A former Johnny's Jr. backup singer recently revealed in a news conference that he had been sexually assaulted by Johnny Kitagawa, the late founder and president of hugely influential talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc.
The 26-year-old, who joined the agency in 2012 at the age of 15, told the press that he was sexually assaulted by Kitagawa "a total of 15 to 20 times" before he quit in 2016. He also revealed he saw other group members being sexually abused.
Prior to the news conference, the BBC had released a documentary on alleged sexual abuse inflicted by Kitagawa on teenage boys.
There had in fact been media coverage in Japan about the talent agency in the past. The Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine in 1999 reported that Kitagawa had repeatedly sexually harassed people including young boys in his agency.
Following this, the agency and Kitagawa sued the magazine's publisher for defamation. In the end, a high court decision which found that "major portions of the article on sexual harassment were true" was finalized by the Supreme Court in 2004.
It should be taken into consideration that Kitagawa, who passed away in 2019, does not have the opportunity to defend himself.
In response to the former member's news conference, Johnny & Associates has conducted interviews with performers and others affiliated with the agency, and sent letters to its business partners stating its policy of establishing a consultation service for those who formerly worked at the agency.
Johnny & Associates must first clarify the facts behind the allegations. It will also likely be asked what measures it took after the verdict was finalized in 2004. A proper investigation by a third party is required, while considering privacy and other human rights.
The #Metoo movement is spreading in the entertainment industry, and there has been a string of complaints of sexual violence and harassment in Japan. Abusing one's position to take advantage of people aspiring to become stars is an outrageous act.
Sexual abuse of children by Catholic Church clergy has been an issue recently in Europe and the U.S. It is severely problematic in cases involving minors, who are not fully equipped to make decisions.
The Japanese entertainment industry has long been dominated by Johnny & Associates, which manages many popular male idols. TV stations can expect stable viewer ratings with the appearance of the agency's celebrities on their shows. It is likely that there was a relationship of mutual back-scratching between the media and the talent agency.
Support from viewers and audiences is essential for the entertainment industry, which offers joy to fans. Those involved in this industry must not forget its origins.