Johnny Kitagawa’s J-Pop Agency Changes Name Amid Sexual Abuse Scandal Involving Late Founder Hundreds Seek Compensation

The influential Japanese boy band agency Johnny & Associates, which is involved in the sexual abuse scandal involving its late founder Johnny Kitagawa, has announced that it will change its name and split into two companies. In September, the pop giant admitted that Kitagawa, who died in 2019 at the age of 87, had sexually abused children hired by the agency for several decades.

At a press conference held on Monday in Tokyo, it turned out that the external committee for victim assistance created by the agency received messages from 478 people, 325 of whom are demanding compensation. The agency, which will change its name to Smile-Up to focus solely on identifying and paying compensation to victims, said it would begin payments in November, local media reported.

This Tokyo-based company will eventually be dissolved, but its artists can join an as-yet unnamed independent company that is being created to manage talent.

Everything connected with Johnny’s name should disappear, Noriyuki Higashiyama, the new head of the company and a former client of the agency, said on Monday, according to AP. It’s not easy to heal a wounded heart. Compensation alone will never be enough. Higashiyama is a TV star and singer in Japan who has also been charged with sexual harassment, allegations she denied on Monday, the BBC reported.

Kitagawa, whose successful J-pop bands have included Smap, Arashi and the SixTones, has never been charged on any of the charges. In late August, a research team discovered that he had started molesting children in the 1950s, the Japan Times reported.

Rumors about his actions have been spreading for years, but they caught attention again when the BBC released a documentary about Kitagawa earlier this year. In the summer, the UN Working Group on Entrepreneurship and Human Rights said that the charges relate to several hundred employees of the company.

In early September, Kitagawa’s niece, Julie Fujishima, resigned as president of the agency and offered a public apology to her uncle’s victims. Both the agency itself and I, as a private individual, admit that sexual abuse took place on the part of Johnny Kitagawa. I apologize from the bottom of my heart to his victims, he said at the time.

Although some of the charges were proven in civil court when Kitagawa was alive, he successfully filed a libel suit at least once, the BBC reports. Most major Japanese media outlets have also not covered the allegations for decades, prompting accusations of a cover-up in the industry.

Several Japanese companies have recently distanced themselves from the agency, including Nissan, Asahi and Suntory, which have said they will not renew contracts. NHK also said it would not sign new contracts with the agency’s stars until it was sure that the scandal had been properly resolved.

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