Johnny Kitagawa: Head of Japan’s largest pop agency, resigns after its founder admitted to sexually assaulting minors

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Julie Fujishima, right, president of Johnny & Co., resigned on Thursday. She is replaced by Noriyuki Higashiyama, at left.



CNN

President of Japan Top Pop Agency Johnny & Co She resigned on Thursday after admitting that her uncle, the company’s late founder, sexually abused minors for years, following months of international scrutiny and an independent investigation.

Julie K Fujishima, niece of Johnny Kitagawa, announced her resignation at a press conference on Thursday, saying the company would compensate victims of her uncle’s abuse, according to the British Daily Mail. Public broadcaster NHK.

It was the first time the agency had spoken to the media about the scandal, according to Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK). The case was highlighted in a BBC documentary earlier this year, and received renewed attention in April after a former star trainee came forward with allegations that he and several other young men had been abused by Kitagawa.

Kitagawa died in 2019 at the age of 87.

NHK reported that Fujishima will be replaced by Noriyuki Higashiyama, one of the company’s artists, who began his career as a singer with the agency nearly 40 years ago. At the press conference, Higashiyama pledged to enact measures to prevent the recurrence of such abuses and to “respond sincerely” in compensating the victims.

Thursday’s announcement comes just one week after the independent investigation, commissioned by the agency, published its findings.

After interviewing 41 people, including victims and other employees of the company, The expert committee concluded that Kitagawa “committed sexual assaults repeatedly over a long period of time”, ranging from the 1950s to the mid-2000s.

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The report found that most of the victims were backup dancers known as “Johnny Juniors”. The abuse occurred at numerous locations, including Kitagawa’s home and the company’s training camps.

Jay Si Hong / AP

The facade of Johnny & Co.’s headquarters in Tokyo, pictured on July 10

The commission said the abuses had gone on for so long, in part because Joni & Associates was a family-run business, which meant the founders wielded too much power and faced little accountability. For example, the report found that Mari Kitagawa, the former head of the agency and Johnny’s older sister, was aware of the abuse but took no action.

The investigators made a number of recommendations, such as establishing a victim compensation program, and urged Fujishima to step down as president.

During his long career, Kitagawa headed Japan’s largest talent agency and was known for creating popular boy groups and launching the music and acting careers of many teen idols. He has been a powerful figure in the media and entertainment industries for decades.

This level of power made people fear losing their careers if they did not comply with his demands, according to Kwan Okamoto, the star trainee who applied in April. He alleged that over the course of four years, starting in 2012 when he was 15, he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Kitagawa.

The allegations against Kitagawa date back decades. In 1999, a Japanese magazine published accounts of other young men and boys who alleged they had been sexually abused by Kitagawa. Local media reported that he sued the magazine for defamation and won damages.

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Kitagawa was never charged over the allegations. He reportedly denied all accusations while he was alive.

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