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Japanese idols are young entertainers who are trained in singing and dancing, and often perform in groups. They are managed by talent agencies, and often have very tough training and work schedules.

It has a long history, going as far back as the 1960’s, and due to its popularity, is an extremely lucrative industry with no signs of slowing down.

“The idol market, being a consumption-oriented market based on the domestic spendings of consumers to support idol groups, was valued at 366 billion Japanese yen in fiscal year 2017. The market forecast implied a growing willingness of consumers to spend money on their preferred idol groups, with expenditures reaching more than 462 billion yen by fiscal 2024.” Published by Statista Research Department, Dec 7, 2022

A BBC documentary from March 2023 titled Predator: The Secret Scandal of J-Pop, reports how Mr. Johnny Kitagawa, a household name in the industry, sexually exploited young boys under his management for decades.

This blog will not go into the details of Mr. Kitagawa's sexual abuse of the boys, but the information is available to anyone, including books by his accusers and on the Internet, as well as videos of press conferences and other information.

The exchange of money or other forms of compensation (such as becoming an idol debutant) for sex with a child is considered trafficking in persons and is a serious form of sexual exploitation. When you think about the fact that this sexual exploitation has been going on in Japan for over 50 years, and that people who may have been victims of it appear daily on TV, in magazines, and in advertisements, it is inevitable to wonder why such a thing has been kept in the dark for so many years.

Victims may have been manipulated into feeling grateful to Mr. Johnny Kitagawa, thinking that they were only able to make their debut as an idol because of the abuse, that they were the ones who could not refuse, that he thought they were special, and so on. But that is a typical mental state caused by grooming. Therefore, victims of trafficking often have a hard time recognizing that they have are victims of sexual exploitation. When they perceive the act of exploitation as love and trust, it is difficult to talk to someone or voice their victimization.

Although Mr. Johnny Kitagawa is now deceased, we are grateful that the issue has resurfaced, finally shining a light in the darkness and exposing a terrible crime that had been hidden until now. And, just as this issue was buried in the past, we must not repeat it.

In the BBC documentary, it is revealed that Mr. Kitagawa's indecent behavior toward the boys was well known among the people concerned, and the parents of the Johnny's juniors (boys who are preparing for their debut by training and taking lessons) were also silent about it, saying "You should at least offer yourself to Mr. Johnny (for their debut)," or urging them to do so. (BBC documentary "Predator - The Rise and Fall of Janis Junior").

This is not just a story of idol groups or the entertainment industry. The same grooming is taking place in club activities, at school, in cram schools, in lessons, and on social media.

So, what can we do about this NOW?

  • Recognize that sexual victimization of boys, sexual exploitation, and trafficking in persons can be more common than we imagine, and can happen anywhere and to anyone.

  • Talk about the tactics of perpetrators in the media, at home, and in schools. Knowledge is power. Knowing in advance allows potential victims to realize "this is not right" before they are groomed and to talk to someone about it.

  • Correctly recognize and teach that sexual violence is not justified for any reason. Even if it is someone who has taken care of you, given you a job as a reward, or helped you to achieve in other areas, sexual violence is never justified, even if the perpetrator holds a higher position.

  • Don't let the issue fade away and continue to speak out.

If you are reading this article and have been a victim in the past or are currently a victim, please contact ZOE Japan. You can simply tell us about your experience. Our survivors have told us that they feel lighter and more at ease just by talking about their experiences. You can remain anonymous.

The more people start to speak out and bring these crimes to light, the more society will change. Contact us at

Finally, I would like to conclude this article with words from the Bible written over 2000 years ago.

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
Ephesians 5:11-14

Written by: Yuri Osborne - ZOE Japan


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