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Monday, February 13, 2017

Shimizu Fumika retires from showbiz & renounces the world to focus on religious activities

It was reported in the media on 11 February that Shimizu Fumika had indicated her intention to retire from showbiz and renounce the world to focus on activities under the religious group "Koufuku no Kagaka" (Happy Science). In relation to this move, her official Twitter account (@lespros_fumi) was deleted and a new account supposedly belonging to Shimizu (@sengen777) was created around 7pm on the same night where there were tweets from her saying that she wished to speak the truth freely through this account. However, her sudden move has thrown many parties into disarray.

Shimizu made her debut as a model for the fashion magazine "LOVE berry" in 2008 after passing an audition organised by her agency and appeared in her first drama "Atsuizo! Nekogaya!!" in 2010. She was also well-known for her role as the heroine in the 2013 movie "HK Hentai Kamen" and playing the classmate of the heroine in the 2015 NHK morning drama "Mare".

According to reports, Shimizu's link to Happy Science was first known to the public when a video of Okawa Ryuho, the president and founder of the religious group, having an initiation talk with Shimizu's guardian spirit was uploaded to Happy Science's website on 19 January. Upon checking with Shimizu, her agency found out that she was a follower of the group since she was a child and her parents are also believers of the religion. However, there were conflicting reports that her agency did not actually know about this.

Soon after, Shimizu contacted her chief manager A at the end of January and asked to meet up at a designated place. When A arrived, Shimizu was there with 2 lawyers from Happy Science and indicated her intention to quit from showbiz and renounce the world before working under the religious group. From then, Shimizu was only contactable when the agency wanted to inform her about work scheduling matters. Although she continued her work activities after this meeting, she cancelled all her work arrangements such as filming for a movie and promotional activities with the reason of being down with influenza since her last live appearance on the FujiTV programme "Nijiiro JEAN" on 4 February. Not only was she absent from the 11 February broadcast of "Nijiiro JEAN", she also won't be appearing on the 12 February broadcast of NHK programme "Shibuya no Oto" and 14 February broadcast of NHK's "Studio Park kara Konnichiwa".

Shimizu has three movies due to be shown this year i.e. "Ankoku Joshi" (1 April), "Warau Manekineko" (29 April) and "Tokyo Ghoul" (29 July) and one TBS drama "Warau Manekineko" (from 21 March). In addition, she has two CM deals and three regular appearances on TV and radio programmes. However, it looks unlikely that Shimizu will be willing to take part in the movies' promotional activities. There is also one movie which is currently being filmed so her agency hopes that she can at least fulfill her work commitments within her contractual period.

NHK confirmed on 12 February that they have received her agency's request to let Shimizu quit from the programme "Shibuya no Nooto". As the broadcast on 12 February was the last for the fiscal year, there will be an announcement in the new financial year on what the TV station will do with regard to this programme.

As for the Nippon Housou radio show "Shimizu Fumika Minagiru PM" aired at 9pm on Saturdays, they will announce what to do about this after reviewing their options.

Shimizu released a handwritten statement through "Happy Science" on 12 February to the media where she revealed that she has already renounced the world. According to Happy Science, the statement was written by Shimizu herself on 11 February and she is currently recuperating at home as she is unwell:

To my fans, all interested parties, friends, drinking friends, people who have spoken to me, people who know me, I am sorry for having disappeared from the entertainment world so suddenly. I am fully aware of the inconveniences caused to all the people who have taken care of me, my co-stars and staff members.

However, although I have been working in this line for about 8 years, there were times when I felt that my heart couldn't reconcile with the content of the work I was doing. As such, I couldn't lead a steady life and was on edge every day.

As such, I wanted to renounce the world now.

I, Shimizu Fumika, have renounced the world under the religious group Happy Science.

Everyone must be wondering why I decided to renounce the world and why I chose to do it under this religious group. When I first told my manager about my intention, his reaction was that he couldn't understand why I wanted to do it and told me to give up the idea. In this current era where many people have no religion, I can understand why he or anyone else would have this reaction.

However, I believe the things which can't be seen in this world e.g. God and Buddha as well as things which cannot be seen by the eye. I want to live for the sake of God and decided to renounce the world so as to lead a steady and peaceful life.

Everyone may see my action as being brainwashed but I want to live without lying and being frank about my feelings from now on. If you can look upon my decision warmly, I will be really thankful.

