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Kitagawa victim may finally be ‘saved’ from a lifetime of misery


Junichi Kurata sighed after reading a message.

“Here we go again,” he said to himself.

The message was a response to his application for compensation from talent agency Smile-Up Inc. (formerly Johnny & Associates Inc.) for sex-abuse victims of agency founder Johnny Kitagawa.

“We have been informed there is no confirmation that you were ever affiliated with the Johnny’s talent agency,” the message said in part.

Kurata, 55, felt angry but he was not shocked.

He has faced constant disappointment in his attempts to get people to take himself and his allegations against Kitagawa seriously.

His adult life has been one long struggle of battling accusations that he is a liar and drug addiction.

The decades of pain started after he pursued his dream of stardom as a 13-year-old.


In the early 1980s, Kurata and his junior high school friend visited the office of Johnny & Associates, looking for a break in the entertainment industry.

“Wait a minute while I call the president,” a staff member said.

An hour later, Kitagawa finally showed up with Masahiko Kondo, a popular idol at the time.

Kitagawa checked out the young boy and then asked Kondo, “What do you think?”

Kondo replied, “Good, I think.”

The next day, Kurata received a call from Kitagawa. “Start coming in next week for lessons.”

He practiced dance routines with other members of the pre-debut idol group called Johnny’s Jr. He auditioned for TV dramas and movies, and even worked as a back-up dancer for Kondo and Toshihiko Tahara, another popular idol, at their shows.

Kurata also found himself increasingly spending nights at Kitagawa’s home, which was widely known as a “gasshuku-jo” (training camp).

One day, while Kurata was dozing off on a futon at Kitagawa’s home, the grown man tightly grasped Kurata, deep-kissed him, and then performed oral sex on the boy.

On another occasion, Kitagawa summoned Kurata for work at night, and then wedged his genitals between the boy’s thighs.

Kurata said such actions occurred about 30 times when he was 14 and 15.


When he was sexually abusing Kurata, Kitagawa would whisper in the boy’s ear words of encouragement for his career.

“I have a new drama project coming up,” he would say. “Since I’m with you, you’ll be fine.”

He once asked Kurata, “If you were going to form a new group, who do you think would be the best?”

Kurata said he put up with the abuse because he thought it would be futile trying to reject Kitagawa’s advances.

The ordeal confused the teenager.

Kurata said he had a good time accompanying Kitagawa to dinners and movies, and he wondered why he did not hate his molester at all times.

The boy became more distressed, and he could not tell anyone about what Kitagawa was doing to him. He gradually lost interest in the show-business lessons and even declined Kitagawa’s invitations to his home.

On one spring day when he was 15 years old, Kurata heard another Johnny’s Jr. member calling Kitagawa and asking, “Can we come over to (your home) now?”

Kurata burst into tears. Instead of going to the gasshuku-jo, he headed to the train station. In fact, he never visited Kitagawa’s home again.

The molestation had already caused psychological damage.

Later, whenever Kurata held hands or had sex with a woman, he was reminded of Kitagawa’s touch. He sometimes reflexively let go of the woman’s hand and even vomited.

Kurata said he could not seek help from a doctor because he feared he would be forced to talk about the sexual abuse. He also could not tell his mother because she was very frail.

Kurata was 16 years old when he began taking over-the-counter medications, including painkillers and cough medicine, to escape reality.

Although the overdoses dangerously rendered him unconscious, he did not have to think about Kitagawa in that state.

He soon quit high school and moved from one part-time job to another.


When he was 21, Kurata read an article about Koji Kita, a former member of Johnny’s idol group Four Leaves, who had published a book describing his “sexual relationship” with Kitagawa.

Kurata rushed to a bookstore and bought the book, “Hikaru Genji e.”

He was shocked by the graphic details of the sexual abuse. The book was difficult to read because he had also experienced what Kita endured.

But Kurata was encouraged by the fact that the famous idol “is also struggling with the same suffering.”

