Niece of disgraced music producer will remain as representative director at the company for the time being, though.

On Thursday, Johnny & Associates, the talent agency that manages Japan’s largest and most popular male idol groups (collectively known as Johnny’s) held a press conference to discuss allegations that founder Johnny Kitagawa, who passed away in 2019, sexually abused multiple performers represented by the company. The press conference came after a scathing report from outside investigators concluded that Kitagawa had committed the long-rumored crimes, for which he was never brought up on charges of during his lifetime.

At the press conference Julie Keiko Fujishima, Kitagawa’s niece, said she has resigned as president of Johnny & Associates, a position she’s held since her uncle’s death. Fujishima stepped down from the role two day prior to the press conference, at which time 56-year-old Noriyuki Higashiyama, a singer, actor, and media personality represented by Johnny & Associates who’s been active in show business since 1979, has replaced Fujishima as the company’s president, and will be retiring from on-camera performances by the end of the year.

“Both Johnny & Associates and I, personally, recognize that Johnny Kitagawa committed sexual abuse. We offer our sincerest apologies to the victims,” Fujishima said at the conference.

In regards to the question of whether or not she had concrete knowledge of Kitagawa’s crimes, the 57-year-old Fujishima did not say that she knew for a fact that he was sexually abusing the company’s performers, but that she had been aware of such allegations being made in “tell-all books and magazine features.” “Not confirming what was happening at that time was [insufficiently fulfilling] my responsibility, and it is not at all the case that I do not feel guilt. Even though we were family, our company was malformed such that I couldn’t say anything [to him about the allegations], and at the time I couldn’t do anything.”

Higashiyama likewise acknowledged that he was aware of rumors about Kitagawa at the time, but that “I trusted Mr. Kitagawa.” He said that he now feels embarrassed and regretful that he did not take earlier action, and that he is now “Prepared to devote his life to dealing with this problem,” and that “There could be hundreds of victims.”

Higashiyama also briefly touched on the possibility of Johnny & Associates changing its name, saying that while that is a possibility, saying “With crimes of this magnitude, it does raise the question of whether or not we should continue [with the current name].” Nothing has been decided yet, though, and Higashiyama mentioned that in while it comes from the name of the company founder, the “Johnny’s” media brand itself is one that many of the agency’s past and present performers feel a sense of pride in.

While Fujishima has stepped down as president, she is still a representative of Johnny & Associates. However, this, she says, is only a temporary decision that was reached in order to facilitate compensation procedures for victims of the abuse, saying “If compensation can be processed quickly, I am thinking to step down as representative director [as well].”

Source: NHK News Web
Top image: Pakutaso
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