Johnny Kitagawa: Hundreds of victims seeking compensation over J-pop talent agent’s abuse

Japanese agency acknowledged its late founder assaulted hundreds of boys over the span of five decades

Inga Parkel
Tuesday 03 October 2023 15:41 BST
Japan Johnny's Scandal
Japan Johnny's Scandal (AP)

Japanese music agency Johnny & Associates, whose late founder is accused of sexually abusing hundreds of boys over decades, will be rebranding and splitting into two companies, with one focusing on identifying and compensating his survivors.

In September, the powerhouse entertainment company, founded by Johnny Kitagawa in 1975, acknowledged that the businessman and talent manager, who died aged 87 in 2019, had sexually abused hundreds of its signed acts over the course of five decades.

During a Monday (2 October) press conference, the agency announced one of its two new companies would be named Smile-Up, with its sole purpose being to identify and compensate Kitagawa’s victims.

An external committee set up by the company has said it had already received reports from 478 people, 325 of whom are seeking compensation. The agency said it would begin payments in November.

The name of the other company, meanwhile, will be decided by public vote.

“All things with the Johnny’s name will have to go,” Noriyuki Higashiyama, the company’s new president and a former client of the agency, told reporters on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

“A wounded heart isn’t easy to heal. Compensation on its own will never be enough.”

In recent months, dozens of men who were performers and backup dancers as teens and children at Johnny’s have come forward, saying they were sexually assaulted by Kitagawa. He was never charged before his death in 2019.

Last month, Kitagawa’s niece Julie Keiko Fujishima resigned as chief executive at Johnny’s. She still owns 100 per cent of the unlisted company but will not be part of the new unnamed company, the capital structure for which is still being worked out.

Fujishima did not appear at Monday’s news conference, and instead had a letter read out by a representative.

The letter said she was “brainwashed” by her mother Mary, who insisted Kitagawa was innocent, even after the Japanese Supreme Court ruled two decades ago that the sexual allegations against him were accurate.

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“I want to erase all that remains of Johnny from this world,” she wrote. “I do not forgive what Johnny has done.”

Japan Johnny's Scandal
Japan Johnny's Scandal (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Some victims say they have suffered for decades in silence, unable to confide in family or friends, while experiencing flashbacks.

Most of the attacks took place at Kitagawa’s luxury apartment, where several youngsters were handpicked to spend the night. The following morning, he would thrust 10,000 yen ($100) bills into their hands, according to various testimony.

Rumours about Kitagawa were rampant over the years, with several tell-it-all books published. A recent UN investigation has said that the number of victims is at least several hundred, and called on the Japanese government to act.

In recent months, several of his survivors have met with lawyers to work together in pushing for legal changes to push for an increase to the statue of limitations, which is currently 20 years.

Japan raised the age of sexual consent from 13 to 16 only this year. Japanese media has reported that Kitagawa often purposely picked on 13-year-olds, although his victims have been as young as eight.

The company has promised it will compensate victims “beyond the scope of the law”.

“Some perpetrators are living their lives as though nothing happened. That causes great pain to the victims,” said Junya Hiramoto, who heads a group of Johnny’s victims. “By coming together, we can grow into a bigger force and move toward hope.”

Additional reporting by AP

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website here.

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