Japanese companies drop stars of scandal-tainted Johnny's entertainment company

Several major Japanese companies have decided to stop using stars represented by Johnny & Associates, an entertainment company at the center of a sexual assault scandal

Yuri Kageyama
Tuesday 12 September 2023 07:31 BST
Japan Johnny's Scandal
Japan Johnny's Scandal (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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Several major Japanese companies have decided to stop using stars who are represented by Johnny & Associates, an entertainment company at the center of a sexual assault scandal.

Beverage maker Asahi Group Holdings — known for its Super Dry beer — will no longer air its ads featuring Junichi Okada, Toma Ikuta and Sho Sakurai, the company said Tuesday, and there are no plans to sign singers, dancers or actors affiliated with Johnny’s. Other companies, including Japan’s flagship carrier Japan Airlines and major insurer Nippon Life Insurance Co., are following suit in distancing themselves from the scandal.

Victims have come forward, demanding an apology and financial compensation from Johnny & Associates, which remains one of this nation’s most powerful entertainment companies. Some say they want the company name changed to get rid of the reference to Johnny, noting the sheer mention of that name is traumatic.

Julie Keiko Fujishima acknowledged Thursday that her late uncle Johnny Kitagawa, who founded and ran the company, had sexually assaulted children and teens, and announced her resignation as chief executive at Tokyo-based Johnny’s.

Fujishima still owns 100% of the company, which has specializes in boy bands.

A three-month investigation into assault allegations against Kitagawa found that the abuse spanned decades and victims number in the hundreds. Despite longstanding whispers of assault, as well as published accounts in tell-all books, allegations were until recently written off as malicious speculation. Kitagawa was never charged and died in 2019.

Critics say the mainstream news media kept silent because it didn’t want to lose access to Johnny’s stars for their programming. But public opinion has shifted dramatically in recent months, with the wave of companies dropping Johnny's expected to grow.

Suntory Holdings said it will stop using Johnny’s personnel in its ads and has formally demanded improved corporate governance. The beverage maker, known for Hibiki whisky, previously featured Hokuto Matsumura of SixTONES in its ads.

In a recent interview with the local Asahi newspaper, which is not related to the beverage maker, Asahi Group CEO Atsushi Katsuki said he was shocked when Johnny's publicly acknowledged the history of sexual assaults really happened.

“If we continue with our contracts, it would be as though we are condoning human rights violations,” he said.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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