The head of Japan’s biggest pop agency Johnny & Associates resigned on Thursday after admitting that her uncle, the company’s late founder, sexually abused underage girls for years after months of international scrutiny and independent investigation.
Julie K Fujishima, Johnny Kitagawa’s niece, announced her resignation at a press conference on Thursday, saying the company would compensate victims of her uncle’s abuse, according to public broadcaster NHK.
It was the first time the agency had spoken to the media about the scandal, according to NHK. The problem was highlighted in a BBC documentary earlier this year, and received new attention in April after a former star trainee advanced allegations that he and several other young men had been abused by Kitagawa. .
Kitagawa died in 2019 at age 87.
Fujishima will be replaced by Noriyuki Higashiyama, one of the company’s artists, who began his singing career with the agency nearly 40 years ago, NHK reported. During the press conference, Higashiyama pledged to adopt measures to prevent such abuses from happening again and to “sincerely respond” by compensating the victims.
Thursday’s announcement comes just a week after the independent investigation commissioned by the agency released its findings.
After interviewing 41 people, including victims and other company employees, the panel concluded that Kitagawa had “committed sexual assaults on multiple occasions over a long period of time,” spanning from the 1950s to the mid-1950s. 2010s.
Most of the victims were backup dancers known as “Johnny’s Juniors”, according to the report, according to NHK. The abuse occurred in many places, including Kitagawa’s home and company training camps.
The panel said the abuse had lasted so long, in part because Johnny & Associates was a family business – meaning the founders wielded outsized power and had little accountability. For example, Mary Kitagawa, the agency’s former president and Johnny’s older sister, knew about the abuse but took no action, according to the report.
Investigators made a number of recommendations, such as establishing a victim compensation program, and urged Fujishima to step down as chairman.
During his long career, Kitagawa ran Japan’s largest talent agency and was known for creating popular boy bands and launching the musical and acting careers of many teen idols. He has been an influential figure in the media and entertainment industries for decades.
This level of power made people fear losing their careers if they failed to comply with its demands, according to Kauan Okamoto, the star trainee who came forward in April. He alleged that over a four-year period, starting in 2012, when he was 15, he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Kitagawa.
The allegations against Kitagawa date back decades. In 1999, a Japanese magazine published accounts of other young men and boys claiming to have been sexually abused by Kitagawa. He sued the magazine for defamation and won damages, according to local media.
Kitagawa was never charged for these allegations. He reportedly denied all charges during his lifetime.