TOKYO: A group of men who say they were sexually abused by a Japanese boy band producer expressed hope Monday that the company will provide financial compensation and introduce measures to prevent a recurrence.
They say producer Johnny Kitagawa sexually preyed on young dancers and singers for decades, having them stay at his luxury home, handing them cash and leveraging promises of potential fame. The company, Johnny & Associates, is a powerful force in Japan's entertainment industry.
The men said at a news conference Monday that they have been ignored for decades by the company, Japanese society and mainstream media.
Company Chief Executive Julie Keiko Fujishima released a brief statement on YouTube in May about the accusations but has not appeared before reporters. The company has set a news conference for Thursday.
“We want Julie to apologize, as the chief executive and company owner,” said Shimon Ishimaru, one of nine men who have formed a group demanding an apology and compensation from the company. “For a company behind this big a crime to do nothing is unimaginable.”
Johnny’s, as the company is known, is family-run and not publicly listed. Kitagawa, Fujishima’s uncle, died in 2019 and was never charged.
A special team set up by the Tokyo-based company recently spoke to 23 accusers, but has said the total will likely balloon to at least several hundred people. The team also recommended Fujishima resign.
Junya Hiramoto, another member of Ishimaru’s group, said they hope to set an example for others who have suffered.
“Our wounds never fade,” Hiramoto said. “Do you think we aren’t still hurting? Do you think we can forget? Do you know what it’s like for us to come forward like this, filled with shame?”
Over the years, persistent allegations against Kitagawa have generally been dismissed as malicious rumors. Mainstream media stayed silent.
The U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights has urged the Japanese government to act to make sure that Johnny's provides an apology and compensation and that government oversight of businesses be improved. The government has yet to take action.
Japan tends to be behind the West on issues of gender equality, children’s rights and awareness about sexuality.
It was only after a BBC documentary about Kitagawa aired this year that the scandal again became a topic of scrutiny.
Another accuser, Kauan Okamoto, spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club in April, saying he trusted foreign media more than Japanese media. Okamoto, like many others who have come forward, was part of a backup boys’ group called Johnny’s Jr.
The Associated Press does not usually identify people who say they were sexually assaulted, but Kitagawa’s recent accusers decided to be named publicly in news accounts.