Japanese show business definitely has a feudal side. Talent agencies control their tarento (talent) much in the way the daimyō (feudal lords) controlled the samurai in their clans, supporting their livelihoods in return for absolute fealty. And just as samurai were expected to stay with one clan their entire lives, talents typically find it hard — if not impossible — to leave their agencies.

This unequal relationship, observes veteran entertainment reporter Harumi Nakayama, is deep in the DNA of the entertainment industry.

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