From last Wednesday’s Guardian, here’s a SFW excerpt from Alex Hoban’s profile of Japanese boy band factory Johnny’s Jimusho, and the company’s scary founder, “the 77-year-old Don Of Dubiousness, Johnny Kitagawa.”
If graduating from a Junior Johnny to a mere Johnny sounds about as glamorous as pulling slippery condoms on to cucumbers in biology class, then it’s fitting, as being a Johnny’s protégé is hardly a ticket to artistic maturity or even financial security. Most of Johnny’s recording artists are paid a base salary for their efforts, receive no royalties and have no rights to any of their music, their image or even the group’s name. After a few years in the spotlight, many Johnny’s bands are dropped without fanfare, and their members swiftly descend into obscurity and, most probably, depression.
So far, so cut-throat, but there is an even darker element to this whole grim business. Kitagawa claimed he works only with boy bands because they are “easier to handle”, which would be fine if he didn’t mean it literally. Rumours had always been rife of him engaging with unsavoury activities with the boys under his care, and in 1988 Kita Koji, one of the original members of the Four Seasons, published an exposé that accued Kitagawa of sexual harassment and rape. Opening the flood gates, similar accusations from other ex-members came to light, with fresh exposés being published right up to this decade.