Niece of late J-pop mogul cries as she apologises and steps down over sexual abuse scandal


The niece of a powerful Japanese pop mogul found to have sexually abused hundreds of young performers has publicly apologised and stepped down from running the talent agency he founded.

A tearful Julie Keiko Fujishima announced her resignation as president of Johnny & Associates, the agency set up by her late uncle Johnny Kitagawa, at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday. She also promised to contribute to a compensation fund for victims from her own fortune.

Kitagawa, who died in 2019 aged 87, was the man behind the biggest talent agency in Japan‘s pop music industry. He was never charged over the allegations and the scandal, which emerged fully earlier this year, has shocked the country.

FILE - A passer-by watches a TV news reporting Johnny Kitagawa's passing away in Tokyo, on July 10, 2019. A growing number of people are alleging sexual abuse by Kitagawa, who ruled over Japanese entertainment for decades, founding and heading his talent agency, known as Johnny...s, reputed for being behind a string of boy-bands. (Kyodo News via AP, File)
Johnny Kitagawa died in 2019. Pic: Kyodo via AP

The men who came forward say Kitagawa raped, fondled and abused them while they were working for his company as dancers and singers. Nine men had formed a group demanding an apology and financial compensation.

In August, an internal investigation concluded that he sexually abused young performers from as far back as the 1950s.

“This is what my uncle committed, and as a niece, I want to take responsibility,” Ms Fujishima said solemnly, facing reporters to make the announcement.

She said she would stay on the company’s board to see through a victim compensation programme.

More on Japan

At one point, she choked back tears, stressing the achievements of the company’s singers and dancers. “I only feel deep gratitude to all the fans,” she said.

Kitagawa had been so powerful that she, and many others, had kept silent, she added.

‘A horrendous crime’

One alleged victim told reporters he was pleased with the apology but still had reservations.

“The wounds in my heart will not heal,” he said. “But I feel a little better.”

Another man who came forward recently said he was routinely molested before Kitagawa had even set up his company, aged just eight.

Founded in 1962, Johnny & Associates has a huge cultural presence in Japan, producing some of the most popular names in J-pop including SMAP and Arashi, bands with massive fan bases across East Asia.

Noriyuki Higashiyama, a former member of the hit 1980s boy-band Shonentai, has been named as the new head of the agency.

“A horrendous crime has been committed,” Higashiyama told reporters. “It will take time to win back trust, and I am putting my life on the line for this effort.”

Guinness World Records said it had stripped Kitagawa of all the records he had held, such as number one hits, according to its policy toward “criminals”.