Several major Japanese brands, including Nissan and Asahi, are severing ties with Johnny and Associates, the country’s largest talent agency, in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the entertainment industry.
These firms have announced that they will not renew contracts with Johnny and Associates, signaling their disapproval of the agency’s association with the scandal.
Toyota, which had previously contracted with one of Johnny’s top stars, confirmed to the BBC that it had no intentions of entering into any more agreements involving Johnny talents.
Japan’s agriculture ministry has also declared its decision to cease hiring stars associated with the agency.
Johnny and Associates, renowned as Japan’s biggest J-pop and boyband talent agency, faced an independent investigation last month. The investigation revealed that the agency’s late founder, Johnny Kitagawa, had sexually abused hundreds of boys and young men over a career spanning six decades.
The scandal garnered significant attention after a BBC documentary about Kitagawa was broadcast in March. The documentary prompted a national debate and led to more J-pop stars sharing their experiences of abuse.
Public pressure culminated in the resignation of Julie Fujishima, Kitagawa’s niece, who had assumed leadership of Johnny & Associates upon her uncle’s death in 2019. Fujishima acknowledged the sexual abuse committed by her uncle in a public statement.
Following Fujishima’s resignation, Asahi Group Holdings, a prominent drinks company, withdrew ongoing television and online advertisements featuring the agency’s stars. Asahi’s president, Atsushi Katsuki, explained the decision by stating, “We should not book sales, even one yen, at the expense of human rights.”
Other major brands followed suit in distancing themselves from the talent agency. Nissan Motors cited Johnny & Associates’ conduct that contradicted their Human Rights Policy Statement as the reason for suspending new sales promotion materials involving the agency.
Critics have raised concerns about the agency’s new leader, Noriyuki Higashiyama, who faces allegations of sexually assaulting young boys. Questions have also emerged regarding the agency’s choice to retain the name of a sexual predator.
Until his passing, Johnny Kitagawa remained a celebrated figure in Japan, holding world records for the most number-one artists, singles, and concerts produced by an individual. However, Guinness World Records recently removed his achievements from its official website in light of the investigation.
A United Nations working group visiting Japan last month called for a “transparent and legitimate investigation with a clear timeline” and accused the country’s mainstream media of remaining silent about the alleged abuse for decades.
The scandal has shifted public opinion, resulting in growing pressure on TV shows to remove Johnny’s stars from their programming. Many companies are also delaying decisions on whether to sponsor their shows.
Furthermore, some artists previously represented by Johnny and Associates have chosen to switch to other agencies.