More than 300 individuals are seeking compensation for being sexually abused by the late Johnny Kitagawa, Japan’s top talent agent, according to his agency. The allegations against Kitagawa, who passed away in 2019, gained renewed attention after a BBC documentary inspired additional victims to come forward. An independent inquiry conducted in September concluded that Kitagawa had abused hundreds of boys and young men over a span of six decades. The inquiry also recommended compensation for the victims.
The Johnny & Associates agency, now renamed -SMILE-UP-, disclosed that 478 people had responded to a compensation website it had established, with 325 of them seeking compensation as victims. Among these individuals, 150 were former talents. The agency stated that a new company would be created to manage talent, while the newly named entity would focus on identifying and compensating victims. The agency intends to determine financial payouts for each victim on a case-by-case basis.
Earlier this year, the agency apologized to the victims, and following the inquiry’s findings, Julie Fujishima, Kitagawa’s niece and then chief executive, stepped down. She has been replaced by Noriyuki Higashiyama, a television star and singer in Japan who has also faced allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied on Monday.
The restructuring of the agency is believed to be an effort to regain public acceptance, as major Japanese companies such as Nissan, Asahi, and Suntory dropped the agency’s talent after the inquiry. The scandal surrounding Kitagawa has drawn comparisons to Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was convicted of rape and sexual assault. However, Kitagawa never faced criminal charges and remained a revered figure until his death at the age of 87. The J-pop industry titan was considered one of the richest and most powerful men in Japan, responsible for launching numerous famous boybands and artists.
For decades, Kitagawa’s abuse was an open secret within Japan’s music industry. Although some cases against him were proven in civil court, he also successfully sued for defamation over certain reports and consistently denied any wrongdoing. The allegations received limited coverage from mainstream Japanese media, leading to accusations of an industry cover-up. However, in March, the BBC documentary “Predator: The Secret Scandal of J-Pop” aired, sparking national discussion and calls for a full investigation. The broadcast prompted more victims to come forward, including former J-pop idol Kauan Okamato, who held a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo to reveal that he had been sexually abused by Kitagawa for four years, starting at the age of 15.
The resignation of Julie Fujishima marked the agency’s first public acknowledgment of Kitagawa’s crimes. The Johnny’s Sexual Assault Victims’ Association held a press conference where one victim expressed hope for change and encouraged others to come forward. The agency’s efforts to address the abuse and compensate the victims are seen as an attempt to rebuild trust and reputation in the wake of the scandal.