The head of Japan’s top pop agency Johnny & Associates stepped down Thursday after admitting that her uncle, the company’s late founder, had sexually abused minors for years, following months of international scrutiny and an independent investigation.
Julie K Fujishima, the niece of Johnny Kitagawa, announced her resignation in a news conference Thursday, saying the company would compensate the victims of her uncle’s abuse, according to public broadcaster NHK.
It was the first time the agency has addressed the media about the scandal, according to NHK. The issue was spotlighted in a BBC documentary earlier this year, and received fresh attention in April after a former star trainee came forward with allegations that he and multiple other young men were abused by Kitagawa.
Kitagawa died in 2019 at age 87.
Fujishima will be replaced by Noriyuki Higashiyama, one of the company’s performers, who began his career as a singer with the agency nearly 40 years ago, NHK reported. At the news conference, Higashiyama vowed to enact measures to prevent such abuse from happening again and to “respond sincerely” in compensating victims.
Thursday’s announcement comes just a week after the independent investigation, which was commissioned by the agency, released its findings.
After interviewing 41 people, including victims and other company employees, the expert panel concluded that Kitagawa had “repeatedly committed sexual assault over a long period of time,” ranging from the 1950s to the mid-2010s.
Most of the victims were backup dancers known as “Johnny’s Juniors,” the report found, according to NHK. The abuse happened at numerous locations, including Kitagawa’s home and the company’s training camps.
The panel said the abuse had continued for so long in part because Johnny & Associates was a family-run business – meaning the founders wielded outsized power and faced little accountability. For instance, Mary Kitagawa, the late former president of the agency and Johnny’s older sister, had known about the abuse but did not take action, the report found.
The investigators made a number of recommendations, such as setting up a victim compensation program, and urged Fujishima to step down as president.
During his long career, Kitagawa headed Japan’s biggest talent agency and was known for setting up popular boy bands and launching the music and acting careers of many teen idols. He was a powerful figure in the media and entertainment industries for decades.
That level of power made people afraid they would lose their careers if they didn’t comply with his demands, according to Kauan Okamoto, the star trainee who came forward in April. He alleged that over the course of four years, beginning in 2012 when he was 15, he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Kitagawa.
The allegations against Kitagawa go back decades. In 1999, a Japanese magazine published accounts of other young men and boys who claimed they were sexually abused by Kitagawa. He sued the magazine for libel and was awarded damages, according to local media.
Kitagawa was never charged over the allegations. He had reportedly denied all accusations when he was alive.