An auspicious day in February 2017
Shimizu Fumika

Happy Science's PR-in-charge Satomura Eiichi and Shimizu's lawyer Sato Yuto held a press conference on 12 February where they explained how Shimizu came to make the decision of renouncing the world:

Shimizu has been a fervent follower and believer of Happy Science since she was a child and took part in activities at the branch and praying sessions. She decided to join showbiz because she wanted to spread energy and encouragement to the world. However, as she gradually began to take on more significant and leading roles, she wanted to take part in more humanitarian projects but was instead given the opposite.

It may seem like a bolt out of the blue that Shimizu wanted to renounce the world but we would like to reveal what led to her making this decision.

We think that the tough working conditions in the entertainment industry is one key reason for this. Initially, Shimizu was placed under the commission system but she did not earn a lot as her agency did not do much to get her enough jobs. When she became popular and made more money, her agency then wanted to place her on a monthly salary system of JPY 50,000 even though her father had tried to discuss with her agency to avoid this change. However, it was then when her work was put on hold which was seen as a retaliation for what her father did. During this time, Shimizu managed to get a role in the Kamen Rider series through attending the auditions on her own. Even after working on all 31 days in the month and sleeping for only three hours per day, she did not get any bonus under the monthly salary scheme. 

One of the jobs she hated to do was to film a DVD in swimwear because she didn't want to be seen as a sex symbol. She already indicated that she didn't want to do it but was forced to go ahead because she was afraid of being taken off work again. She started to reveal to people around her that she wanted to die as often as once weekly but her manager asked her not say this so often. This made Shimizu withdraw deeper into her inner world as her feelings were not understood.

On the part of her agency, they did not treat her dire situation with the utmost sincerity. Last autumn, she had to film a very dark movie which is due to shown this year and was struggling so much that she could only pull through by undergoing prayers. During this period, she assessed her possibilities through an interview with her guardian spirit and believed that it was in her destiny to renounce the world.

Shimizu engaged a lawyer and is in the midst of trying to tidy up her work arrangements by limiting the impact to the minimum. However, when she talked to her agency, it tried to get her to finish her contractual obligations and did not listen to her at all. Upon seeing this, Shimizu was hurt badly emotionally and physically and was issued with stop-work orders by her doctor. We would like to keep the details of her condition a secret for now. Even after receiving a SOS from their actress, her agency kept saying that it was her duty to finish her work even though her intention was to reorganise the work arrangements instead of leaving a huge hole in the schedule by leaving immediately.

The situation has developed to this stage because Shimizu's doctor said that her life was in danger if she continued to work. We can't help but be reminded of the Dentsu employee who died. We feel that her renouncement from the world is an emergency measure to save her but her agency simply wouldn't try to understand. Shimizu herself said that she had to abide by the rules of showbiz and couldn't use her legal name freely if she quit from her agency because this was indicated clearly on her contract. As such, she saw no way of escaping and was on edge every day.

Shimizu said that it was not only her who felt the same way as other young actors also spoke of the same time. We hope that the evil portion in the industry can be eradicated through Shimizu's example and hope for the purification of the showbiz scene. 

By renouncing the world, Shimizu will be able to save her soul and devote herself to saving the souls of others 24/7. She will be practising under the religious name of Sengen Yoshiko which means using a thousand eyes to search for people in pain during the dark night.

At present, Shimizu is in a very unstable and dangerous situation in terms of her health so she was unable to attend today's press conference. As such, she has cancelled her contract with her agency this month and will begin her activities as a religious practitioner once she recovers. As for the discussion content between her and her agency, we won't be announcing it. However, the Japanese Constitution provides for the freedom of thinking, right to pursue happiness and prevents one from becoming a slave to others. In Shimizu's case, she was subjected to a very busy schedule, forced to play characters which she did not want to including acting as someone who eats humans so her agency has not conducted itself in the way it should. As such, we hope that everyone will look upon her favourably.

In response to the accusations, Shimizu's agency LesPros Entertainment held a press conference on the same night which was attended by their lawyers Shiokawa Yasuko and Yamagata Atsuhiko. They confirmed that Shimizu had revealed her religious affiliation to Happy Science and her intention to renounce the world at the end of last month. As such, the lawyers from the religious group and representatives from Shimizu's side met with the agency's representatives for discussions starting from this month. However, the agency was suddenly informed during the discussion that Shimizu would no longer fulfill her work commitments and there was no likelihood of her recovering to return to work.

The lawyers indicated that the agency had expressed respect towards her religious affiliation and suggested reducing her workload and not taking on any new projects from now on so as to manage the situation and allow her time to rest. However, they felt that it was regrettable that Happy Science had gone ahead to hold the press conference which presented information vastly different from the truth.

Regarding the doctor's diagnosis, the agency received two documents but it was difficult to tell the nature and severity of Shimizu's condition through these. In fact, based on their communication up till the end of January, there was no mention of Shimizu being in a life-threatening condition although they knew that she was unwell.

