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Johnny Kitagawa: Japan’s largest music agency apologizes over allegations of sexual assault by its late founder

Johnny Kitagawa: Japan’s largest music agency apologizes over allegations of sexual assault by its late founder

Hong Kong (CNN) The head of Japan’s largest music agency has apologized over years of sexual abuse allegations by its founder, the late entertainment mogul Johnny Kitagawa.

Johnny & Associates, a talent management firm known for representing boy bands such as SMAP, Arashi and Tokio, has faced calls for a full investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct dating back decades.

The issue was highlighted in BBC Documentary that aired earlier this year. She also got new attention last month, when former pop star Kawane Okamoto was her apprentice came forward With allegations that he and several other young men were sexually assaulted by Kitagawa.

On Sunday, Johnny & Associates released a rare statement Acknowledge the allegations.

“We sincerely apologize for the great deal of inconvenience caused by the alleged sexual abuse of individuals by our founder, Johnny Kitagawa,” said Julie Fujishima, the company’s president and chief executive officer. According to a Japanese official kyudo News Agency, Fujishima is Kitagawa’s niece.

calls for investigation

But the agency stopped short of promising an investigation.

In recent weeks, Japanese music fans have called on the company to set up an independent commission to investigate the allegations. that Online petition The company urged action and it received nearly 20,000 signatures.

The company decided not to set up such a committee, Fujishima said, citing guidance from experts who warned of psychological toll for victims.

There is also a “high probability that people will not want to be interviewed in this situation,” the official said.

Instead, the company will provide a point of contact for victims who have already come forward and wish to receive counseling services in the future, according to Fujishima.

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And while she vowed the department would take the allegations seriously, she said it was difficult to know whether individual accusations were true.

“Of course we don’t believe there was no problem,” Fujishima said in its statement. On the other hand, Johnny Kitagawa, who is the party involved, cannot speak about the accusations.”

Fujishima also warned of the dangers of “slander by speculation,” indicating skepticism about some of the allegations.

Industry pole

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 teen idols. He has been a powerful figure in the media and entertainment industries for decades.

Dancer Yasushi Hashida (L) and singer Kawane Okamoto attend a hearing conducted by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan in Tokyo on May 16, 2023. They talk about alleged sexual assault committed by Johnny Kitagawa, who died in 2019.

This level of power made people fear they would lose their careers if they did not comply with his demands, according to Okamoto, a Japanese-Brazilian singer-songwriter.

He alleged that over the course of four years, starting in 2012 when he was 15, he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Kitagawa, who died at the age of 87 in 2019.

Okamoto said last month that he was speaking out in the hope that other alleged victims would come forward.

There have been long-standing allegations against Kitagawa. In 1999, the Japanese magazine Shukan Bunshun 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 was ordered to pay compensation.

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The Tokyo High Court partially overturned the earlier decision in 2003, ruling that the sexual abuse allegations published were not defamatory. Later, an appeal filed by Kitagawa in 2005 was rejected by the Supreme Court.

Years later, his company responded to Okamoto’s new allegations, without elaborating.

In a statement last month, Johnny & Co. said management has made it our “highest priority” to be more transparent about how it operates and to operate in a way that “induces social trust.”

The company also said that it has taken new measures this year to “ensure strict compliance with laws and regulations without exception, by both management and employees, in addition to the steps we are taking to strengthen corporate governance by consulting with impartial third-party experts.”

Kitagawa has not been charged over the allegations. He reportedly denied all accusations while he was alive.

— CNN’s Helen Regan, Sophie Jeong and Alex Stambaugh contributed to this report.