Johnny & Associates Inc. former president Julie Keiko Fujishima speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, 07 September 2023. EFE/EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON

Head at Japan’s largest talent agency resigns over sexual abuse probe

Tokyo, Sep 7 (EFE).- The president of Japan’s largest talent agency announced her resignation on Wednesday amid allegations its founder, also her uncle, had sexually abused several young and underage budding performers for decades.

Julie Keiko Fujishima’s resignation comes after an expert panel last week determined that sexual abuse was frequent from the founding of Johnny and Associates, better known as Johnny’s, in the 1960s until the mid 2010s.

The panel of experts was appointed by the agency to investigate the alleged cases of abuse that recently came to light through new testimonies of alleged victims.

Speaking at a press conference, Fujishima acknowledged that she was aware that sexual abuse by the late Johnny Kitagawa took place.

“I apologize to all the victims from the bottom of my heart,” she added.

Fujishima will be replaced by Noriyuki Higashiyama, a former member of the Shonentai boy band, actor and longtime TV moderator represented by Johnny’s.

At the presser, Higashiyama apologized to the victims saying: “They have had a painful experience for a long time, both physically and mentally.”

“I’ll devote the rest of my life to this issue,” he added.

Neither Fujishima nor Higashiyama outlined how the agency would go about avoiding a similar situation in the future, nor whether financial compensation or psychological support would be provided to the 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 the talent agency in the 1960s until the mid-2010s.

Although the report, published a week ago, 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.

Guinness World Records has removed the records Kitagawa held on the website “as it does not feel appropriate to leave them published,” the London-based organization said in a statement.

“Per our record holder conduct policy, removal of record titles from an individual can only be considered where there is a criminal conviction,” the statement added.

Kitagawa held two World Guinness records, one for most No.1 singles produced by an individual, and another for most concerts produced by an individual.

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.EFE