West News Wire: Everyone knew “it was your turn” when Johnny Kitagawa instructed one of the youngsters living at his opulent home to retire early. 

That was one of the memories musician Kauan Okamoto, then 15, gave on Wednesday about allegedly being sexually assaulted by Kitagawa, a prominent player in the Japanese entertainment industry. Although the Associated Press typically does not name alleged sexual assault victims, Okamoto has opted to do so. 

Okamoto was a member of Johnny’s Jr., a backup boys’ group that served as a talent pool for Johnny & Associates, a management company for male idol singers and performers. 

He remembered the sound of Kitagawa’s slippers pitter-pattering down the hallway. He turned over in bed, feigning sleep. Sometimes Kitagawa handed him a 10,000-yen ($100) bill the morning after when no one was looking, like in the elevator, according to Okamoto. 

That continued for four years, starting in 2012 and lasting until Okamoto left Johnny & Associates. 

Okamoto’s encounters with Kitagawa started when he had a modeling agency send a video of him singing Justin Bieber’s “Baby” to a manager at Kitagawa’s office. He got invited to a concert in Tokyo, and then to Kitagawa’s home. 

“I hope everyone will come forward because it is an outrageous number of victims,” he told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Tokyo. 

Okamoto, 26, estimated dozens of people were selected by Kitagawa as his “favorites” the ones he saw as talented to come stay at his home where the alleged abuse occurred. The scandal surfaced after a BBC documentary “Predator,” in which several victims came forward, aired worldwide in March. 

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Kitagawa died in 2019 and was never charged. 

Johnny’s released a statement late Wednesday in response to the news conference. 

“The company will continue its unified effort to thoroughly ensure compliance without exception, and tackle strengthening of a system of governance,” it said, according to Kyodo and other Japanese media. It did not directly address the allegations. 

The Foreign Correspondents Club had invited Johnny’s to address the allegations but received no response. Johnny’s did not respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press. 

Shukan Bunshun, a Japanese news magazine, first reported the scandal in 1999. Over the years, the reaction from much of mainstream Japanese society has been muted. Johnny’s, which still exists as a company, is behind some of Japan’s biggest stars, including SMAP, KinKi Kids and Arashi. 

Okamoto said he had not considered legal action. He just hoped his story will get acknowledged. 

“These are facts. Instead of denying these facts, I hope people will respect and support us,” he told reporters. 

Being liked by Kitagawa was a must if one hoped to succeed in Japanese entertainment, and many young performers wanted to be invited to his penthouse in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, Okamoto said. 

Okamoto said he owed a lot to Kitagawa, whom he called “Johnny-san,” always adding the honorific. Like many of the other victims, he didn’t tell his parents, nor blatantly reject Kitagawa. 

“We were kids. We just laughed about it,” said Okamoto. 


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