TOKYO (AP) — When Johnny Kitagawa told one of the boys staying in his luxury home to go to bed early, everyone knew it was your turn.
It was one of those memories Wednesday in which then-15-year-old musician Koan Okamoto was allegedly sexually assaulted by Kitagawa, a powerful figure in Japan’s entertainment world. While not identifying the alleged victim of the assault, Okamoto chose to identify himself in the media.
Okamoto was a member of the backup boy group Johnny’s Jr. and also worked as a talent pool for Johnny’s & Associates, a talent agency that manages male idol actors and singers.
He remembered Kitagawa’s slippers flapping down the hallway. He pretended to be asleep and rolled over on the bed. According to Okamoto, Kitagawa sometimes handed him a 10,000-yen note the next morning, when no one was looking, such as in an elevator.
It lasted for four years from 2012 until Okamoto retired from Johnny & Associates.
Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Kitagawa first met when the manager of Mr. Kitagawa’s office sent him a video of him singing Justin Bieber’s “Baby” from a modeling agency. He was invited to a concert in Tokyo and then to Kitagawa’s house.
“I hope everyone will come forward because there are an outrageous number of casualties,” he told reporters at the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
Okamoto, 26, said dozens of people were recruited by Kitagawa as his “favourites,” people he considered talented, to stay at his home where alleged abuse had taken place. I’m assuming you’ve been selected. The scandal surfaced after several victims came forward in the BBC documentary Predator, which aired worldwide in March.
Kitagawa died in 2019 and was never charged.
Japanese news magazine Shukan Bunshun first reported the scandal in 1999. Johnny’s still exists as a company and is behind some of Japan’s biggest stars, including SMAP, KinKi Kids, and Arashi.
Okamoto said he was not considering legal action. He wanted his story to be recognized.
“These are facts. Instead of denying these facts, we hope that people will respect and support us,” he told reporters.
The Foreign Correspondents Club invited Johnny’s to speak and address the allegations, but did not respond. Johnny’s also did not respond to the Associated Press’ request for comment.
Okamoto said that being liked by Kitagawa was a must if he wanted to succeed in Japanese entertainment, and many young performers hoped to be invited to Kitagawa’s penthouse in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Okamoto said that Kitagawa-san, whom he called “Johnny-san”, always used honorifics and was indebted to him. Like many other victims, he never told his parents and outright rejected Kitagawa.
“We were kids. We just laughed about it,” Okamoto said.
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