Scandal-hit male talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc. has discussed changing its name to distance itself from its late namesake founder, the company said Tuesday, as it attempts to repair the reputational damage caused by decades of sexual abuse of aspiring teen pop singers by Johnny Kitagawa.
After acknowledging Kitagawa's sexual abuse, his niece Julie Keiko Fujishima stepped down as president on Sept. 5, but the agency's initial decision to keep its name has brought criticism from not just victims but also companies using the agency's performers in advertising campaigns.
An increasing number of major Japanese companies have already moved to review contracts with Johnny's after the abuse came to light, including ending or suspending the use of the agency's performers.
Noriyuki Higashiyama, a veteran TV personality who took over as new president, said in a statement on Tuesday the agency will report the results of its discussions on Oct. 2, including those on the company name, the company's ownership structure and steps to provide redress for the victims.
"We have held discussions from various perspectives and reached an agreement on the policy we should go with," a statement from Higashiyama, who himself has been forced to deny allegations of sexual abuse, said following a board meeting.
Whether the agency will change its name has been a topic of much discussion among fans, as several popular groups incorporate Johnny's into their name.
One victim, Yasunobu Shiga, is strongly in favor of a name change due to the pain Kitagawa caused.
"The name 'Johnny's' should not even exist given the extent of sexual abuse that occurred," Shiga said earlier.
On Oct. 2, the agency, which has set up a committee to oversee redress for victims, will also announce a new management structure.
An external probe set up by the agency in response to media reports detailing sexual abuse allegations against Kitagawa concluded the company had concealed the late founder's actions from the early 1970s through to the mid-2010s.
The probe also cited Fujishima's late mother, who was also Kitagawa's older sister, as a major factor in the long-term coverup of sexual abuse at the firm.
Fujishima, who owns 100 percent of Johnny's, expressed her intention to discuss her stake with the new management after acknowledging the conflict of interest her involvement creates.
Kitagawa was one of the most revered figures in Japan's entertainment industry, propelling numerous groups such as SMAP and Arashi to stardom before he died in 2019.
After a BBC documentary aired in March featuring interviews with multiple people claiming to have been abused by Kitagawa, several former members of the agency came forward with more allegations of sexual abuse by him when they were teens.
A U.N. human rights delegation interviewed multiple alleged victims in Japan and released a statement in early August, urging the Japanese government to lead efforts to conduct a transparent investigation and support sex abuse victims.