In this week’s news roundup we report on the sexual abuse allegations made against the late music mogul Johnny Kitagawa by former Johnny’s Jr. member Kauan Okamoto. The Japanese Brazilian singer, 26, claims he was assaulted by the Johnny & Associates, Inc. founder more than 15 times when he was a teenager. Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) on Wednesday, he said he hopes “other victims will come forward, all of them.” Sexual assault allegations against Kitagawa, who died in 2019, first appeared in the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun in 1999. Last month, the BBC premiered Predator: The Scandal of J-Pop, a documentary exposing Kitagawa’s abusive past.
Also this week, we have the latest on the Japanese GSDF helicopter that went missing near Miyako Island last Thursday. There’s another North Korean ballistic missile launch, leading to an evacuation notice in Hokkaido. Thirty years after it was introduced, Japan’s controversial foreign technical intern program is set to be scrapped. Hirokazu Koreeda receives his seventh Palme d’Or nomination and Haruki Murakami releases his long-awaited 15th novel, The City and Its Uncertain Walls. In sport, Takuma Inoue wins the WBA bantamweight title vacated by his brother, Shohei Ohtani enjoys another stellar week and Kyogo Furuhashi shines for Celtic in the Old Firm derby.
Ex-Johnny’s Jr. Singer Alleges Kitagawa Molested Him Between 15 and 20 Times
Kauan Okamoto was just 15 when he joined Johnny & Associates in February 2012. He became a member of Johhny’s Jr., consisting of young boys only. It was supposed to be a dream come true. Instead, it turned into a nightmare. Okamoto told reporters at the FCCJ on Wednesday that he was sexually assaulted between 15 and 20 times by the talent agency’s head honcho, Johnny Kitagawa, before he left the organization in 2016. Recalling the first time it happened at one of Kitagawa’s penthouses, he says he was told by Kitagawa that he should go to bed early. Other members allegedly knew what this meant.
“I thought I would be fine as there were three beds, which meant other Johnny’s Jr. members would be in the room,” said Okamoto. “Johnny-san came in and began massaging my feet before his hands gradually moved up. He felt my genitals through my underwear, then took my pants off and touched my genitals directly. After that, he proceeded to perform oral sex on me. During the entire time, I pretended to be asleep.” Okamoto believes most of the boys who stayed at Kitagawa’s penthouse were victims. He estimates that between 100 and 200 stayed there on rotation during his four years with the agency.
Search Goes on for Missing GSDF Members
It’s been more than a week since the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) chopper went missing near Okinawa’s Miyako Island. As of Thursday afternoon, the 10 people aboard the helicopter were still unaccounted for. However, on Friday morning, a government source said that search and rescue crews had discovered what are believed to be several bodies in the water. Earlier in the week, there was a report of what appeared to be a body floating in the sea near Irabu Island. Despite the GSDF sending out rubber boats to search, nothing was found. The cause of the crash remains unknown.
The Japanese defense ministry, meanwhile, dismissed claims suggesting that Chinese forces shot down the helicopter. Rumors started to spread after a lawmaker posed a question to Minister of Defense Yasukazu Hamada about China’s potential involvement last Friday. The Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong was spotted in Okinawa for the first time on April 5. The helicopter went missing at 3:56pm the following day. A senior ministry official told The Asahi Shimbun there was no possibility the helicopter was downed by a missile as no flying object was detected, no loud explosion was reported and there was no debris from the chopper on the surface of the water.
