A former member of Japan’s top male talent agency and production company Johnny & Associates Inc. said Wednesday he was sexually abused on multiple occasions as a young teen by the firm’s late founder Johnny Kitagawa.
Kauan Okamoto, a 26-year-old Japanese-Brazilian singer and songwriter, claimed during a press conference that he had abused by Kitagawa about 15 to 20 times between 2012 and 2016, when he was still a member of the agency, adding he knew of at least three others who had gone through similar ordeals.
“I think almost everyone (who went to his house was a victim),” he said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. “I think everyone should speak out. It’s probably a shocking number of people.”
Kitagawa was one of the most revered figures in Japan’s entertainment industry, propelling numerous groups such as SMAP, Arashi and Hey! Say! JUMP to stardom before his death in 2019.
“One word by Johnny decided everything (about our future)” including appearing in TV dramas and commercials, Okamoto, who joined the agency in 2012 when he was in junior high school, recounted.
Okamoto at the time was part of Johnny’s Jr., a talent pool of male idols in training who have yet to make their debut in a unit or solo act.
They are often seen performing as backup dancers for the agency’s established acts.
Kitagawa was also the subject of numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. In 1999, Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun published a series detailing accusations of child abuse and sexual exploitation made by several boys under his wing.
He sued the magazine’s publisher for defamation and was awarded damages in 2002, but the judgment was partially overturned on appeal with the Tokyo High Court ruling the following year that the magazine had sufficient reason to publish the allegations of sexual misconduct.
A subsequent appeal by the talent manager was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2004, according to the magazine.
“While I feel grateful that Johnny brought me up in the entertainment world I know now, it’s also terrible that he sexually abused the then 15-year-old me and other members,” Okamoto said, noting that he wants the current management of the company to acknowledge the misconduct.
A spokesperson for Johnny & Associates said Wednesday that the agency will “continue to make concerted efforts to ensure thorough compliance by management and employees and strengthen our governance with the help of unbiased experts.”
Shukan Bunshun published another series of allegations regarding the late giant earlier this year, which included Okamoto’s experiences.
Meanwhile, Okamoto admitted during the press conference that he had faked a claim on Twitter last month about being sued by Johnny & Associates in a bid to solicit donations through an online system.
The allegations surrounding Kitagawa have garnered the spotlight abroad after the BBC aired a documentary in March that included interviews with people besides Okamoto who said they had been sexually abused by the mogul.