Japanese Talent Agency Head Resigns Over Sex Abuse Scandal
The head of Johnny & Associates, a powerful Japanese talent agency, resigned on Thursday, September 7th and apologized after an investigation found the company’s late founder sexually abused hundreds of young performers over decades.
Talent Agency Head Julie Fujishima Steps Down, Vows Compensation
Julie Keiko Fujishima announced she was stepping down as president of the agency founded by her late uncle Johnny Kitagawa. She promised to contribute to a victim compensation fund from her fortune.
“This is what my uncle committed, and as a niece, I want to take responsibility,” Fujishima said. She acknowledged the sexual abuse allegations were true and said she would stay on the company’s board to oversee the victim compensation program.
Victims Say Apology Helps, But Wounds Remain
A group of men accused Kitagawa of raping them as children said they were pleased the company apologized, but some said their wounds would never fully heal.
“The wounds in my heart will not heal,” said Yukihiro Oshima, one of the accusers. “But I feel a little better.”
Fujishima remains the sole owner of Johnny’s. Her replacement as president faces his own allegations of mistreating young performers in the past.
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Decades of Rumors Finally Investigated
Rumors that Kitagawa had abused children plagued his career for decades, but his power allowed him to silence almost all allegations until he died in 2019. The company finally agreed to investigate earlier this year after a BBC documentary featured several accusers coming forward publicly.
The three-month internal probe concluded Kitagawa sexually assaulted and abused boys as far back as the 1950s, targeting at least several hundred victims.
New President Has Abuse Allegations, Too
The company named 56-year-old performer Noriyuki Higashiyama as its new president. Higashiyama said he was retiring as an actor and singer to take the leadership role, including overseeing the victim compensation program.
“A horrendous crime has been committed,” Higashiyama said at a Tokyo press conference, bowing deeply alongside Fujishima. “It will take time to regain trust, and I am putting my life on the line for this effort.”
Higashiyama was immediately questioned about allegations he had bullied or sexually abused other Johnny’s boys.
“I don’t remember clearly; maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t,” he said. Higashiyama acknowledged he tended to be strict with younger performers and may have done inappropriate things decades ago that he would not do now.
Company Promises Reforms
The company said a new structure, including an outside compliance officer, would be announced next month. Fujishima choked down tears at one point, stressing the achievements of the company’s performers and saying she had kept silent due to Kitagawa’s immense power.
The men who came forward said Kitagawa raped, fondled, and abused them while they worked as child dancers and singers for his company. Many victims were part of the Johnny’s Jr. backup dancer/singer group that performed with more prominent stars.
One recent accuser said Kitagawa molested him at 8, before founding the agency. Higashiyama denied being a victim but said Kitagawa had been like a father figure, making his acts the “most pathetic in human history.”
Kitagawa Records Stripped
Separately, Guinness World Records said it had stripped Kitagawa of all the entertainment records he held, such as most #1 hits, due to its policy against honoring “criminals.”