Evacuation Notice Issued in Hokkaido as North Korea Launch Another Missile
Citizens in Hokkaido were given a fright on Thursday morning as they were told to take cover due to a missile from North Korea. “Evacuate immediately. Immediately evacuate inside the building or underground. The missile is expected to fall around Hokkaido at approximately 8am,” the warning read. Thirty minutes later, the alert was withdrawn. At just after 9am, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed that the missile landed outside Japan’s territorial waters. It’s not the first time there’s been an issue with the J-Alert system. Last October, a warning was mistakenly sent to nine towns and villages on Tokyo’s Izu and Ogasawara islands.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno defended the government’s decision to send the alert at a press conference on Thursday. He told reporters it was an “appropriate” response based on the limited information they had at the time and once they were sure the missile wouldn’t be falling near Hokkaido, they updated the warning. Matsuno went on to describe North Korea’s actions as “outrageous” and “totally unacceptable.” According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, it was a medium- or longer-range ballistic missile that flew eastward. Leaving Pyongyang at approximately 7:23am, it traveled for around 1,000 kilometers before dropping in the water.
Controversial Foreign Technical Intern Program to be Scrapped
A Justice Ministry panel released a draft proposal on Monday recommending the abolition of the controversial trainee program for foreigners. Introduced in 1993, the program started out with the aim of developing the technical skills of individuals from developing countries. Critics, however, feel interns are simply being exploited for cheap labor. They often have to work long hours in poor conditions for low wages. The general feeling is that their human rights are being ignored. The panel, therefore, plans to replace the current system with a new one that recognizes interns as workers and provides them with greater protection against exploitation.
While details of the proposed new system remain unknown, it’s expected to relax the rules in regard to whether a trainee is permitted to switch companies, which is currently prohibited. As a result, many interns, often in debt due to low wages, disappear or work illegally. “My hope is that the review of the system will help Japan move in the direction of creating an inclusive society full of diversity and energy, becoming a place where human rights of all people are protected,” said Akihiko Tanaka, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). He added that the goal was to release a final report this coming fall.
Koreeda’s Film Monster Nominated for Palme d’Or
The Official Selection lineup for the 76th Cannes Film Festival was announced on Thursday. Among the 19 contenders vying for the Palme d’Or this year is Monster, the latest movie by Japanese auteur Hirokazu Koreeda. Based on Yuji Sakamoto’s screenplay, the story depicts a search for a “monster” from the perspective of a mother, a teacher and two children with a secret. This is the seventh time Koreeda has been nominated for the top prize. He won it for Shoplifters in 2018. Competing against him are the likes of Wes Anderson, Ken Loach and Wim Wenders, whose Tokyo-set drama, Perfect Days, stars Koji Yakusho.
The last Japanese movie to make a splash at the prestigious film festival in France was, of course, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car. The three-hour masterpiece was adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami, who on Thursday released his much-anticipated 15th novel. The City and Its Uncertain Walls officially went on sale at midnight at Kinokuniya’s flagship store in Shinjuku. Around 70 fans waited outside, desperate to get their hands on the book. The title is similar to a novella by Murakami that appeared in the literary magazine Bungakukai in 1980. The release date for an English translation has yet to be announced.
Inoue Claims Brother’s Former Title
Japanese boxer Takuma Inoue defeated Venezuela’s Liborio Solis on Saturday to claim the WBA bantamweight title. The belt had been vacated by Takuma’s brother, Naoya Inoue, who recently moved up to the super bantamweight division. “I’m so relieved that I captured the first of the four belts my brother relinquished. I’ll continue to work hard to achieve my goal of unifying the four,” Inoue said. Earlier in the evening, Tenshin Nasukawa made his eagerly awaited boxing debut against Yuki Yonaha in the super bantamweight division. The left-hander, who went 42 bouts undefeated as a kickboxer, won in the sixth round.
In international soccer, Kyogo Furuhashi bagged a brace as Celtic defeated Rangers 3-2 in the Old Firm derby. Takefusa Kubo grabbed his sixth of the campaign in Real Sociedad’s 2-0 victory over Getafe. There were also goals for Keito Nakamura (LASK), Hiroki Ito (Stuttgart) and Yuki Soma (Casa Pia). In Major League Baseball, Shohei Ohtani produced a masterful display on the mound as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Washington Nationals 2-0. He allowed just one hit over seven innings. Earlier in the week, he hit a two-run homer off compatriot Yusei Kikuchi. His team, however, lost to the Toronto Blue Jays.