Johnny Kitagawa: J-pop agency boss resigns over predator’s abuse

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Julie Fujishima (R) resigned naming Noriyuki Higashiyama (L) as new the talent agency’s new head
By Shaimaa Khalil
Tokyo correspondent

The boss of Japan’s biggest pop talent agency has resigned after finally admitting the sexual abuse committed by its late founder, Johnny Kitagawa.

Julie Fujishima resigned from Johnny and Associates on Thursday during a public apology to her uncle’s victims.

Her departure comes a week after investigators found Mr Kitagawa had “extensively” abused young idols at his pop agency over a six-decade career.

He died in 2019, having always denied wrongdoing. He never faced charges.

On Thursday, his niece and outgoing chief executive Ms Fujishima acknowledged the abuse for the first time.

“Both the agency itself and I myself as a person recognise that sex abuse by Johnny Kitagawa took place,” she said.

“I apologise to his victims from the bottom of my heart.”

Local media showed some of the victims watching the news conference, some looking visibly angry.

Kitagawa was arguably the most influential figure in Japan’s entertainment industry – his agency has held a near-monopoly on Japanese boy bands for decades.

Rumours and some media reports of his abuse had been known for years, but no concrete action was taken. For decades, most mainstream Japanese media also did not cover the allegations, prompting accusations of an industry cover-up.

Then earlier this year, a BBC documentary about Kitagawa’s abuse was aired, sparking discussion across Japan and calls for a full investigation.

The exposé also prompted more victims to come forward, including J-pop star Kauan Okamato who said he had been sexually abused by Kitagawa since the age of 15.

In the final report from independent investigators appointed by the agency last week, they said the firm’s family management had caused the abuse to persist for decades, and that Ms Fujishima – a long-time executive in the company – failed to address the allegations despite her knowledge of them.

In May, she had expressed regret that she had become inured to the “abnormalness” of the agency’s workings.

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