Founder’s niece says she should have done more to investigate allegations, outlines changes for company going forward.

There’s no larger force in Japanese boy band and male idol talent promotion than Johnny & Associates. But though the talent agency has a string of massive successes stretching back decades, it’s also long been the subject of claims of sexual harassment and abuse by its founder and former president, Johnny Kitagawa, towards the performers represented by the company.

Kitagawa was never convicted of, or formally tried for, any of the claims. Many feel, however, that during his life he used his clout in the entertainment industry to keep major news outlets from covering the accusations, and so they remain an issue even four years after his death in 2019. This March with the release of a BBC documentary on the subject, titled Predator: The Secret Scandal of J-Pop.

With the claims of sexual abuse by Kitagawa the subject of renewed and international attention, Johnny & Associates’ current president, Julie Keiko Fujishima (who is also Kitagawa’s niece), appeared in a video message released by the company on May 14 in which she apologized to multiple parties.

In the video, Fujishima says:

“I am Julie Fujishima, the representative director and president of Johnny & Associates. I would like to take this moment to deeply apologize for the great turmoil that has been caused in relation to the issue of sexual assault by our company’s founder, Johnny Kitagawa.

Before anything else, I wish to offer our deep, deep apologies to those who have come forward with claims of abuse.

We would also like to sincerely apologize to fans and other related parties who we have disappointed and distressed.

This is terribly late in coming, but, following this message we will be responding in writing to questions we have received from various parties.”

Note: In the video, Fujishima omits the subjects of her verbs (a common way of speaking in Japanese), and so it is indeterminate if she is offering the apologies on behalf of the company as a whole, or from herself personally as the company’s president).

The document Fujishima refers to in the video is structured in a question-and-answer format, and directly addresses both the BBC documentary and statements made by from former Johnny’s idol Cowan Okamoto in April that he and others had been sexually assaulted by Kitagawa. In regard to whether the accusations made by the documentary and Okamoto are true, the Fujishima’s response is:

Obviously, we do not, at all, believe that there was no problem [regarding Kitagawa’s conduct]. As a company, and I as an individual, find that sort of conduct unforgivable.

On the other hand, we cannot confirm anything with the accused, Johnny Kitagawa, and it is difficult for us to say, in a single word, whether we acknowledge the contents of all individual accusations as ‘the truth.’ We also have to carefully consider secondary damage such as slander stemming from speculation, so we ask for your understanding on this point.

That said, there are those who have come forward saying that such abuse took place before their very eyes, and we take these reports very, very seriously.

In the written statement, Fujishima also addressed the question of whether she was personally aware of any misconduct by Kitagawa, seeing as how she was a high-ranking executive within the agency even when her uncle was still alive. Fujishima says she had no direct knowledge of any improprieties, and that her position as an executive was one “in name only,” with much of the company’s operations decided on, and known only to, Kitagawa and Kitagawa’s older sister, Mary Kitagawa (who is Fujishima’s mother). Fujishima acknowledged, however, that she had a responsibility to do more to look into the allegations which were swirling around during her uncle’s life.

When faced with a scandal that can no longer be ignored, company presidents in Japan will often resign form their position. Fujishima says she considered doing so, but felt that doing so would be tantamount to running away from the issue, and has resolved instead to resolve the claims that accusers have brought forward and work to prevent sexual abuse from occurring within the company. To that end, Fujishima mentions the company’s establishment of an anonymous victims hotline, improved transparency meetings for parents and guardians of minor performers, increased allowance for minor performers to commute to work venues from their family’s home (as opposed, ostensibly, to having to stay in hotels and/or company apartments), and the establishment of a compliance committee created with external parties. Fujishima says that Johnny & Associates will also enlisting outside directors to help with a severe overhaul of its management system.

Source: NHK News Web (1, 2)
Top image: Pakutaso
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