The new president of Japan's top male talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc. has directly apologized to one of the firm's former performers who came forward with an allegation that the company's late founder sexually abused him when he was a teen.

"I'm sorry for the deep pain (we've) caused you," Noriyuki Higashiyama, 56, told Yasushi Hashida on Thursday. Hashida, now a dancer and actor, revealed the apology in a message posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, the same day.

Hashida, 38, said he had hoped to reunite with Higashiyama, a veteran TV personality long represented by the entertainment giant, under different circumstances but he was "struck the most" by the words of gratitude he received.


Hashida said Higashiyama thanked him for "the chance to confront (the past) and change," and added those remarks "offered me some healing."

At the time the abuse is alleged to have taken place, Hashida 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. He has claimed he was sexually assaulted two times when he was about 13 by Johnny Kitagawa, who died in 2019 at 87.

The allegations surrounding Kitagawa garnered international attention after the BBC aired a documentary in March. Several other former members of the agency have since come forward with allegations of sexual abuse by Kitagawa when they were teens.

Earlier this month, Higashiyama, who himself has been forced to deny allegations of sexual abuse, took over as agency president after Julie Keiko Fujishima, niece of Kitagawa, stepped down after acknowledging her uncle's sexual abuse and the agency's lack of action to stop it.

The agency has set up a committee to oversee redress for victims and will report on Oct. 2 the results of its discussions.

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