Johnny Kitagawa was a Japanese entertainment mogul who is known for founding Johnny & Associates, a talent agency that specializes in recruiting, training, and promoting male idol groups in Japan. He was born on October 23, 1931, in Los Angeles, California, and passed away on July 9, 2019, in Tokyo, Japan.
Johnny Kitagawa was the youngest of six siblings, and his family moved back to Japan when he was four years old. He grew up in a wealthy family and attended prestigious schools in Tokyo. After graduating from Waseda University, he worked as a journalist for the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper before entering the entertainment industry.
In 1962, Johnny Kitagawa founded Johnny & Associates, which became the leading talent agency for male idols in Japan. His first group, Johnnys, was formed in 1964 and featured four boys who were handpicked by Kitagawa himself. The group was an instant success, and Kitagawa’s talent for creating and promoting male idol groups quickly became evident.
Over the next several decades, Johnny & Associates produced some of the most popular male idol groups in Japan, including SMAP, Arashi, and Hey! Say! JUMP. The agency’s groups dominated the Japanese music charts, sold millions of records, and attracted legions of fans, especially young girls and women.
Johnny Kitagawa’s success was due in part to his unique approach to talent management. He was known for his strict control over his idols’ private lives, which he believed was necessary to maintain their wholesome, innocent image. He also placed a strong emphasis on physical fitness and appearance, and his idols were required to undergo rigorous training and maintain a strict diet to stay in top shape.
Despite his success, Johnny Kitagawa was not without controversy. There were persistent rumors of sexual harassment and abuse of power, which he strongly denied. In 2018, an article in the Shukan Bunshun magazine alleged that Kitagawa had sexually harassed multiple male idols over the years. Kitagawa denied the allegations, but the article prompted a wave of public criticism and led to calls for reform in the Japanese entertainment industry.
Johnny Kitagawa passed away in 2019 at the age of 87 due to a stroke. His death was widely mourned in Japan, and many of his former idols and colleagues paid tribute to him. Despite the controversy that surrounded him, Johnny Kitagawa left an indelible mark on the Japanese entertainment industry and his legacy continues to be felt today.