HomeAsiaMajor Japanese Talent Agency Apologizes Amid Sexual Abuse Allegations

Major Japanese Talent Agency Apologizes Amid Sexual Abuse Allegations

One of Japan’s most influential entertainment producers has apologized for sexual assault allegations against its founder, Johnny Kitagawa, decades after allegations of abuse of young men under his care first came to light.

Allegations that Mr. Kitagawa forced the boys signed to his agency, Johnny & Associates, to have sex in the hopes that it would catapult them to pop stardom had been made decades ago. And more than a dozen former trainees have spoken out. But Mr. Kitagawa, a titan of Japan’s entertainment industry credited with helping create the J-pop boy bands that were popular with Asian fans before the rise of K-pop, has faced little. public scrutiny even after his death in 2019.

In March, the allegations against him were the focus of a one hour documentary by the BBC, who interviewed three accusers. As various other accusers came forward after it aired, public pressure mounted for the agency to respond.

On Sunday, the CEO of Johnny & Associates and Kitagawa’s niece, Julie Keiko Fujishima, apologized in a written and video statement posted on their website.

“I would like to express my apologies from the bottom of my heart for the social problems caused by the sexual assault cases of Kitagawa, our founder,” Ms. Fujishima said.

Ms Fujishima said the company took the allegations “very seriously” but stopped short of confirming or denying them. “I don’t think those issues didn’t happen at all,” she said, “however, it’s not easy for me to confirm whether or not the allegations are true without checking with Johnny Kitagawa.”

He added that he was not aware of the allegations against Mr. Kitagawa.

Mr. Kitagawa was never criminally charged for the allegations and consistently denied them.

Mr. Kitagawa’s accusers have said he made sexual advances to them while they trained to rise through the ranks at his talent agency, which is known for producing some of Japan’s biggest pop groups. Some said they felt they couldn’t refuse his advances.

Most of the accusers have been anonymous. But last month, Japanese Brazilian singer Kauan Okamoto showed up with his account of being repeatedly sexually abused by Mr. Kitagawa during the four years he was with the agency from 2012 to 2016. He was abused 15 to 20 times, since he was 15 years old, he said at a press conference.

Mr. Okamoto said in an interview with The New York Times that he felt he could not resist Mr. Kitagawa’s advances if he wanted to continue at the production company. “I had to be determined to quit if he wanted to resist,” he said.

Mr. Okamoto was unaware of the allegations when he first signed with the agency, he said. After joining, “Other kids asked me, ‘Have you been mugged?’” he said. “I said that?’ They said, ‘Oh, you haven’t done it yet.

Many accusers, including Mr. Okamoto, have said that they still admire and are grateful to Mr. Kitagawa.

“I wouldn’t have gotten this far on stage without him,” Mr. Okamoto said. “You feel like he’s almost a member of the family. Many people are grateful to him.”

More than 18,000 people have signed a petition calling for the company to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. However, Ms Fujishima rejected the idea, saying that some victims may not want to participate in an investigation. Instead, she added, the company would provide “consultation services” where victims can speak with counselors, lawyers and doctors.

Some journalists and media experts have also questioned how Ms. Fujishima was unaware of the accusations made against Mr. Kitagawa.

“If Julie Fujishima ‘didn’t know’ about the abuse, why not just tell that to all the journalists (myself included) who contacted her agency about abuse allegations in 2023, 2019, 2005, 2000, 1999, 1988” , David McNeill, professor of communications at Sacred Heart University in Tokyo, saying On twitter.

The first public accusation against Mr. Kitagawa by someone who said he had been abused came in 1988. Koji Kita, a member of one of the agency’s first successful boy bands, wrote a book detailing the abuse allegations. at the hands of Mr. Kitagawa and how other male adolescent trainees had been abused. His account sparked a series of similar accusations from other former trainees. As early as 1965, the local media reported that the guardians of four children sued Mr. Kitagawa, alleging that he had made sexual advances on them. The boys later said they couldn’t remember the details.

In 1999, the Japanese magazine Shukan Bunshun reported on the accounts of several anonymous accusers, shocking the entertainment industry. history attracted international attention but was largely ignored by the local media.

The agency sued the publication for defamation and denied access to the events directed by Mr. Kitagawa. In 2002, the Tokyo District Court ruled in favor of Mr. Kitagawa, ordering the publisher to pay 8.8 million yen (about $65,000) in damages. The number was reduced to 1.2 million in 2003 by the Tokyo High Court, which found the accusers’ statements to be consistent with each other.

Media experts have noted that local television stations and newspapers have historically been wary of angering Mr. Kitagawa and his company, fearing that their access to their proceedings would be restricted.

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