Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Idols alleging sex abuse by late Japan talent mogul Kitagawa call for action

Former Johnny's Jr. singer Kauan Okamoto, right, speaks during a Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan hearing on sexual victimization and child abuse, at the Diet on May 16, 2023. Pictured at rear is Yasushi Hashida. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Former Johnny's Jr. singer Kauan Okamoto and actor and dancer Yasushi Hashida, who recently disclosed that they had been sexually abused by Johnny Kitagawa, the late founder of talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc., called for legislation to prevent further assaults in the entertainment industry in a Diet hearing on May 16.

    The pair were invited to the Diet for a hearing arranged by the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan on sexual victimization and child abuse. The pair, dressed in suits, took their seats at the meeting at noon.

    "I joined the agency when I was in my third year of junior high school. About a month later, I was sexually abused at Johnny's home," Okamoto told lawmakers. He added, "This is not restricted to the entertainment industry, but when someone in a higher position asks you for something, it is difficult to refuse. To those besides me who have been victimized, please speak up. Society is now at a stage where people will listen to our demands." The singer said he strongly hoped for legislation to prevent further abuse.

    Hashida, meanwhile, commented, "I joined Johnny's, and when I was about 13, I was sexually abused. It was such a major thing for me." He added, "What adults can do is create a place where children aged 13 and 14 can make the best of the entertainment industry. Action by adults can protect children."

    'I didn't fully comprehend' the abuse

    When asked by a legislator what kinds of policies were needed, Hashida reflected on his own experience and said he believed he was not alone in not fully comprehending the abuse at the time. He added that, even if it were difficult to create a perfect system, it was important to move closer to that, and said that revisions to the law on child abuse prevention were needed.

    Okamoto added, "It's difficult for children to understand everything about themselves," and divulged that at the time he was abused, it was hard to get people to listen to what he'd suffered. He stated, "I myself was troubled, and when the sexual abuse occurred in 2012, I thought that even if I said something, it would be hushed up and I wouldn't be protected by the law."

    Meanwhile, Hashida described Johnny & Associates as a company that has given many people hopes and dreams. "It's a company with a good track record, so even if something bad happens, people will turn a blind eye," he said. He expressed his hope for a society that would enable people to genuinely express themselves to others.

    Regarding the fact that he had spoken publicly and under his real name, Hashida said, "I think the biggest thing is that by exposing everything, exposing the experiences that I had wanted to keep hidden, the adults around me moved to action." He added, "I think that the accumulation of such things will save many people and create an environment in which they can clearly raise their voices without fear."

    Apology from Johnny's President Fujishima

    On the evening of May 14, Johnny & Associates President Julie Keiko Fujishima posted a video message online "deeply" apologizing to those claiming abuse.

    Okamoto said he had talked with Fujimura for about two hours in advance. "Her feelings strongly came across to me," he said. "She was really sincere with me, and I could feel how sorry she was (for me)." Hashida said, "The agency had been silent for so long. It was shocking for me to see the top figure appearing in a video and bowing in apology, so I really felt that it was a first step."

    On the other hand, Johnny & Associates has shown reluctance to acknowledge that Kitagawa committed sexual assaults, declaring in a written statement, "As there are things we cannot confirm with Johnny Kitagawa, the person involved, it's not easy to say definitively that we will recognize individual claims as 'facts.'"

    Hashida stated, "There was some evasiveness over things being true or not, but personally I worry that if things are left like that, discussions will become drawn out in those areas. ... The most important thing is that the company is a leading entertainment and idol agency. If they show a new way forward, I think a lot of companies and people in the entertainment industry will follow."

    Background of sexual abuse allegations

    In 1999, the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun reported on allegations of sexual abuse by Kitagawa. Kitagawa sued the publisher for libel, but a high court ruled that important parts relating to the sexual harassment were true, and this ruling was finalized by the Supreme Court in 2004.

    In March 2023, the BBC released a documentary focusing on the allegations of sexual assault by Kitagawa. In April, Okamoto held a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan revealing he had been sexually abused. Then on May 11, Penlight, a volunteer group of fans of idols belonging to Johnny & Associates, submitted a petition signed by 16,125 people calling on the agency to uncover the facts.

    (Japanese original by Mizuki Osawa, Digital News Group, and Misaki Morokuma, Cultural News Department)

    Also in The Mainichi

    The Mainichi on social media