19:15 13 February 2017
Popular Japanese actress to retire to pursue religion
TOKYO, Feb. 13, Kyodo
Popular actress Fumika Shimizu is to retire abruptly from show business, with her agent saying she has decided to devote herself to spreading the teachings of a religious group she follows, Happy Science.
Her agent made the surprise announcement on Sunday, and also said they have been unable to contact the 22-year-old actress since Feb. 6.
Shimizu, cast as an emcee in several TV and radio programs, released a statement through Happy Science, offering an apology to fans, costars and staff for her "sudden disappearance" from the entertainment industry.
"I have worked in the industry for about eight years, and sometimes I had difficulty as my heart was unable to accept what I had to do," the statement said.
According to Happy Science, Shimizu has been an ardent follower since she was a child and recently struggled in playing a role in "a cannibal tribe" in a movie against her beliefs -- a part she accepted due to fears her agent might stop giving her jobs if she rejected it.
She has been ill recently but will start her religious activities after she recovers and may appear in movies to be produced by the group.
Her agent denied having forced her to do the types of jobs she did not want to do.
Shimizu came into the public eye after appearing in public broadcaster NHK's drama series "Mare" in 2015.
"God, Buddha, life after death, things that I am in no way capable of confirming, and things that I have never seen -- those are the things I believe in, and I thought I wanted to live for God," she said in the statement.
Founded in 1986 by former trading company employee Ryuho Okawa, Happy Science members practice the teachings of Okawa on a daily basis to attain true happiness, according to the group's website.