From the “Japan is not unique” file: U.S. magazine Vanity Fair has published a story about the pedophilic tendencies of American boy-band Svengali Lou Pearlman. Although I should not have to explain the problem with pressuring your stable of overambitious teenage employees to perform sexual favors, Japan’s parallel figure to Pearlman — Johnny Kitagawa of Johnny’s Jimusho — still rakes in the millions and basks in public glory in spite of engaging in very similar behavior for nearly a half-century.
At a basic level, the two impresarios seem to be driven by the same joys of wealth, power, and underage sexual activity. The only difference is reception of these deeds in their respective markets. The venerable, corporate-backed magazine Vanity Fair has exposed Lou Pearlman’s behavior, while the mainstream media in Japan lives in abject terror of even mentioning Kitagawa’s homosexual sexual harassment cases. Glorified-tabloid Shukan Bunshun finally gave some big attention to the very old story in 2000 and were greeted with a libel lawsuit from Johnny’s and little-to-no support from the rest of the media.
Vanity Fair may feel the duty to expose injustice with their investigative journalism, but let’s be perfectly frank here: they’re only breaking this story now because Pearlman’s reign of terror on the pop market is ancient history. This journalistic attack has no threat of financial hurt to Condé Nast. Pearlman is a dog and is down and is being kicked.
Johnny’s Jimusho, on the other hand, still provides the Japanese media world with billions of yen every year. Television stations and magazines do not protect Johnny’s Jimusho out of a sense of loyalty, honor, dignity, or a literal cowardice. Truth be told, most record labels and media organizations loathe Johnny’s and their ridiculously selfish demands.
Everything is simply about money. I know that Japanese business is supposed to operate on some higher power than the bottom line, some mystical social responsibility for preserving order and harmony. But the reason that a Condé Nast-esque magazine in Japan will not attack Johnny’s or give voice to the credible witnesses is that the media lives in fear of profit decrease. Without access to Johnny’s talent, ratings may possibly go down, advertising rates drop, and television station employees’ bonuses may decrease. And don’t forget the impact on the stock price! A scoop on Johnny’s Jimusho would certainly give a media organization in Japan a short-term boost in sales, but long-term financial damage would be unavoidable.
The lesson here is clear and universal: if you are going to force your adolescent workers to participate in sexual activity, the secret method of avoiding public or legal prosecution is generating lots of money for other people. Voices of outrage only win amplification once economic relations falter.