Japan boyband agency apologises over sex abuse allegations

Fans demanded Monday that Japan’s leading boyband agency “fully investigate” sexual assault charges against its late founder Johnny Kitagawa, prompting the agency to make an apology.

Kitagawa, who founded the entertainment giant Johnny and Associates, was accused of sexually assaulting Japanese-Brazilian singer Kauan Okamoto last month.

Okamoto said that Kitagawa, who died of a stroke at the age of 87 in 2019, assaulted him during his four-year tenure with the agency, which began when he was 15 years old and ended in 2016.

He is one of the few who has publicly addressed the star-maker’s alleged long history of sexual abuse against young boys, a subject that has revived following a recent BBC program.

Kitagawa was never charged criminally as a result of the allegations.

Kitagawa’s niece and current president of Johnny and Associates, Julie Fujishima, addressed the issue in a video and written statement published Sunday evening.

In the video, she apologized “sincerely” for the trouble created by the claims and the accusers.

“Obviously, we do not believe there was no problem. As a business and as an individual, I absolutely do not tolerate these acts,” her written statement said, referring to the documentary and Okamoto’s testimony.

“On the other hand, it is not easy for us to simply declare by ourselves whether individual allegations can be recognised as facts or not, when we cannot confirm with the individual directly concerned, Johnny Kitagawa,” she wrote.

“This is not the kind of occasion where you can be forgiven by saying ‘I did not know’. But the truth is that I did not,” added Fujishima, a long-term executive at the agency.

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