Musician Kauan Okamoto claims talent manager attacked him

TOKYO (AP) — When Johnny Kitagawa told one of the boys staying at his luxury home to go to bed early, everyone knew “it’s your turn.”

That was among memories shared by then-15-year-old musician Kauan Okamoto on Wednesday of allegedly being sexually assaulted by Kitagawa, a powerful figure in the Japanese entertainment world. The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of alleged sexual assault, but Okamoto has chosen to identify himself in the media.

Okamoto was part of the replacement boy group Johnny’s Jr., which also acted as a talent pool for Johnny & Associates, a talent agency that managed male idol actors and singers.

He remembered the sound of Kitagawa’s slippers slapping down the hallway. He rolled over in bed and feigned sleep. Sometimes Kitagawa would hand him a 10,000 yen ($100) bill the next morning when no one was looking, like in the elevator, Okamoto said.

That lasted four years, beginning in 2012 and lasting until Okamoto left Johnny & Associates.

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Okamoto’s encounters with Kitagawa began when he sent a video of him singing Justin Bieber’s “Baby” from a modeling agency to a manager in Kitagawa’s office. He was invited to a concert in Tokyo and then to Kitagawa’s house.

“I hope everyone comes forward because it’s an outrageous number of casualties,” he told reporters from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Tokyo.

Okamoto, 26, estimated dozens of people were chosen by Kitagawa as his “favorites” — those he saw as talented — to stay at his home, where the alleged abuse took place. The scandal surfaced after a BBC documentary ‘Predator’ aired worldwide in March, in which several victims came forward.

Shukan Bunshun, a Japanese news magazine, first reported on the scandal in 1999. Over the years, much of mainstream Japanese society has had a muted response. Still as a company, Johnny’s is behind some of Japan’s biggest stars including SMAP, KinKi Kids and Arashi.

Okamoto said he has not considered any legal action. He just hoped his story would be recognized.

“Those are facts. Instead of denying these facts, I hope people will respect and support us,” he told reporters.

The Foreign Correspondents Club invited Johnny’s to speak and address the allegations, but received no response. Johnny’s also did not respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment.

Being liked by Kitagawa is a must if you want to succeed in Japanese entertainment, and many young artists have wanted to be invited to his penthouse in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, Okamoto said.

Okamoto said he owed a lot to Kitagawa, whom he called “Johnny-san,” always adding the honor. Like many of the other victims, he did not tell his parents, nor did he openly dislike Kitagawa.

“We were children. We just laughed about it,” Okamoto said.

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