Iconic Japanese filmmaker and comedian Takeshi Kitano said Wednesday the country's entertainment industry has always tended to treat performers as commodities, with its traditional hierarchical structure often facilitating abuse of power.

Reflecting on the sexual abuse scandal involving the late Johnny Kitagawa, as well as the recent suspected suicide of a Takarazuka musical theater actress, Kitano, 76, said that since long ago, entering the Japanese entertainment world "was seen as something in which bad treatment happens."

Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano attends a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on Nov. 15, 2023, ahead of the release of his upcoming movie "Kubi." (Kyodo)

"For myself as well, from the time I entered the field of comedy and entertainment here in Japan, there have been periods where it was not possible to laugh," Kitano, known by his stage name Beat Takeshi, said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo.

Kitano, who has long worked with members of the male talent agency founded by Kitagawa, said that back then, various rumors were heard and it was thought that such things could happen when one enters that world.

Asked about the controversy over the all-female musical theater company Takarazuka Revue, the veteran comedian said there are still organizations where its members are under pressure to vie for good roles.

But Kitano added that the Japanese entertainment industry is in a state of transition, with things gradually improving, although much work to "remove these dark sides" still needs to be done.

Kitano spoke at the club ahead of next week's release of his film "Kubi," which depicts the events surrounding the assassination of 16th-century Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga during Japan's warring Sengoku period.

The film -- written, directed and starring Kitano -- delves into more "muddy relationships" that Japanese television and mainstream media often shy away from, said Kitano, who made his directorial debut in 1989.

"The Sengoku period of Japan was not only a time of beautiful things. Particularly, what has not been shown is the portrayal of relationships between men at that time, including homosexual relationships," he said.

Kitano's popular works include crime drama "Hana-Bi," which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1997, and "Zatoichi," for which he received the Silver Lion for Best Direction at the same festival in 2003.

Kitano, who appeared in the 1983 war film "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence," received the Legion of Honor, France's most prestigious award in 2016. In April 2022, he also received the Golden Mulberry, a lifetime achievement award, at the Far East Film Festival held in Italy.

"When I look back now, I feel a sense of ease or achievement in the fact that I am here and have been a part of this world for this long," he added.

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