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EDITORIAL | Johnny & Associates: Don't Let Family Ties Impede Reforms

Johnny & Associates is still owned by the sexual assaults perpetrator's family — a far cry from the "dismantling and restructuring" called for by investigators.



Noriyuki Higashiyama, new president of Johnny & Associates and Yoshihiko Inohara (left), president of subsidiary Johnny's Island, hold a press conference on sexual assault allegations against the company. (© Sankei)

The talent agency Johnny & Associates (Johnny's Jimusho) held a press conference on September 7 in Tokyo. For the first time management acknowledged and apologized for a series of sexual assaults that took place at the company. Many of those were by the late founder of the company Johnny Kitagawa.

Kitagawa's niece Julie Keiko Fujishima, who was in attendance, announced her resignation as president of the high-powered agency known for producing and managing many of J-Pop's top boy bands. Noriyuki Higashiyama, who has been an actor and singer with the company up to now, will replace her at the helm. 

Former Johnny & Associates president Julie Keiko Fujishima shed tears during a press conference on sexual assault charges against the entertainment enterprise. Also in Chiyoda Ward. (© Sankei by Tomohiko Takahashi)

Responding to a Scathing Report

These actions were prompted by a scathing investigative report and recommendations presented by a special recurrence prevention team of outside experts. Newly installed president Higashiyama promised reforms. Specifically, he said those include "victim compensation beyond [what is required under] the law" and "recruiting an external chief compliance officer."

Higashiyama will retire from performing to concentrate on his duties as company president. He vowed to stake his life on getting the job done properly.

Nonetheless, we remain concerned about the situation at Johnny & Associates.

A street TV announces the death of Johnny Kitagawa in July 2019. In Yurakucho, Tokyo. (© Sankei)

A Problematic 'Family Brand'

Although Fujishima has resigned as president, she remains as representative director and sole owner of the family company. She offered her own explanation as to why the status quo was maintained. "So that the business would continue to run smoothly as we concentrate on compensating the victims," she said. 

Nevertheless, the adverse impact of the company's family management constitutes the heart of the problem. There is a danger that it will hinder the effectiveness of any reforms undertaken. 

Higashiyama admitted there were doubts about the appropriateness of continuing to use a company name which included the name of a person associated with sexual assault. However, in the end, management chose to do so because of the great attachment of fans to the "Johnny's" brand.

That raises concerns that in the end the past and existing ties will stymie management and impede reform. It must be said that this is a far cry from the "dismantling and restructuring" called for by the special team. 

At the same time, admittedly it has only been a few days since the team presented its findings. And, as Higashiyama also noted, it is important to "first get started." 

Singer Kauan Okamoto holds a press conference on Septmeber 8, a day after Johnny & Associates admitted to sexual assaults at the company. At the Foreign Correspondents Association of Japan in Tokyo.

Raising Human Rights Awareness in the Industry

The new president also touched on the company's relationship with the media. He stated that he would like to see a continuing dialogue on the progress of reforms and promotion of mutual understanding. But it is Fujishima who is responsible for victim compensation. Going forward, it will also be important for her to continue to explain what is happening. 

Johnny's is an important player in Japan's entertainment culture. Moreover, it has produced many popular male entertainers and "idol" singers. The original meaning of the word "idol" is an image of a god or a person or thing who is worshiped. 


Similarly, these entertainment idols have an enormous influence on their fans. And sometimes they can provide emotional support for them in their lives. We should also be aware of the strong public character of the popular culture industry.

That is why we would like to see entertainment agencies become more sensitive to human rights and compliance, while also modernizing. Furthermore, they should consider these as social demands.

At the press conference, Higashiyama forthrightly declared the sexual abuse that took place at the company as the "most pathetic acts in the history of humankind." He added, "There was a person in absolute power and no fresh air could get in."

It must have broken Higashiyama's heart to have to speak ill of an environment in which he himself was brought up. 

Well, at least the company has committed itself to making a new start. Now we would like to see real reforms take place. 


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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