Entertainers flocked to a memorial event in Tokyo on Wednesday for Johnny Kitagawa, founder of one of the country’s most powerful talent agencies that produced an extensive array of well-known boy bands over half a century, who died of a stroke at the age of 87 on July 9.
The event held at Tokyo Dome was attended by personalities currently or formerly attached to the agency, such as Masahiko Kondo and Hiromi Go, as well as other celebrities including singer Akiko Wada and television personality Dewi Sukarno, widow of former Indonesian President Sukarno.
A telegram of condolence from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was also presented at the farewell ceremony for the mogul, whose real name was Hiromu Kitagawa.
Kitagawa was known as the man behind the success of numerous pop groups including SMAP, Arashi and Kat-tun, which became household names in Japan and had sizeable fan bases abroad. He also held three Guinness World Record titles for the most No. 1 artists, the most No. 1 singles and the most concerts produced by an individual.
His career was not without incident; he faced numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, but was never charged with any crimes based on the allegations.
At the memorial event, a large portrait of Kitagawa wearing sunglasses was set in the center of a stage dozens of meters wide in the grounds of the venue.
The ceremony played videos of concerts, theater performances, and celebrities thanking Kitagawa, while silver tape was blown into the air from the stage.
The names of boy band groups Kitagawa produced, such as Hikaru Genji, SMAP, Kinki Kids and Arashi, and the names of celebrities affiliated with him were projected onto the stage.
“We’re in a baseball stadium, the sport you love. It’s Tokyo Dome,” Kondo said in front of the mogul’s picture. “You probably wouldn’t have expected your memorial event to be held here.”
Speaking to the crowd, he continued; “As Johnny-san would say, ‘The show must go on.’ Let us send him off with a smile.”
The Los Angeles-born Kitagawa joined the entertainment industry in the 1960s with the creation of a four-man group called Johnny’s, picked from a baseball team he was coaching at the time.
“It made me happy that the memorial was very in tune with Johnny-san,” said actress and talk show host Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, who was a friend of Kitagawa for almost 60 years.
Arashi member Jun Matsumoto said, “It would be nice to create what Johnny-san envisioned for our future alongside (the agency’s) senior and junior members.”