Crime & Justice

Singer alleges J-pop mogul Johnny Kitagawa abused 100s of budding performers

Tokyo, Apr 12 (EFE).- Japanese musician Kauan Okamoto on Wednesday spoke publicly of the abuse he allegedly suffered at the hands of the late well-known music producer, Johnny Kitagawa.

Okamoto alleged that during the time he worked at the music mogul’s talent agency, between 100 and 200 minors would have been abused.

“Between 100 and 200 young people rotated in his apartment in the four years I worked with him, depending on whether they were his favorites or newcomers to the agency,” Okamoto told reporters at a press conference at at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

The young musician’s allegations came after a BBC documentary exposing years of abuse and accounts of alleged victims of Kitagawa, who died in 2019, aired earlier this year.

Okamoto joined Johnny & Associates in 2012 when he was barely 15 years old.

He remained at the talent agency until 2016 where he allegedly suffered around 20 assaults and witnessed many others towards his fellow young musicians.

“One night Johnny told me to go to bed early,” Okamoto recalls. “I think the other guys knew it was my turn.”

“I’d also heard that you had to sleep in his bed or a bed nearby or he’d be cranky the next day, but I thought nothing would happen to me because there were two other young people in my room,” he added.

According to Okamoto, the following day Kitagawa handed him 10,000 yen ($75) in an elevator without mentioning what had happened.

The young musician explained that “tipping” occurred frequently but that Kitagawa was careful to do so privately.

“We knew that his favorites could succeed (in the business) and some colleagues said you had to go to his house if you wanted to be successful,” he added.

“When I left in 2016, I had stayed at his house over 100 times, including one night I spent with him in a hotel. He assaulted me between 15 and 20 times,” said the musician, who was then a member of the male Johnny’s Jr pop band.

During the press conference, Okamoto showed video footage of Kitagawa’s residence in Shibuya, in downtown Tokyo.

In the video a bar with several bottles of alcohol — although the producer did not drink — a jacuzzi and several rooms with beds so that up to 20 minors could spend the night would be seen, Okamoto told reporters.

“There are things that I saw or that happened right next to me while I was sleeping,” the young musician said.

“In that sense, I can count three cases (of abuse) that I witnessed, but to be honest, almost all of us suffered these abuses. If you stayed in his house, it was practically impossible to escape. There were conversations about it, but we were kids, so we downplayed it,” he added.

Kitagawa (1931-2019) was a well-known producer and talent scout who is still revered in the Asian country for creating a formula for stardom by training budding talent until their eventual debut that is still used in the K-Pop and J-Pop industries in South Korea and Japan.

Rumors of abuse at his agency first surfaced in 1988, when Koji Kita, a then member of the boy band Four Leaves, alleged that Kitagawa had used his position of power to assault minors under his care.

In 1999, the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun published a series of anonymous interviews of alleged young victims.

The magazine was sued by the talent agency for defamation and lost although the ruling was later partially overturned by the Tokyo High Court.

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