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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Japanese Expertise Company Admits Its Founder Preyed on Boys He Sought to Make Stars

The president of considered one of Japan’s most influential leisure companies resigned after an impartial investigation confirmed the corporate’s founder, Johnny Kitagawa, had sexually abused younger males in his care because the Seventies.

Allegations in opposition to Mr. Kitagawa, who helped aspirants obtain pop stardom in Japan, have circulated for many years, however had been largely ignored by a quiescent media that had change into depending on the leisure mogul and his family-run firm, Johnny & Associates, to offer entry to the younger performers. His repute as a hitmaker related to a few of Japan’s hottest boy bands protected Mr. Kitagawa from scandal, even after his dying in 2019 at age 87.

The discharge of an hourlong BBC documentary in March that includes interviews with three of Mr. Kitagawa’s accusers opened a floodgate of recrimination, prompting extra males to return ahead and placing stress on the corporate to reply. Below immense scrutiny, Johnny & Associates introduced in Might that it was forming an inside investigative panel to “stop the recurrence” of future abuse.

At a information convention on Thursday, Julie Keiko Fujishima, Mr. Kitagawa’s niece, acknowledged the outcomes of the investigation and apologized on behalf of herself and the corporate. She additionally introduced she had resigned as the corporate’s president on Wednesday.

“These issues had been brought on by my uncle, and, as his niece, I wish to take duty for them,” she stated, including that the corporate would search to supply help and compensation to accusers. (Ms. Fujishima, the corporate’s sole proprietor, will stay as a board member, accountable solely for reduction and compensation.)

The report, launched in late August, confirmed tons of of instances of abuse by Mr. Kitagawa going again greater than 50 years. It cited an absence of company governance on the firm and media complicity as main elements in his impunity. Mr. Kitagawa’s sister, Mary, who died in 2021, additionally performed a task in overlaying up his habits and defending him from the implications, the report concluded.

No prison fees had been ever filed in opposition to Mr. Kitagawa, who constantly denied the accusations in opposition to him.

Ms. Fujishima, who has served on the corporate’s board since 1998 and was appointed president in 2019, stated that she had no direct information of Mr. Kitagawa’s habits and had little private interplay with performers represented by the company earlier than his dying.

She had been conscious of allegations in opposition to him, she stated, however on the time “couldn’t think about taking any motion.”

Ms. Fujishima might be changed by Noriyuki Higashiyama, a singer who rose to fame below the auspices of Johnny & Associates and later turned a profitable actor and information anchor.

Mr. Higashiyama stated that he had not been sexually abused by Mr. Kitagawa and had not identified that it was taking place to others, though he had heard rumors. In feedback on Thursday, he pledged to reform the corporate.

“I believed Mr. Kitagawa,” he stated, describing the mogul as a father determine.

Talking at a parallel information convention, Kazuya Nakamura, who has accused Mr. Kitagawa of abusing him whereas he was an aspiring performer, stated that the corporate’s request for forgiveness “felt like a dream.”

However he questioned the corporate’s sincerity and instructed that appointing Mr. Higashiyama, who was considered one of Mr. Kitagawa’s high stars in the course of the time of the abuse, made it troublesome to imagine that the corporate was dedicated to vary.

A few of Mr. Kitagawa’s accusers have stated that they’re contemplating submitting civil and prison complaints in opposition to the corporate in Japan and civil fits abroad, the place they’ve alleged a few of the abuse occurred.

In his heyday, Mr. Kitagawa was thought to be the king of Japanese boy bands, creating greater than a dozen energy teams that dominated the J-Pop music scene. Boys as younger as 9 had been recruited by Mr. Kitagawa and lived collectively in a dormitory, the place they had been skilled to sing, dance and conduct themselves like pop idols.

The corporate continues to handle a few of Japan’s hottest musical acts, with appreciable affect and energy within the leisure trade. It should hold its title for now, Mr. Higashiyama stated Thursday.

Rumors about Mr. Kitagawa’s habits first got here to public consideration in 1999, when the weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun wrote in regards to the experiences of a number of nameless males. However different information shops largely ignored the story, and Mr. Kitagawa received a libel swimsuit in opposition to Shukan Bunshun’s writer. Damages of 8.8 million yen (about $60,000) had been later decreased on enchantment.

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