Johnny & Associates, a prominent Japanese talent agency, has announced a major restructuring that includes changing its name and splitting into two separate entities. The move comes after years of cover-ups and denials by the company, as well as mounting pressure for accountability.
The existing company will be renamed Smile-Up and will solely focus on compensating the hundreds of sexual abuse victims of the late founder, Johnny Kitagawa. An external investigative committee has received reports of abuse from 478 of Kitagawa’s victims, with 325 seeking compensation. Shockingly, some victims have alleged that the abuse occurred over one hundred times and began when they were elementary school-aged.
In addition to compensating the victims, a new entity will be formed to manage the agency’s current roster of performers. The agency has reached out to its fan club members asking for suggestions to name the new company.
The Johnny’s Sexual Assault Victims Association (JSAVA) has criticized the agency’s plans and called for the talent to be transferred to a different agency altogether. They have also demanded that Johnny’s entertainment activities be discontinued.
Public pressure on the company has intensified after major Japanese advertisers and national broadcaster NHK announced that they would no longer work with Johnny’s performers. These decisions have had a significant impact on the agency’s reputation and future prospects.
Noriyuki Higashiyama, the incoming president of Johnny & Associates, has himself faced allegations of sexual abuse. Higashiyama denied the allegations but admitted to potential acts of power harassment in his youth.
Compensation for the victims is set to begin in November. Once all victims are compensated, Smile-Up will be disbanded.
Johnny Kitagawa, the late founder of Johnny & Associates, was a renowned figure in the Japanese entertainment world but faced longstanding allegations of sexual abuse. Claims against Kitagawa date back to 1965, and numerous books authored by former Johnny’s stars contained accounts of abuse.
The abuse allegations received limited coverage until a BBC documentary aired earlier this year, prompting victims to speak out publicly. The UN Human Rights Council conducted an investigation into the situation and concluded that Kitagawa had abused hundreds of boys. Since the investigation, more victims have come forward, shedding light on the extent of the abuse within the agency.
These recent developments mark a significant turning point for Johnny & Associates as it faces the consequences of its past actions. It remains to be seen how the agency will navigate this tumultuous period and whether it will be able to regain the trust of its fans and the wider public.