this issue, but it is important to remember that the Japanese fight scene has always (at least acording to the interested salaryman on the street) had ties to the yakuza. This is not only restricted to MMA fights, but boxing as well.

    I think that the tabloid is looking for a beatup and smearing the words “intimidation” and “extortion” across its headlines in the hope that during a slow news month in Japan, some mainstream paper will pick it up. that way, they can claim to have ‘broken’ the story, giving them credibility with their shareholders, investors and advertisers. It’s not exactly a novel strategy in the world of print media.

    either way, i can’t help but think that this is bad news for MMA; one local rag has a ‘burning issue’ and all of a suddent Japanese parents are getting frantic about their kids watching ‘dangerous television’, thus either
    a) robbing Japan of a generation of MMA fans or b)pushing the sport further underground just when it is starting to gain credibility. the effect of which is that along with its new ‘seedy’ reputation, the yakuza really can begin to apply some pressure. if people openly accept that there is yakuza involvement in the system, they can operate much mor freely than before. MMA and fight culture is already too entrenched in Japan to be truly squashed and the Yakuza are too firmly entrenched in all forms of televised fighting in japan to be ousted, so surely it is better to have them sneaking around in the shadows, throwing a couple of fights a year than to have them openly rigging the outcomes of major tournaments?

    either way, I just hope like heck that this all simmers before it becomes a major fiasco, already, Fuji TV’s withdrawal has impacted on Japans fighting public, and it *will* affect the rest of us in a few years when fighters like Mitsuhiro Ishida who almost certainly will end up in the UFC if he keeps going the way he is, can’t get a leg up because PRIDE and other organisations like it don’t have the funding or the exposure to keep their names in the international limelight!


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