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President of Johnny & Associates issues apology amid allegations of abuse against late founder

By | Published on Wednesday 17 May 2023

Johnny & Associates

The President of the prominent Japanese talent agency, Johnny & Associates, has issued an apology concerning the numerous allegations that the company’s late founder, Johnny Kitagawa, abused boys signed to his company.

“I offer my deepest apologies to those who have come forward with the experiences they suffered”, said Julie Fujishima – who is also Kitagawa’s niece – in a statement published on Sunday. “Obviously, we do not believe there was no problem. As a business and as an individual, I absolutely do not tolerate these acts”.

Allegations against Kitagawa were common knowledge in the Japanese music industry for decades, but they generally went unreported by the country’s media – in part due to fears at the media companies that reporting on any of the allegations would result in them losing access to the steady stream of popular boybands that Johnny’s delivered.

Many of those now making allegations against Kitagawa also say they knew at the time that speaking out about the abuse would end the pop careers they were seeking to pursue.

Despite those pressures, in 1999 Shukan Bunshun magazine did publish various accusations against Kitagawa. He successfully sued for libel, although the judgement was partially overturned on appeal. There were other allegations made beyond those published by Shukan Bunshun, but the music boss was never charged with any crime.

Kitagawa died in 2019, aged 87. The allegations of abuse against him came back into the spotlight again in March this year with the broadcast of the BBC documentary ‘Predator: The Secret Scandal Of J-Pop’, which included interviews with former Johnny’s-signed artists.

While Fujishima issued a blanket apology to those who were abused, she maintained that it would now be impossible to verify which allegations were actually true. She also insisted that she was unaware of Kitagawa’s misconduct while it was occurring.

“It is not easy for us to simply declare by ourselves whether individual allegations can be recognised as facts or not, when we cannot confirm with the individual directly concerned, Johnny Kitagawa”, she said, before adding: “This is not the kind of occasion where you can be forgiven by saying ‘I did not know’, but the truth is that I did not”.

Fans of groups signed to the agency have rejected Fujishima’s denials of any knowledge of the abuse allegations, especially considering she was working for the company when the Shukan Bushun article was published. They are now calling for a full investigation.