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President of influential Japanese talent agency resigns amid confirmation of founder’s decades-long sexual abuse

The president of a renowned Japanese entertainment agency, Johnny & Associates, has resigned following an independent investigation substantiating allegations of sexual abuse by the company’s founder, Johnny Kitagawa, spanning over five decades since the 1970s. Despite long-standing accusations, media largely ignored them until a BBC documentary in March brought renewed attention to the issue. Kitagawa’s niece, Julie Keiko Fujishima, who has served on the company’s board since 1998 and became president in 2019, resigned from her position. Noriyuki Higashiyama, a singer and actor not subjected to Kitagawa’s abuse, is set to become the new president, pledging reforms within the company. Kitagawa’s accusers are considering legal actions in Japan and abroad. Johnny & Associates continues to manage influential musical acts in Japan’s entertainment industry.



JAPAN – The president of a prominent Japanese entertainment agency has stepped down following an independent investigation that substantiated allegations of sexual abuse by the company’s founder, Johnny Kitagawa, spanning over five decades since the 1970s.

These accusations, which had circulated for years but were largely overlooked by the media, have gained renewed attention since the release of a BBC documentary in March. The documentary featured interviews with three of Kitagawa’s accusers and prompted more individuals to come forward.

Kitagawa, renowned for his role in nurturing aspiring talents to stardom in Japan’s pop music industry, enjoyed a reputation as a hitmaker associated with several popular boy bands.

Despite longstanding allegations against him, Kitagawa remained unscathed by scandal throughout his life, even after his passing in 2019 at the age of 87.

The hourlong BBC documentary, featuring interviews with survivors of abuse by Kitagawa, triggered a wave of condemnation and encouraged additional victims to share their stories.

The ensuing public pressure compelled Johnny & Associates, Kitagawa’s family-run entertainment company, to take action.

In May, the company announced the formation of an internal investigative panel with the aim of preventing future abuse.

In a recent news conference, Julie Keiko Fujishima, Kitagawa’s niece, acknowledged the investigation’s findings and offered apologies on behalf of herself and the company.

She also announced her resignation as the company’s president, citing a sense of responsibility for her uncle’s actions.

Fujishima, the sole owner of the company, will continue to serve as a board member responsible for relief and compensation efforts.

The investigation’s report, released in late August, confirmed hundreds of cases of abuse by Kitagawa spanning more than 50 years.

It attributed his impunity to a lack of corporate governance within the company and media complicity in overlooking the allegations.

The report also implicated Kitagawa’s sister, Mary, who passed away in 2021, in covering up his behaviour and shielding him from consequences.

Despite the substantiated accusations, no criminal charges were ever filed against Kitagawa, who consistently denied the allegations throughout his life.

Fujishima, who has served on Johnny & Associates’ board since 1998 and was appointed president in 2019, has stepped down from her position.

She stated that she had no direct knowledge of Kitagawa’s abusive behaviour and had limited personal interactions with the agency’s performers before his death.

While she was aware of allegations against Kitagawa, she admitted that, at the time, she “couldn’t imagine taking any action.”

Noriyuki Higashiyama, a singer who gained fame through Johnny & Associates and later became a successful actor and news anchor, will succeed Fujishima as the new president.

Higashiyama, who was not a victim of Kitagawa’s abuse, stated that he had no prior knowledge of the abuse happening to others, although he had heard rumours.

In his remarks, he pledged to bring about reforms within the company, describing Kitagawa as a father figure.

During a separate news conference, Kazuya Nakamura, an aspiring performer who accused Kitagawa of abusing him, expressed mixed feelings about the company’s acknowledgment of guilt.

While he described it as feeling like a dream, Nakamura questioned the sincerity of the company’s commitment to change.

He pointed out that appointing Higashiyama, who was one of Kitagawa’s top stars during the period of abuse, raised doubts about the company’s dedication to reform.

Some of Kitagawa’s accusers are contemplating filing civil and criminal complaints against the company in Japan, as well as pursuing civil suits abroad, where some of the abuse allegedly occurred.

Kitagawa, once regarded as the king of Japanese boy bands, created numerous influential pop groups that dominated the J-Pop music scene.

Boys as young as nine were recruited, lived together in dormitories, and were trained to become pop idols.

Despite the revelations and resignations, Johnny & Associates maintains its influential position in managing some of Japan’s most popular musical acts within the entertainment industry.

The company has retained its name, at least for the time being, as announced by Higashiyama.

Rumours surrounding Kitagawa’s behaviour initially surfaced in 1999 when the tabloid Shukan Bunshun reported on anonymous accounts of abuse.

However, most news outlets largely ignored the story, and Kitagawa successfully won a libel lawsuit against the publisher of Shukan Bunshun.

Subsequently, the damages awarded were reduced on appeal to 8.8 million yen (approximately US$60,000).

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