As for being forced to take on work which she didn't like, the lawyers said that Shimizu had weekly and sometimes monthly meetings where she was briefed on work arrangements by her manager and she could make it known during such sessions if she didn't want to do anything. In fact, Shimizu had told her manager that she was open to taking on a variety of work assignments and had never said that she didn't want to do anything.

Shimizu's representative had requested to terminate the contract by the end of February. However, Shimizu's contract would only end on 20 May this year and on the contract, there was an extension option of one year. Even though they wish to respect Shimizu's wishes, the agency also had to reduce the impact on their clients so they had suggested in a letter sent to Shimizu's side, suggesting that she do the bare minimum from now on and renew the contract for another year from May while taking a break. As for the claim that Shimizu was overworked and paid only JPY 50,000 a month, the lawyers said that she was paid in proportion to her workload so her salary was definitely more than this amount.

As for taking legal action against Shimizu, the lawyers said that discussions are still in progress so there is no intention to do so now. However, if the discussions break down, they do not deny the likelihood of doing so in future.

Meanwhile, Shimizu was said to have sent a tweet via her new account around 10pm on 12 February where she said that a young person with dreams is still expected to continue smiling even when she sees the frightening side of adults with power. During such a situation, an agency which does not protect the gradually weakening heart is not fit to be called as one. This was seen as a response to her agency's press conference.

Sources: Nikkansports 1 / Nikkansports 2 / Nikkansports 3 / Nikkansports 4 / Nikkansports 5 / Nikkansports 6 / Nikkansports 7 / Nikkansports 8 / Yomiuri Hochi / Sponichi

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It seems like "retirement" is the hype in the Japanese entertainment industry these days. Following Narimiya Hiroki and Esumi Makiko, Shimizu Fumika has joined the bandwagon. Although they all quit with different reasons, I feel that there is a similarity between the three of them i.e. the way things were handled left a lot of questions to be answered. In Shimizu's case, the opening of her new Twitter account probably means that this will take an entirely different direction from Narimiya or Esumi's cases where they have maintained their silence since their announcements. Much has been talked about Narimiya and Esumi and the general feel is that they didn't really have to resort to retirement even when plagued with scandals. However, retirement felt like an easy way out and the fastest solution to get out of the fix.

In Shimizu's case, she complained of being mistreated by her agency with the low pay and forced to take on roles which contradicted with her religious belief. It was plain from the news to date that she particularly took issue with her roles in "Ankoku Joshi" (the dark movie) and "Tokyo Ghoul" where she had to play Touka who had to eat humans in order to survive. 

About the pay, JPY 50,000 is simply too low and if true, should land her agency in trouble with labour regulations. If the story was that the agency took a huge cut from her earnings, that would have seemed more likely though because this claim by the religious group seemed too incredible to be true. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen who is telling the truth.

From an outsider's point of view, it is easy to say that Shimizu should not let her acting affect her real life and that these roles are not entirely without meaning e.g. Touka in "Tokyo Ghoul" does not prey on humans out of her own will and the movie would probably have depicted her internal turmoil about her destiny. However, we are not Shimizu herself. She might have been very emotionally affected by what these roles in a way which we cannot comprehend nor identify with.

Personally, I feel that it's a pity that Shimizu had to end her career in this manner. She was such a promising actress and her future looked bright with a number of high-profile works under her belt. However, if it's for the good of her physical and mental health that she has chosen this path, I would wish her well although I can't help but worry about the fates of her movies especially Tokyo Ghoul.

It would be nice if both sides can try to resolve this amicably rather than face off in court although it looks highly unlikely. One thing I didn't quite understand was why the agency wanted to exercise the option of extending the contract when she obviously couldn't fulfill it. On the other hand, waiting till the contract expires in May is probably a more reasonable demand because they need time to tidy up the loose ends and reduce the inconveniences to other parties even though she probably can no longer appear in public in her current capacity.

4 comments:

B Taylor said...

Her beliefs are her own. I wish her all the luck in the future.

Anonymous said...

"Happy Science"...?

alfred reyes said...

Esumi's retirement was kinda logical but it's early. Narimiya's retirement was shocking because of unanswered questions and sudden. Shimizu's retirement was both shocking and logical. Hehe But for her, it's really too soon! She is just doing well in eiga and doramas..

dhathor said...

With that said about LesPros, I'm now kinda worried about Riria Kojima (Mio Natsume/ToQ #3, ToQGer), Rio Uchida (Kiriko Shijima, Kamen Rider Drive), and Yu Inaba (Gou Shijima/KR Mach, KR Drive).