Kauan Okamoto, a performer formerly represented by Japan's top male talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc. who has said he was sexually abused by its late founder, said Friday the company's apology to victims has put his mind somewhat "at ease."

But the 27-year-old Japanese-Brazilian singer and songwriter said his "scars" will not quickly heal and that the company needs to support sexual abuse victims throughout their ordeal, speaking at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo.

In the first press conference held by the agency since the allegations against founder Johnny Kitagawa were widely reported by the media earlier this year, the company said Thursday that his niece Julie Keiko Fujishima has stepped down as president and acknowledged that he sexually abused aspiring teenage pop singers for decades.

Musician Kauan Okamoto, a former Johnny's Jr. member who claims he was sexually assaulted by late J-pop mogul Johnny Kitagawa, speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on Sept. 8, 2023, the day after the Japanese talent agency apologized for its founder's sex abuse scandal. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Okamoto said he was "surprised" the agency plans to keep its name unchanged despite the damaging scandal.

"I think it will be rather negative to maintain the name Johnny's," he said.

Noriyuki Higashiyama, a veteran TV personality long represented by the agency and who took over as president, argued Thursday that rather than representing the late founder, the name Johnny's "more importantly expresses the energy and pride that talents have cultivated over the years."

Fujishima said she would remain as a representative director "to fulfill my responsibility of providing redress for the victims."

Okamoto brought forward his case in a press conference in April, saying he had been abused by Kitagawa 15 to 20 times between 2012 and 2016 when he was still a member of the agency.

Okamoto at the time was part of Johnny's Jr., a talent pool of male idols in training who had yet to make their debut in a group or solo act.

Kitagawa was one of the most revered figures in Japan's entertainment industry, propelling numerous groups such as SMAP, Arashi and Hey! Say! JUMP to stardom before his death in 2019.

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