Tokyo: Johnny & Associates, J-pop’s biggest talent agency, announced Monday that they will be changing the company’s name to “Smile-Up” after admitting to sexual abuse actions committed by its late founder.
The new name comes as a part of its reform steps and it will focus on victim reparations. Around 478 people came forward with allegations against the company’s founder Johnny Kitagawa.
The company also announced that they will be creating a new management company for to mange Johnny & Associates personalities.
Here's a chart which summarizes some of the corporate changes raised in the press con.— Transitions ⛈🌈 We 40! (@transitions0101) October 2, 2023
J&A ➡️ Renamed as SMILE-UP, not involved in talent management, focuses on victim reparations
Talents and existing employees are transferred to new company, name to be determined. pic.twitter.com/Jv02K7KZnr
They also announced that any boy group with the name “Johnny” in it will change, for example the names of groups such as “Johnny’s West” or “Johnnys” will change in the future.
Kauan Okamoto, former J-pop idol who was sexually abused by Kitagawa, held a press conference on September 8, saying that the sexual abuse at the company must never happen again, a day after the talent agency admitted to the actions committed by its late founder.
In April, the 27-year-old Japanese Brazilian singer was the first person who came forward with Kitagawa’s sexual abuse, promoting the media to cover the scandal extensively.
“I hope this kind of sexual abuse will never be repeated,” Okamoto told a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.
Okamoto expressed some approval of the company’s response to the scandal.
“I felt a little better” after Johnny & Associates apologized for the sexual abuse and mentioned compensation for victims, he said.
But the singer added that the victims’ wounds “cannot be healed so easily,” and that the agency must continue to make amends.
Regarding the appointment of the company’s new president, Okamoto said, “(he) took over the presidency at a time when no one wanted to do it.”
“I want him to think about moving in the best direction, giving top priority to (the agency’s) talents and the victims,” Okamoto said.
On September 7, Johnny & Associates’ president Julie Keiko Fujishima, the founder’s niece, stepped down from her position after the sexual assault allegations against Kitagawa were proven to be true, and was replaced by former J-pop idol Noriyuki Higashiyama.
Fujishima apologized for the victims during a press conference. She also met Okamoto and apologized to him in person.
Fujishima said she will remain as representative director of the agency for the time being to “fulfill my responsibility to compensate victims.”
Higashiyama, former member of Japanese trio Shonentai, is replacing Fujishima. The 56-year-old has acted in multiple shows such as, Seven Detectives, Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari, and Game of Spy.
“I’ll devote my life to tackling this problem,” Higashiyama told the same news conference. He will quit his talent activities at the end of this year to focus on his job as Johnny & Associates president.
In late August, a team investigating sexual assault allegations against Kitagawa has found the charges credible.
The company’s history with sexual assault was brought into the spotlight recently after a BBC documentary highlighted the cases.
The three-month probe, which included speaking with 23 victims, concluded that Kitagawa sexually assaulted and abused boys as far back as the 1950s and targeted at least several hundred people. The founder died in 2019 and was never charged.
The investigative panel said Johnny & Associates must apologize, strengthen compliance measures, and educate its ranks about human rights. They also stressed that Kitagawa must step down.
Last May, Fujishima issued a video and a written apology after former Okamoto said he was sexually abused multiple times by Kitagawa when he was in the agency.
“The company’s coverup led to the sexual abuse continuing unchecked for so long,” investigative team leader Makoto Hayashi told reporters in Tokyo. “There were many opportunities to take action.”
Critics say what happened at the company highlights Japan’s lagging awareness about rape, sexual harassment, and human rights. Public opinion has often been unsympathetic toward people who say they were targeted by sexual predators.
About a dozen men have come forward in recent months to allege sexual abuse by Kitagawa while performing as teens. More people are expected to come forward.
A turning point in the case came early August, when the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights urged the Japanese government to take action. The group also accused Japan’s mainstream media of what it called “a cover-up.”
According to the victims, Kitagawa asked fledgling singers and dancers, many of them children, to stay at his luxury home. When he told one of them to go to bed early, everyone knew it was “your turn,” those who have spoken up told the panel.
The boys were sexually assaulted by Kitagawa when they were 14 or 15 and given 10,000 yen (about $100) bills afterward, the report said. It added that the victims feared they would be penalized if they refused.
Those who have spoken out say they have been painfully traumatized, unable to tell anyone, even family, and still suffer flashbacks and depression, the report said.
with AFP & JIJI Press