Following the BBC’s revelation in 2023 about Johnny Kitagawa, revered as the godfather of J-pop, and his extensive history of physically abusing young boys within his talent agency, journalist Mobeen Azhar has delved into the aftermath of Japan’s largest child abuse scandal in its entertainment industry.

Johnny Kitagawa, who passed away in 2019, was hailed for his six-decade contribution to Japanese pop culture. However, his company faced dissolution following the BBC documentary’s expose.

It was replaced by a new talent agency and a company called Smile-Up, which handles abuse claims.

964 men came forward

In the documentary “The Shadow of a Predator,” available on BBC News Channel, it’s disclosed that 964 men have come forward to Smile-Up as survivors of Kitagawa’s abuse.

In an exclusive interview, Smile-Up’s CEO, Noriyuki Higashiyama, acknowledges that staff members may have perpetrated abuse along with Kitagawa himself.

Survivors who shared their stories reportedly faced condemnation and harassment, with one interview featuring the wife of a man who tragically took his own life after going public with his experience.

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Wish to pursue legal action

Higashiyama, a former talent, granted the BBC his first interview, asserting that Smile-Up’s internal investigation implicated staff besides Kitagawa. However, he expressed unawareness of survivors’ wishes to pursue legal action.

Smile-Up has been criticized for its opaque compensation process and sluggish response. Higashiyama acknowledged the criticism but emphasized the importance of supporting survivors despite his lack of formal counseling experience.

Funding counseling for survivors

Smile-Up is funding counselling for survivors indefinitely. The program also features Akimasa, a former talent who spoke out about his abuse, highlighting lingering issues within the industry.

Kitagawa’s legacy has shifted significantly post-revelations, prompting a United Nations task force investigation and legislative reforms.

However, survivors like the anonymous woman in the documentary continue to face threats and harassment, underscoring the challenges of confronting abuse in the industry.

Higashiyama acknowledged these challenges and expressed a desire to combat online abuse, aware of the tragic consequences it can lead to.