Japan’s Johnny Kitagawa boy band agency admits founder’s sexual abuse, as scandal forces shake-up at Johnny & Associates


Kitagawa died of a stroke aged 87 in 2019.

Founded by Kitagawa in 1962, Johnny & Associates has an outsize cultural presence in Japan, engineering the birth of J-pop mega-groups including SMAP, TOKIO and Arashi that amassed adoring fans across Asia.

Allegations of abuse surfaced had first been chronicled by local tabloid Shukan Bunshun in 1999, but it wasn’t until early this year that they ignited full-on soul-searching, following a BBC documentary and denunciations by victims.
As more Japanese media took up the story, lawmakers voiced outrage, while the United Nations’ human rights experts also criticised the talent agency for its handling of the allegations, and called on Japan to better protect children from sexual abuse.


Japan talent agency founder Johnny Kitagawa abused hundreds of teens, investigation finds

Japan talent agency founder Johnny Kitagawa abused hundreds of teens, investigation finds

Before his death, Kitagawa had successfully sued for defamation over the claims, although the verdict was partially overturned on appeal. He was never criminally charged.

A panel of experts last month released the results of its first, in-depth probe into allegations against Kitagawa, concluding his abuse dating as far back as the 1950s, even before the company was founded.

The investigators’ report had blamed Fujishima’s late mother Mary Yasuko Fujishima in particular for turning a blind eye to the founder’s misconduct.

Over the years, aspiring boy band idols collectively dubbed “Johnny’s Jrs” sought Kitagawa’s tutelage, and the panel estimated in its finding that at least “a few hundred” of them had been victimised.

A passer-by watches news reporting on the death of Johnny Kitagawa, founder of Johnny’s talent agency. Photo: AP

The report also quoted former recruits as recalling in graphic detail how Kitagawa would allegedly perform oral sex on them, fondle them in their genitals or force his way into their beds at night.

The panel said Fujishima, a long-time executive who was named Kitagawa’s successor after his demise, had been “remiss” in her duties because she failed to probe the allegations despite her knowledge of them.

Her attitude perpetuated the leadership’s tendency to look the other way, and without her departure, a root-and-branch overhaul of the agency and its rebirth would be “extremely difficult,” the panel’s report said.

Fujishima, for her part, had offered an apology in May but denied she had known about her uncle’s predatory history.

‘Gave me courage’: abuse victims of Japan’s Kitagawa praise UN’s involvement

She chalked her ignorance up to what she framed as the extremely opaque, family-run nature of the boy band empire, citing the way Kitagawa and his late sister Mary long monopolised information and the decision-making power.

“We do not believe there was no problem,” she said in May, expressing her regret that she had let herself grow inured to the “abnormalness” of the agency’s inner workings.

Her apology came after Japanese-Brazilian singer Kauan Okamoto spoke publicly of his experience of being sexually assaulted repeatedly by Kitagawa.

It will take time to win back the trust we have lost, but I will devote the rest of my life to dealing with this problem

Noriyuki Higashiyama, new Johnny & Associates president

Singer and actor Noriyuki Higashiyama, a veteran member of the talent agency has been named as Fujishima’s successor.

Higashiyama, a former teen idol, would be the first non-family member to lead the company.

“It will take time to win back the trust we have lost, but I will devote the rest of my life to dealing with this problem,” Higashiyama told the press conference, saying he would retire from performing at the end of the year.

Reporting by Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg, Reuters


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