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Petition seeks apology from Johnny's talent agency in Japan over alleged sex abuse

Leaders of the group Penlight hold a press conference calling for measures to be taken over the alleged sexual abuse by the late Johnny & Associates Inc.'s founder and former president, Johnny Kitagawa, in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on May 11, 2023. (Mainichi/Kengo Miura)

TOKYO -- A group of fans of idols belonging to Johnny & Associates Inc. (Johnny's) held a press conference here on May 11 and announced they have sent a petition pushing for the major Japanese entertainment company to apologize over past sexual misconduct by its founder, the late Johnny Kitagawa.

    The group, Penlight, collected 16,125 names since posting the petition to the site on April 19. Besides an apology to the victims, the petition requests the situation to be investigated by a third-party committee and for the company to listen to the voices of the alleged victims, provide them with support and implement measures to prevent a reoccurrence. One of the people who started the petition explained, "By remaining a (Johnny's) fan, I was worried that I would be tolerating sexual violence. Wondering if there was something I could do about it, I founded the group."

    After the signatures and comments by fans were sent to the company on May 9, the group received a response in which the company said that they could not comment on particular cases, but it would present the petition at a meeting of senior staff. As names are still being added to the petition, the group said, "If the company's attitude doesn't change, we will submit it again."

    A Johnny's representative told the Mainichi Shimbun in response to the meeting, "Our company will make a formal announcement this weekend."

    Alleged sexual abuse by Kitagawa first came to light in reporting by the Shukan (Weekly) Bunshun magazine in 1999. Although Kitagawa sued the publisher for defamation, the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that the main point of the reports, regarding sexual harassment, was factual. Nearly 20 years on, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) released a documentary about the allegations this March. At a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in April, a former Johnny's trainee singer spoke about his experience of the alleged abuse.

    Johnny Kitagawa passed away in 2019.

    (Japanese original by Takashi Miyazaki, Tokyo City News Department)

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