Japanese entertainment industry mogul Johnny Kitagawa died at the age of 87.
For more than five decades, the agency he founded Johnny & Associates turned multiple bands into household names such as SMAP, Arashi and KAT-TUN.
The artists he made famous also became TV show celebrities.
He died at a hospital in Tokyo after suffering a stroke.
On 18 Jun, Kitagawa collapsed and was admitted to the hospital but the news was kept secret.
He spent his final days with his trainees whom he fondly calls “his children”.
“His final curtain came down with him wrapped in the love of his beloved children,” said a statement from his office.
From the year 1974 and 2010, Kitagawa was responsible for 232 number one singles.
The Guinness World Records recognised Kitagawa for the most number one singles, the most number one artists and the most concerts produced by an individual.
He rarely made public appearances or interviews and he never let anyone photograph him.
Kitagawa was born in Los Angeles in 1931 and as a child he returned to Japan with his family.
He broke into show business in 1962 with a groundbreaking four-man pop group called Johnny’s.
Kitagawa challenged cultural norms such as creating boybands at a time when dancing was not seen as acceptable for men.
His trainees then progressed to star in TV programmes and his talent agency eventually grew to become the most powerful in Japan and had a virtual monopoly on the lucrative boy band market.
Japanese magazine the Shukan Bunshun published a series of articles in 1999 accusing him of sexually abusing several boys at his agency.
He denied all the charges and launched a libel suit against the magazine which he won though that judgement was later partially overturned.
He was never charged with any crime.
The hashtag #ThankyouMrJohnny started trending on Twitter in Japan almost immediately after Kitagawa’s death was reported, with fans of his boybands expressing gratitude.
Since he founded his agency in 1962, he became the kingpin of Japan’s entertainment industry.
While Johnny Kitagawa himself always remained behind the scenes and never allowed a camera to film him, J-Pop groups that he created touched the Japanese public across generations, and he was known for his ability to spot talent.
But he was also a controversial figure. There were repeated allegations of power harassment and sexual abuse though none were ever proven.
And because his agency dominated the industry, Johnny Kitagawa was almost untouchable as no one in Japan’s mainstream media dared to upset his powerful agency. -/TISG
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