Scandal-hit male talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc. said Monday it will change its name and establish a new firm to manage its performers in a bid to distance itself from late namesake founder Johnny Kitagawa, revealing that 325 of his sexual abuse victims have requested compensation.

Johnny's will be renamed "Smile-Up." from Oct. 17 and will oversee the provision of redress to the victims of Kitagawa's sexual abuse, the agency's president Noriyuki Higashiyama said at a press conference.

The 57-year-old veteran performer, who will remain as president of the renamed firm, said a committee established to oversee the redress has so far received consultations from a total of 478 people.

"Some people may have reservations about the word 'smile,' but we consider it Smile-Up.'s social responsibility to first proceed with support and compensation for victims as soon as possible," said Higashiyama. The agency said the name derives from a philanthropy project launched in 2018.

Noriyuki Higashiyama (R), president of Johnny & Associates Inc., and Yoshihiko Inohara, president of the agency's subsidiary Johnnys' Island, hold a press conference in Tokyo on Oct. 2, 2023. (Kyodo)

Kitagawa's niece Julie Keiko Fujishima, who acknowledged her uncle's sexual abuse and resigned as president last month, will remain as a director of the renamed firm while retaining 100 percent ownership "to provide compensation beyond what is legally required," Higashiyama added.

The renamed firm will close down once it has completed providing compensation to victims, which is set to start in November.

"I believe closing down Johnny's is something I must do as a relative of the perpetrator. I want to erase every trace of Johnny Kitagawa from this world," Fujishima said in a letter read by Yoshihiko Inohara, president of the agency's subsidiary Johnnys' Island.

All group companies and acts featuring a reference to the name "Johnny's" will also undergo a name change, Higashiyama said.

The new talent management firm to be established within a month will also be headed by Higashiyama, with Inohara to serve as vice president. Johnny's will ask its fan clubs to come up with the name for the new agency.

"Performers or groups who wish to sign with the new agency can do so. Under this system, they will have the freedom to pursue their own career paths without being restricted or entirely dependent on the company," said Higashiyama.

Johnny's said the same day that Junichi Okada, who was a member of the now-disbanded male idol group V6, has decided to leave the agency at the end of November, citing reasons related to the scandal.

Yasushi Hashida, one of the firm's former performers who alleged he was sexually abused by Kitagawa as a teen and now an actor, said that the measures were "a step toward a fresh start" and that the establishment of a new agency would "protect performers and groups seen as 'former Johnny's' people."

There was a mixed response to the measures among fans, with some expressing a sense of loss over the disappearance of a familiar name, while others questioned whether the changes were superficial.

"I can't help but feel the name change is simply an attempt to calm the situation, and that there should be changes to the internal structure," said Hirose Kinjo, a 42-year-old fan from Kitakyushu, southwestern Japan, who has been a supporter of Johnny's groups for over 30 years.

Prior to the press conference, the agency disclosed on its website a human rights policy that promised to ensure the protection of minors and the appointment of lawyer Masayuki Yamada as chief compliance officer.

Other preventative measures include the establishment of a new department responsible for internal audits on Sept. 30, and plans to have external directors hold exclusive meetings among themselves.

The firm also pledged to hold board meetings once a month in principle and continue engaging with the media.

But Kazuko Ito, vice president of Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization Human Rights Now, said the measures were "too little, too late."

"While it is commendable that (the firm) has established a human rights policy, its content does not seem commensurate with the severity of the serious harm that has occurred in this instance," Ito said, adding that ongoing societal oversight will be necessary to ensure the policies will be effectively implemented.

Higashiyama took over as president following Fujishima's resignation, but the agency's decision to retain its name had drawn criticism from victims and companies using its performers for advertising campaigns.

Kitagawa was one of the Japanese entertainment industry's most powerful figures, propelling numerous groups such as SMAP and Arashi to stardom before his death in 2019.

After a BBC documentary aired in March featuring interviews with multiple people who claimed to have been sexually abused by the pop mogul, several former agency members came forward with additional accusations of abuse suffered during their teenage years.

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Victim says new Johnny's head apologized for founder's sexual abuse