Following a report by a third-party investigation into sexual abuse claims against Johnny & Associates founder Johnny Kitagawa that found the accusations factual, current President of the company Julie Fujishima was recommended to step down. In a press conference earlier today, she announced that she would be doing that and leaving the company to Higashiyama Noriyuki, who began his career under the company back in 1985.
Fujishima Julie, Kitagawa’s niece, said at a press conference in Tokyo on Thursday that her uncle abused minors. Following her resignation, which she said took place on Tuesday, Johnny performer Higashiyama Noriyuki became the new president.
Additionally, Vice President Shirahase Suguru, who many have also been calling on to resign, will retire and hand over his role to Inohara Yoshihiko, who is current Johnnys’ Island President.
Notably though, Fujishima will remain a board member and CEO until all the measures are put into place and obviously still owns 100% of the company shares and thus wields power.
Fujishima said they would compensate and apologize to the victims, while Higashiyama vowed to prevent it from happening again.
Fujishima, 57, said, “I acknowledge them [the allegations of sexual abuse by the late Kitagawa] as an individual as well as on behalf of the agency. I apologize to all the victims from the bottom of my heart.”
Higashiyama echoed this, adding, “I will sincerely face the issue of compensation for the victims and respond sincerely.”
He vowed that as the new president, he would take measures to prevent a recurrence. These include establishing a system to prevent human rights violations based on the recommendations of a special external team in charge of ensuring compliance.
A reporter asked Julie if she received any inheritance from Kitagawa after he passed away, and whether she plans to use her money, in addition to J&A's money, to compensate the victims.— Transitions ⛈🌈 We 40! (@transitions0101) September 7, 2023
Julie declined to answer the 1st question and said she will take responsiblity in the latter.
Higashiyama said he will be retiring from activities at the end of the year to focus on his new role.
“It may take a long time to regain the trust lost due to the deep mental and physical wounds Mr. Kitagawa inflicted on his victims, but I am willing to dedicate the rest of my life to addressing this issue,” Higashiyama said, adding he would quit showbiz by the end of this year.
Changing the name seemed like somewhat of a common sense move in the way that you’d rather not name your company after Jimmy Savile, but Higashiyama said that would not be happening.
When asked about a possible name change for the agency, Higashiyama said, “I understand the question is based on opinions that we need to be dismantled for a fresh start.”
He said he has no intention of changing the Johnny & Associates name at the moment.
“I know that many people suffered. But we are supported by our fans,” he said, adding, “I currently think we should work together to dispel the (negative) image.”
But Higashiyama said there were currently no plans to change the firm’s name, arguing that rather than representing the late founder, it “more importantly expresses the energy and pride that talents have cultivated over the years.”
Not the best start, prioritizing branding over the victims seeing that name everywhere till the day they die while appealing to fans, when if that were the case then it shouldn’t be a problem to change a name.
In fact, he was still defending Johnny’s legacy in relation to that.
Speaking of Kitagawa, Higashiyama said that despite his faults, he believed in entertainment and what that meant; to dedicate oneself to making others happy. This has been the guiding principle of all who call the company home, and what the company is committed to ensuring it means for future generations of artists.
Real “other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln” vibes.
In terms of his Higashiyama’s own experience with Johnny and the allegations, he had this to say:
In the subsequent question-and-answer session, Higashiyama said he was never a victim of sexual abuse but had heard the rumors about Kitagawa’s behavior and did nothing about them.
He added that no one in the talent agency, whether his subordinate or superior, had ever consulted with him about their suffering. He said he had firmly believed that Kitagawa was not capable of behaving in such a depraved manner because he regarded him as a father figure.
“Because I was unable to take any action on my part, I want to reflect on that and hold that in mind while dealing with various issues in the future,” Higashiyama said.
New VP Inohara said much the same.
Inohara repeated the same. He was aware of the rumors, but never experienced anything himself, nor did anyone in his immediate group of Johnny’s to the best of his knowledge. However, as the head of Johnnys’ Jr., he acknowledges that projection of one’s own positive experience on a bigger situation could have lead those who might have experienced abuse to feel they were unable to discuss it. He vowed to take such issues very seriously as he leads the Jrs. to ensure that such an environment, especially one with such a vulnerable population, cannot happen again.
The victims themselves had reason to already be skeptical of the incoming President.
When Fujishima admitted the abuse had occurred and apologized for it, members’ responses included, “Yes!” and, “I feel as if I’m dreaming.”
But when the new president Higashiyama said he had previously thought the abuse incidents were just rumors, the group’s leader Hiramoto Junya muttered, “That’s disappointing.”
But some other victims were less optimistic, with Yasunobu Shiga, a former member of the idol group Ninja, criticizing organizational changes as “superficial.”
“The name ‘Johnny’s’ should not even exist given the extent of sexual abuse that occurred,” he said.
Higashiyama did mention the need for discussions with the media over the coverage of the company, which is sorta “we’re looking for the guy who did this” type of stuff.
He also called for in-depth discussions with the mass media over its long years of silence in reporting on the sexual abuse and the pressure apparently exerted by the talent agency to gain the media’s cooperation in staying silent.
Higashiyama said all fault for that relationship lay with the talent agency and Kitagawa.
I’ll believe it when I see it.
A reporter mentioned how J&A used its power to silence the media in order to prevent them from reporting on the sexual abuse. When asked how J&A will engage with the media going forward, Higashiyama says it's important for both parties to play on equal terms.— Transitions ⛈🌈 We 40! (@transitions0101) September 7, 2023
Needless to say, after all the apparatuses that were complicit in allowing this to become an open secret in the industry, I’m skeptical that they’ll do the right thing in the end. While I’m glad that at least the victims got their admission, and I hope they sue the company into the ground, the willingness of executives to still cautiously defend Johnny’s legacy provides further fuel to skeptics about how much of this is just lip service for the purposes of damage control.
Given that they likely want to just get this over with as soon as possible and go back to “normal”, hopefully the media outside of Shukan Bunshun grows a sack and continues to press them. Wishful thinking, I’m guessing.