Model Marie accuses former top comedian of propositioning her when she was young

The fashion model and celebrity Marie has stirred up the perennial issue of the casting couch in the Japanese entertainment world.

The 33-year-old, who is half French Canadian and half Japanese, has claimed that she was propositioned when she was 18 by the now-retired comedian Shinsuke Shimada. The encounter is being described as “makura eigyo” (literally, pillow business), the Japanese word for the casting couch. Shimada was then at the height of his fame and the implication no doubt was that sleeping with him would further her own career.

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Marie made the allegation on April 4 and then again on April 11, after criticism that she was lying. She has also accused other comedians like Tetsuro Degawa of attempting to encourage her to agree to the proposition.

The casting couch and other forms of sexual harassment or exploitation is something of an open secret in the Japanese entertainment world, affecting fashion models, music idols, gravure models, and actors. Despite the global impact of the Weinstein scandal and #MeToo, relatively few major revelations came out in Japan, where powerful talent agencies hold sway over the industry (though their power has weakened in recent years, especially that of Johnny’s).

One scandal to emerge recently is that a female agency head allegedly forced young female talent to sleep with her. The problem of coercion in porn has belatedly become better known, though this was probably unrelated to #MeToo.

Marie (or Marie Pascal) was a popular model in the 2000s who often appeared on TV and radio shows. In more recent years, she has focused on a career as a fashion CEO and designer, though she still has her own radio show and enjoys a strong following on social media.

Shinsuke Shimada, now 65, was forced to retire in 2011 over alleged links to organized crime — another one of the open secrets of the Japanese entertainment world.

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