The chairman of Japan's all-female musical theater company Takarazuka Revue said Tuesday he will step down over the recent death of one of its actresses, who a lawyer said committed suicide due to overwork and bullying within her troupe.

Kenshi Koba apologized to the bereaved family of the 25-year-old actress at a press conference "for not being able to protect the life of your precious loved one," but said an external probe team set up to investigate her death has found no evidence of bullying.

But the team acknowledged the possibility that the actress was under a "strong psychological burden" just prior to her death, the company told the press conference held in its base of Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture and presented a series of proposed measures to improve working conditions.

Koba said he will resign on Dec. 1 to take responsibility for the oversight in the group's duty of care.

Kenshi Koba, chairman of the musical theater group Takarazuka Revue, is pictured at a press conference in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, on Nov. 14, 2023. (Kyodo)

The findings come as a lawyer representing the family said last week that the actress' suicide had been caused by overworking and bullying by senior members of the group, demanding an apology and compensation from the company and its operator, Hankyu Corp.

The lawyer, Hiroshi Kawahito, called for a reassessment of the report that claimed no bullying occurred, citing its "inappropriate recognition of facts and evaluation."

He also criticized the report for viewing the harsh scolding by senior members toward the actress as being within the scope of guidance, saying that it reflected "thinking based on outdated values" such as hierarchical relationships.

The actress was found dead on the premises of her condominium on the morning of Sept. 30 in what police called a suspected suicide.

The company's outside probe team, comprising mainly lawyers, has been investigating the circumstances surrounding her death, including conducting interviews with other members of the Cosmos troupe to which she belonged.

It found that the group's tight performance schedule had led to a situation where the mental and physical well-being of the actresses was being compromised amid a lack of oversight.

But Kawahito said the report had underestimated the overtime the actress had clocked in the last month before her death at 118 hours.

Her family asserts that excessive overtime of 277 hours per month and bullying had compromised her health and led to her suicide.

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

Related coverage:

Takarazuka theater actress' suicide due to overwork, bullying: lawyer