Photo/IllutrationYoshimoto Kogyo Co. President Akihiko Okamoto responds to questions at a news conference in Tokyo on July 22. (Shogo Koshida)

  • Photo/Illustraion

The president of talent agency Yoshimoto Kogyo Co. apologized for a scandal involving comedians paid to attend a party held by an organized crime gang and corporate orders to keep quiet about the incident.

But the often-rambling, tearful five-hour news conference in Tokyo held by agency chief Akihiko Okamoto, 52, may have further hurt the image of the influential company, one consultant said.

Okamoto on July 22 said he retracted the cancellation of the agency’s contract with Hiroyuki Miyasako, 49, a member of comedy duo Ameagari Kesshitai.

Miyasako was fired after reports emerged that he and another comedian, Ryo Tamura, 47, of duo London Boots Ichi-go Ni-go attended the party in 2014 and were paid by the organized crime group.

Tamura was disciplined by the agency but his contract was kept.

The two comedians have said they did not know the group was connected to organized crime.

Okamoto said he would not resign to take responsibility for the scandal. However, he said that he and Hiroshi Osaki, 65, chairman of Yoshimoto Kogyo Holdings Co., will receive 50-percent pay cuts for a year.

Asked why he retracted the cancellation of Miyasako’s contract, Okamoto said he changed his mind when he saw a news conference held by Miyasako and Tamura in Tokyo on July 20 to apologize for their actions.

“I felt that I caused them pain inside,” Okamoto said.

However, Okamoto has not been consistent concerning contracts of those caught up in the scandal.

Another comedian, Shinya Irie, 42, a member of comedy duo Karateka, had arranged for Miyasako and Tamura to attend the party held in December 2014.

Irie’s contract with Yoshimoto was severed. And Okamoto on July 22 said it will remain cut.

Although Okamoto said he was moved by the apologies of Miyasako and Tamura, the agency chief initially was dead set against them going public.

After their attendance at the party came to light, Miyasako and Tamura on June 3 explained to Osaka-based Yoshimoto that they did not receive money from the group.

The following day, Yoshimoto scrapped its contract with Irie and gave strict warnings to 11 others, including Miyasako and Tamura.

On June 7, weekly magazine Friday reported details about the scandal. The next day, Miyasako and Tamura admitted to Yoshimoto that they had received money from the group, which specializes in fraud.

Yoshimoto on June 24 announced disciplinary measures against the 11, and on July 13, Yoshimoto disclosed that Miyasako received 1 million yen ($9,255) and Tamura was paid 500,000 yen from the crime group.

The talent agency announced on July 19 that it had canceled its contract with Miyasako.

The following day, Miyasako said at the news conference held with Tamura in defiance of the company that after magazine’s report was released, the two repeatedly asked Yoshimoto for permission to hold a news conference to express their apologies to the public. But the company rejected that idea.

Miyasako also said that Tamura told Okamoto directly on June 24 that he wanted to hold a news conference. Miyasako quoted Okamoto as replying: “You can do that. But if you do so, I will fire all of you because you are collectively responsible. I have the power to fire you all.”

Asked about that threat, Okamoto said on July 22: “I made the remark as if I was talking to my family members. But I was not able to convey my intentions (appropriately). I have to reflect on that.”

Miyasako revealed another incident when he and other comedians met with Okamoto.

The Yoshimoto president asked them, “You are not tape-recording (our conversation), are you?”

Okamoto said on July 22 that his inquiry was just a joke.

Reporters noted that Okamoto’s remarks could constitute “power harassment” by a company president.

“My sense at that time was that I was scolding my family members,” Okamoto said. “If they felt that those remarks were power harassment, I’m sorry.”

His news conference lasted more than five hours, but he often evaded directly answering questions and went off on unrelated tangents.

“(Okamoto) did not give an appropriate explanation on the reasons for retracting the cancellation of the contract,” Toshiro Era, president of Arex Corp., a consultant on corporate crisis management, said. “(Yoshimoto) spent many hours for the news conference. Despite all of that, I feel that the company’s image was damaged further.”