Johnny & Associates admits late founder's sexual abuse, president resigns

Japanese talent agency Johnny & Associates has apologized after admitting that its late founder Johnny Kitagawa sexually abused minors over many years.

The agency's president, Fujishima Julie, held a news conference on Thursday following the release of a report last week by a third-party panel that looked into the allegations of sexual abuse.

Fujishima said, "Johnny & Associates and I myself are both aware that Kitagawa committed sexual abuse. I offer my sincere apologies to those who were victimized."

Fujishima also said that she had resigned as president, and a veteran member of the agency, Higashiyama Noriyuki, had replaced her.

This is the agency's first news conference since a number of men came forward to allege that they were sexually abused by Kitagawa when they were minors. Kitagawa died in 2019 at the age of 87.

The third-party panel says in its report that Kitagawa abused a large number of boys over decades, most of them backup dancers known as "Johnny's Juniors," who were waiting to make their debuts.

The report notes that in a family-owned business it can be difficult to stop illegal acts due to close personal ties. It says Fujishima, who is the late founder's niece, should resign to enable the agency to make a new start.

Fujishima said she takes the panel's recommendations seriously, and stepped down on Tuesday.

Higashiyama, who also took part in the news conference, admitted Kitagawa's sexual misconduct and apologized.

He said he feels really sorry for those who were victimized and those who have felt physical and mental pain for a long time. He said he will retire from his showbiz career by the year-end to sincerely deal with this matter.

Higashiyama was a member of a boy band. He has also worked as an actor and a news anchor.

Fujishima said she will remain as the agency's representative director to better deal with the matter and make decisions. She said she is thinking of stepping down from that post when relief measures for the victims are well on track.