In this week’s news roundup, we report on Johnny & Associates’ press conference as the scandal-hit talent agency rebrands as Smile-Up. The consulting firm that handled the event, though, wasn’t too keen on giving the floor to certain journalists to ask questions in the subsequent Q&A session. Also this week, the Supreme Court upholds Japan’s ban on dual citizenship and the yen briefly drops below the 150-mark to the dollar. In sport, Sapporo looks set to abandon its 2030 Winter Olympics bid. Daiki Hashimoto leads Team Japan to gold and wins the individual all-around event at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. And Shohei Ohtani is crowned the American League’s home run king.  

Johnny’s Rebrands as Smile-Up 

Johnny & Associates is no more. Well, in name at least. The notorious talent agency formed by Johnny Kitagawa in 1962, is, from October 17, to be known as Smile-Up. However, the role of this newly titled organization is purely to identify and compensate victims who were sexually abused by its founder. Another, separate company will be established to manage its performers. Former President Julie K. Fujishima won’t be involved. The new name will be chosen from a list of suggestions made by Johnny & Associates fan club members.  

“Everything with the name Johnny will disappear,” said President Noriyuki Higashiyama at a press conference on Monday. It means popular groups such as Kanjani Eight and Johnny’s West will also have to be renamed. “These names have been loved by many fans, so I think the group members must be torn and made a tough decision,” added the former Shonentai member. As of September 30, the agency has received reports from 478 sexual abuse victims. Of them, 325 are seeking compensation. Payouts will be determined on a case-by-case basis.  

The Johnny & Associates sign has already been removed

Journalist ‘Blacklist’ Prepared Prior to Press Conference  

Around 300 members of the media attended the two-hour long press conference. They were given the opportunity to pose some questions to the panel, featuring Higashiyama, Johnny’s Island President Yoshihiko Inohara and two lawyers, once all the announcements had been made. The facilitator then explained that one question was allowed per company. The situation soon became chaotic, though, as some reporters repeatedly asked questions, while others asked them without being called. Some protested because they weren’t given the chance to speak despite raising their hands. 

It was later revealed that the consulting firm handling the press conference prepared a “blacklist” of journalists not to be called upon to ask questions. The PR company apologized on Thursday, stating that the list had been written to ensure the event could run smoothly within the time limit. It added that Johnny & Associates had not been involved in compiling the names. Inohara reportedly raised concerns about the list in a meeting. “We definitely must let (all journalists) ask questions,” his agency quoted him as saying. 

Top Court Upholds Ban on Dual Citizenship  

The Japanese Supreme Court this week dismissed an appeal by eight plaintiffs that challenged the country’s ban on dual citizenship. According to Article 11 of the Nationality Law, “If a Japanese citizen acquires the citizenship of a foreign country at their own choice, that Japanese citizen loses Japanese nationality.” In 2018, eight individuals who were born in Japan, but reside in Europe took legal action against the government here, claiming that the law goes against the constitution, which guarantees freedom of all persons to “divest themselves of their nationality.” 

Speaking at a press conference in 2018, Hitoshi Nogawa, one of the plaintiffs who was forced to give up his nationality when he obtained Swiss citizenship due to job requirements, described the law as being “out of touch with the real world.” The Tokyo District Court refuted his claims, though, ruling the ban on dual citizenship as constitutional in January 2021. That ruling has since been upheld by both the High Court and the Supreme Court. Since 1985, more than 25,000 Japanese have renounced their citizenship. 

Depreciation of the yen continues

Yen Briefly Falls Below 150-Mark Against the Dollar  

For the first time since October 2022, the yen fell below the psychological 150-mark against the dollar on Tuesday. It then staged a comeback, jumping nearly 2% to a high of 147.30 on the same day. This led to speculation among traders that the Japanese government may have intervened again to support the currency. Authorities here, however, remained tight-lipped on the subject. “Currency rates ought to move stably driven by markets, reflecting fundamentals. Sharp moves are undesirable,” said Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki.  

“The government is watching market developments very carefully. We’re ready to take necessary action against excess volatility, without ruling out any options,” he added. The sustained depreciation of the yen has led to Japanese companies shifting production overseas. It has also meant that there’s a heavy reliance on imported goods. This has increased the pressure on authorities here to step in and halt the slide. Last September and October, the Japanese government intervened to prop up the yen for the first time in 24 years. 

Sapporo Set to Give Up Bid for 2030 Winter Olympics  

According to multiple sources with knowledge on the matter, Sapporo is set to pull out of the race to host the 2030 Winter Olympics. The city will instead shift its focus to hosting the Games in 2034 or later. This is expected to be confirmed next week following a meeting between Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto and Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita. The latter previously stated that it would be “quite hard” to win the rights to the 2030 Games, adding that, “Trust in the Olympics is declining.”  

The host city is expected to be elected before the start of the Summer Games in Paris next year. Interested parties are said to include Salt Lake City, Stockholm and a potential joint bid from the French regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. Switzerland is also examining the possibility of a “national” bid, with sites dotted across the country. Sapporo had been seen as the frontrunner, but faced with staunch public opposition, mainly due to the bribery and bid-rigging scandals that tainted the Tokyo Games, its chances gradually diminished.  

Daiki Hashimoto | Image by Aleksandar Filipov via Shutterstock

Golds for Hashimoto and Team Japan at Gymnastics World Championships  

It’s been another stellar week for superstar gymnast Daiki Hashimoto. On Tuesday, the 22-year-old led Team Japan to victory at the World Championships in Belgium. The five-man group finished nearly two points ahead of nearest rivals China to claim their first world title in eight years. Hashimoto, a double Olympic gold medalist, sealed the win with a score of 14.366 on the horizontal bar. He then followed that up by topping the podium in the prestigious all-around competition, successfully defending the title he won in Liverpool last year.  

In other sports news, Shohei Ohtani became the first Japanese player to be crowned the American League home run king despite missing the final month of the season through injury. He finished the campaign with 44 homers, five ahead of nearest rival Adolis Garcia. In men’s European soccer, Kyogo Furuhashi scored his first Champions League goal in Celtic’s 2-1 defeat to Lazio. Takefusa Kubo’s Real Sociedad defeated RB Salzburg 2-0 in the same competition. Earlier in the week, he netted his fifth goal of the season in his side’s 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao.