The Yakuza games and their spin-offs have long starred some of Japan’s biggest celebrities. Now that some of those celebs have ended up in trouble, there are rumblings of a Yakuza curse. Dun dun dun.
Earlier this year, actor and musician Pierre Taki, who appeared in the Yakuza spin-off Judgment, was picked up on drug charges. The arrest resulted in Sega removing him from the game and Sony Music terminating his band’s contract. Taki isn’t the only celebrity in a Yakuza game (or its spin-offs) ending up in trouble. He isn’t even the only one this year! Perhaps there is a reason why it’s now being said that the Yakuza games are cursed.
According to website Re:Geinou, there are rumblings of a Ryu ga Gotoku no noroi (龍が如くの呪い) or “Yakuza curse”, with Ryu Ga Gotoku being the Japanese name for the Yakuza games.
Last year, actor Hiroki Narimiya was replaced in the Yakuza 4 remaster. In late 2016, he was photographed allegedly using cocaine, causing the actor to announce he was leaving the entertainment industry. But the most recent celebrity to fall victim to the Yakuza’s nefarious power is comedian Hiroyuki Miyasako, who lent his voice fo Tsuyoshi Kanda in Yakuza 3 and played Tsuyoshi Nagumo in Yakuza 6 (above).
Miyasako came under fire for appearing at a party held by a rather unsavory group of people. In Japanese, this sort of group is known as a hanshakaiteki seiryoku (反社会的勢力), which is typically translated as an “anti-social organisation.” These groups are fraudsters, attempting to swindle folks out of money. They can be members of organised crime groups known as bouryokudan (暴力団), literally meaning “violent group” but colloquially referred to as yakuza. They can also be connected to those criminal organizations or be their own independent group. In short, they’re the kind of thing you’d see in Sega’s popular crime games.
Miyasako was one of over ten comedians who appeared at an event hosted by an anti-social organisation. Also included in those comedians wrapped up in the scandal is Yoshinari Fukushima, who was Mr. Moneybags in Yakuza 0.
At first, Miyasako said he didn’t know that such a group was hosting the event and that he was not paid for attending. However, it was later revealed that he had been paid. The fee he received would, thus, be considered dirty money. His talent agency, the powerful Yoshimoto Kogyo, has temporarily banned Miyasako from appearing on any TV shows. The future of Ame Talk, the long-running variety show he co-hosts, seems uncertain as sponsors no doubt have concerns about Miyasako’s accepting payment from a criminal enterprise.
Considering how many celebrities are in the Yakuza games and considering the historical connection between the entertainment business and controlled substances (even in Japan), Yakuza’s track record isn’t too bad. As with Madden, I don’t really believe there is a curse. However, I will not be surprised when more of its stars run into trouble. You shouldn’t be, either.