Fans Gather at Johnny’s Shops Before Company Changes Name Due to Sexual Abuse by Late Founder

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Fans visit the Johnny’s shop in Kita Ward, Osaka, on Monday before it will be shuttered.

OSAKA — Johnny & Associates Inc. has changed its name to Smile-Up. Inc. on Tuesday, dropping the name that has been used since the company’s foundation in 1962 in the wake of revelations that Johnny Kitagawa, the firm’s late founder, sexually abused male entertainers signed with the agency.

Shops in Osaka and Fukuoka selling official goods featuring the agency’s entertainers were closed on Monday, and fans expressed mixed feelings over the switch.

Many took pictures at a store in Osaka’s Kita Ward against the word “Johnny’s” written on the walls and other places.

“This place made me realize that I like the agency’s performers and their spirit to create entertainment,” said a 25-year-old female company employee who came from Nikaho, Akita Prefecture, to see a stage play. “I will continue to be their fan.”

The agency’s President Noriyuki Higashiyama, 57, said at a press conference on Oct. 2, “Everything with Johnny’s name will disappear.” Affiliated companies, fan clubs and some groups will change their names.

In Hey! Say! Jump’s debut single “Ultra Music Power,” the name “Johnnys” is shouted, so the YouTube video of the song was withdrawn Monday.