Kurata contacted the publisher and was told that Kita would be performing live.

After Kurata arrived at the venue, Kita looked at him and said, “You’re on drugs, aren’t you?”

He told Kurata: “Stop it. I’ll help you.”

Kita brought Kurata on the stage, where he stammered and spoke for about 10 minutes about being sexually abused. Kurata still vividly remembers the audience falling silent.


Kurata tried to revive his entertainment career by working with Kita in live shows.

“Hikaru Genji e” sold well, and Kita’s second published book featured Kurata’s account of Kitagawa’s abuse.

Kurata also appeared in a video version of “Hikaru Genji e.” He was the first former Johnny’s Jr. member to come forward about being molested by Kitagawa.

Junya Hiramoto, a senior member of Johnny’s Jr., had invited Kurata to give testimony in the video.

Kurata, Hiramoto and others started a group called New Four Leaves, which was later renamed New Hikaru Genji and was also known as Shadow.

They held a series of live performances, attracting crowds of up to 1,000.

Kita’s second book with Kurata’s experiences also sold well.

However, from 1989 to the early 1990s, Kurata received no requests for interviews from major media outlets. Only magazines and sports papers reported on the issue once in a while.

Kurata contacted the Johnny & Associates office, requesting a meeting in an attempt for closure. But his effort was in vain.

Passer-by asked him about his past, “Is it true?”

Others told him, “You are just after money, aren’t you?” One person even hit him with a can.

“If the facts had been acknowledged at the time, the number of (Kitagawa’s) victims might not have increased so much,” Kurata said. “I was really disappointed and frustrated that the world didn’t pay attention to us.”

The New Hikaru Genji members felt that whatever they said about the industry giant would end in futility. They could no longer bear the unchanging situation, and the group disbanded.


Kurata started using drugs again, which prevented him from working at times, and was feeding his addiction when Kitagawa died in 2019 at age 87.

Kurata finally got clean again in 2021.

“I felt I was on the edge of life and death, and I was just trying to live day by day. I’m amazed that I’ve survived this long,” he said.

In March 2023, the BBC aired a program about Kitagawa’s abuse. A number of his victims, using their real names, began coming forward about what they had endured.

In August that year, a working group of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council criticized Japan for its lack of transparency concerning Kitagawa’s sexual assaults.

Kurata saw Hiramoto shedding tears on TV. His former colleague in New Hikaru Genji had continued to fight for justice.

“I can’t let one person carry the burden anymore,” Kurata said he thought.

In October, Kurata emailed Hiramoto, who currently heads the Johnny’s Sexual Assault Victims Association.

“It’s been a long time, but I still remember how we spoke together 35 years ago about the issue of today. I am really sorry for not being able to support you at the first opportunity for some reason. I hope the wind continues to blow in the right direction,” Kurata wrote.


Kurata also learned about the recent suicide of a former idol who said he had been sexually abused by Kitagawa. Online posts had accused the victim of lying about his past and only seeking money from the agency.

In light of his own similar experiences, Kurata said he hopes to hold discussions with other Kitagawa victims to let them know they are not alone in the struggle.

Kurata filed a complaint with Smile-Up’s victims’ relief committee, seeking compensation and an apology.

The rejection he received in the message from Smile-Up may have been the result of the loose contractual arrangements and informal hiring procedures at the agency decades ago.

“I have not had a single good thing in my life since I became a victim of sexual abuse,” he said. “I suffered, I struggled, and I am still fighting.”

To prove he was indeed part of the “Johnny’s family,” Kurata newly submitted to the agency details about the location of the lessons he took and about his dance instructors. He also provided pictures taken at concerts where he performed and other related locations.

And he used his real name in this interview with The Asahi Shimbun to back his claims.

Kurata now senses a different trend from the earlier time when he and other victims tried to take on Kitagawa and his powerful agency.

“I am now looking forward, believing that I may finally be saved,” he said.

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