Expert panel condemns decades of abuse at Japan’s largest talent agency

 A team of experts probing allegations of sexual abuse by Johnny Kitagawa delivered a report on Tuesday that accused the late Japanese music mogul of repeatedly abusing several young and underage budding performers over the years.

The panel of experts was appointed by Johnny and Associates, better known as Johnny’s, to investigate the alleged cases of abuse within the agency that recently came to light through new testimonies of alleged victims.

After a three-month investigation during which 21 alleged victims and 20 agency workers and Kitagawa’s relatives were interviewed, experts determined that sexual abuse was frequent from the founding of talent agency in the 1960s until the mid 2010s.

Although the report did not specify the exact number of alleged cases or Kitagawa’s victims, the panel spoke of “multiple acts” of abuse and sexual assault committed by the group’s founder on minors within the agency that has launched the careers of some of J-Pop’s most popular boy bands, including Arashi, SMAP and Kinki Kids.

Kitagawa took advantage of his power of influence over the future career of young people to commit his abuses, as well as the fear of reprisals from the victims, and also benefited from the culture of silence installed in the agency where no employee or relative of the founder dared to denounce the abuse, according to the findings of the investigation.

Kitawaga’s relatives in executive positions at the agency, including his niece and current CEO, Julie Keiko Fujishima, were aware of the ongoing abuse but failed to take appropriate action, Makoto Hayashi, head of the expert panel and former prosecutor general, told a press conference.

Many of the victims continued to suffer from the consequences of the abuse including depression, low self-esteem, trauma and sexual disorders, psychologist and expert panel member Asuza Saito added.

The experts also noted that recurrent abuse and the agency’s inaction continued despite the publication of books and local press reports on allegations of sexual abuse within the agency.

The report findings added that the talent agency should undertake sweeping governance reforms, including the resignation of its current CEO and the establishment of a system to assist and compensate victims.

The expert panel also demanded a public apology from Johnny and Associates to the victims.

The team of investigators declined to comment on whether the report could lead to legal action against the agency.

Kitagawa was a well-known producer and talent scout who created a formula for stardom that is still used in the K-Pop and J-Pop industries in South Korea and Japan.

The music mogul, who died in 2019, recruited budding young stars and groomed them until their debut.

A working group of the United Human Rights Council visited Japan earlier this month and called on Tokyo to ensure “transparent investigations of perpetrators and that victims obtain effective remedies, be they in the form of an apology or financial compensation.”