Sunday, December 3


  • By Nicholas Yong
  • BBC News, Singapore

Image caption,

Kauan Okamoto said he was sexually abused by Johnny Kitagawa from the age of 15

Another former J-pop star has said he was the victim of sexual abuse by Johnny Kitagawa, a revered Japanese music producer who died in 2019.

Kauan Okamoto said he was abused up to 20 times from 2012-2016, beginning when he was 15 and in a boy band.

Mr Okamoto said he believed as many as 100 boys had been abused.

Kitagawa denied all accusations during his life and never faced charges. A BBC documentary in March detailed allegations from several victims.

Multiple accusers told the BBC they feared their careers would be harmed if they refused Kitagawa.

In Japan, he was viewed as one of the music industry’s most powerful figures. When he died in 2019 at age 87, his legacy as the architect of J-pop idol culture was widely celebrated in the country.

However allegations of his sexual exploitation were ignored for decades.

On Wednesday, Mr Okamoto said the abuse he experienced occurred about 15 to 20 times at Kitagawa’s penthouse in Tokyo.

The 26-year-old Japanese-Brazilian singer and songwriter said that Kitagawa would come to his bed at night and remove his clothes before performing oral sex on him. Okamoto pretended to be asleep as the abuse occurred.

“[Kitagawa] never explicitly said that if you don’t put up with [the abuse] you won’t be a success,” he told reporters .

“But Johnny’s favourite first picks would make it.”

He had been picked to join the Johnny’s Jr group in 2012 – which was a talent pool of male idols in training at Kitagawa’s agency Johnny & Associates.

Mr Okamoto said he knew of at least 100 boys who had stayed over at Kitagawa’s home and he believed all of them had been abused.

On Wednesday Johnny & Associates issued a statement after Mr Okamoto’s press conference saying the company was working to “strengthen our governance system”.

It did not address Mr Okamoto’s allegations or make any other reference to its founder.

The agency remains Japan’s top male talent manager and production company. It has produced some of the country’s biggest boy bands, such as SMAP and Arashi.

Allegations that Kitagawa groomed and sexually abused minors go as far back as the 1960s.

In 1999, local magazine Shukan Bunshun published accounts from six former idols detailing alleged abuse by Kitagawa.

Most Japanese media however did not cover the allegations – prompting accusations for years of an industry cover-up.

This silence persisted even when Kitagawa lost the lawsuit he launched against the magazine, with a court finding that Shukan Bunshun had sufficient reason to publish the sexual assault allegations.

In his press conference, Mr Okamoto said he had not considered taking legal action against Johnny & Associates.

Instead he expressed hope that telling his story would inspire more victims to speak out.

“I hope everyone will come forward because it is an outrageous number of victims,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“I believe that what he did to me, performing sexual acts when I was 15, and what he did to other boys, was wrong.”

He said he had been compelled to speak out after the BBC documentary was released last month.

He first detailed his allegations to Shukan Bunshun on 5 April, and he was invited to speak at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo on Wednesday.

“Japanese media are extremely reluctant to cover this issue, but [I have heard] foreign media, like the BBC, might report on it,” he said.


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