It’s fun to look at Japan’s 芸能界 geinou-kai or entertainment world, which encompasses all actors, singers, bikini idols, comedians and anime voice actors. Japan’s show business industry is highly structured, with virtually every aspect of a given star’s career carefully controlled by professional talent agencies with names like Yellow Cab, Keep Smiling, Queen’s Factory and Hello! Project, who manage what stars will appear on which TV shows, what “guarantee” (lump sum payment) will be paid by the TV studios, and even what kind of bento the stars will be served while working. There are similar talent management companies in the U.S., of course, but one big difference is that here, everyone is quite aware that the irresistibly cute Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is affiliated with the Asobi System talent agency, while the enigmatic half-Japanese, half-Russian fashion model Rola works through the Libera Production management company. It’s common for stars associated with the same company to sometimes appear together. For example, director/comedian Takeshi Kitano runs a successful talent agency called Office Kitano which discovers and manages young comedians and other “talents,” and any show he produces will often feature members of his “Takeshi family” of performers. Japan’s talent management companies often become so influential they can leave a lasting impression on popular culture, like Johnny’s Entertainment, which virtually created the category of ikemen (ee-keh-men, extremely cute male idols) in Japan over the past three decades.
The Japanese know which companies manage their favorite stars.