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If you asked anyone in the world with access to any sort of media what last week’s big news story was, they would probably say Libya. If you asked the same question of similarly connected people in Japan, they would probably say the retirement of comedian Shinsuke Shimada. The fall of Tripoli didn’t merit lead story status on most TV news reports here, but Shimada’s announcement was honored with program-interrupting bulletins.

“Retirement” is used euphemistically here, and the big question has become: Did he jump or was he pushed? Tuesday evening Shimada and his Osaka-based management company, Yoshimoto Kogyo, held a press conference at the company’s Tokyo offices to head off an article that was to appear three days later in Shukan Bunshun about Shimada’s relationships with organized-crime figures.

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