Julie K. Fujishima, the niece of late J-pop mogul Johnny Kitagawa, has made a public apology for her uncle’s sexual abuse and has decided to step down as the head of the talent agency he founded. This shocking revelation has ignited a scandal that has gained national outrage in Japan.
Johnny Kitagawa, who passed away in 2019, was the head of Japan’s most powerful talent agency and his abusive behavior has left the country in shock. A documentary aired recently, and much like similar scandals involving figures like Harvey Weinstein and Jimmy Savile in the US and UK respectively, the documentary has sparked a wave of public reaction.
Lawmakers and human rights experts from the United Nations have heavily criticized the talent agency for its mishandling of the allegations. Johnny & Associates, the agency founded by Kitagawa in 1962, is a prominent force in Japan’s pop music industry, having produced some of the country’s most popular artists, including SMAP and Arashi.
In the wake of these disturbing revelations, Noriyuki Higashiyama, a former member of the boy band Shonentai, has been named as the new head of the agency. Higashiyama has admitted to being aware of rumors but has denied being a victim or witnessing any abuse.
The scandal has had ripple effects beyond the talent agency itself. Japan Airlines has suspended the agency’s use of talent in their advertisements, while Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance is considering terminating its contract with Johnny & Associates.
The first reports of Johnny Kitagawa’s abuse came as early as 1999, but it is this year’s documentary that has propelled the scandal into the spotlight. More victims have come forward after the documentary aired on the BBC, leading to a victims’ group advocating for revisions in order to protect children from abuse by individuals in positions of power. An opposition party has also introduced a bill to address this important issue.
One former “Junior” of the agency, Kauan Okamoto, has bravely detailed instances of Kitagawa’s advances and abuse, including receiving oral sex and cash. These accounts have been echoed by other victims, as confirmed by a third-party investigation team commissioned by the agency.
It is deeply troubling to note that Johnny Kitagawa never faced criminal charges and continued to recruit teenage boys until his death. Known as Johnny-san, he played a significant role in forming and promoting male idols and all-boy bands and even holds several Guinness World Records.
As for Julie K. Fujishima, despite stepping down as the head of the agency, she will remain as representative director until compensating the victims is complete. However, the agency has yet to work out the details of this compensation process.
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