A man who belonged to an association for victims of sexual abuse by Johnny Kitagawa, the late founder of Japan's top male talent agency previously known as Johnny & Associates Inc., has died in a possible case of suicide, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
The man in his 40s was found dead in the western Japan prefecture of Osaka in mid-October, the sources said. His death comes amid a barrage of online slander against the group, with some former members of the agency having filed complaints with police in response.
The man, a resident of Osaka city, was found in the mountains in Minoo alongside what is believed to be a suicide note. He had claimed to have been sexually abused by Kitagawa.
Junya Hiramoto, a representative for the association, previously said that the group had received torrents of online abuse since it was formed, amounting to "no less than tens of thousands" of cases. He filed a complaint with the police in October.
Also among those who have filed complaints to the police in recent months include Kyohei Iida, a former member of idol group Kis-My-Ft2, and Akimasa Nihongi, one of two people who first proposed establishing the group.
Since publicly speaking out earlier this year, Nihongi has since received around 100 abusive messages online, calling him a "liar" or framing his actions as a "publicity stunt."
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 inflicted upon them during their teenage years.
An external probe set up by the company that concluded in August found Kitagawa had sexually abused teens aspiring to become pop singers for decades.
In September, the agency admitted to decades of sexual abuse by Kitagawa.
Over 300 people have since sought compensation from the firm, which was renamed Smile-Up Inc. in October to distance itself from its namesake.
Emergency service in Japan: 119
If you are having suicidal thoughts, help is available.
For Japan, call Yorisoi Hotline at 0120279338 (toll-free). Press 2 after the recorded message for consultation in English, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese, Nepali, or Indonesian. The service in these languages is also available on Facebook messenger.
For those outside Japan, you can find a list of other resources here.