Yoshihiko Inohara has given his first interview since becoming the new President of Johnny’s Island to Daily Shincho. The interview took place in late 2022 in Tokyo. He showed up to the interview in a blue suit and handed his business card to the reporter, saying, “Ask me anything!” Normally a big name such as Inohara wouldn’t hand out his own business card, with a manager instead acting on his behalf. But given his new role he is now not only a talent, but also a company representative.
The reporter’s first question was about the passing of the role from Hideaki Takizawa to Inohara. Did he ever think of having the role himself? “Never,” he replied. “Julie (Julie Fujishima, President of Johnny & Associates) approached me with the position. I thought to myself ‘Is that me?’, because there are more amazing people suited for the job among the talent and staff.”
Julie persuaded him by saying it was a role only he could take on.
“Johnny (Johnny Kitagawa, the founder of Johnny & Associates) always said ‘Think for yourself”, that’s why since I was young I’ve been making and submitting proposals for the company. Even after I took over the role, I would be asked ‘Isn’t this more interesting?’ Julie has such a positive attitude towards company management. She said to me, ‘You know how the Jrs. feel.’ I was a Jr. for seven years before I debuted, and she said to me “You should understand the feelings of Jrs. who want to debut as soon as possible.'”
“I was contacted about the position in mid-September. I said I would think it over, but when I was asked about it the same day, I said I would do it.”
“I always decide to do things early. I was so excited when I decided to do it. Life is interesting. Thinking of myself when I knocked on Johnny’s door in 6th grade, I think, “You’ve become president, are you ok?'”
What awaited him though was the chaos of a change at the top.
“Takizawa and I have know each other for 26, 27 years, and I said to him, ‘I’m doing to do this for you’ To be honest, I never took over. He walked out without speaking to anyone. But there is no time to say negative things. The Jrs. were worried. It makes sense in their position. If Takizawa disappeared and then me, a senior talent, appeared and said, ‘I’m the new president,’ you’d think, “What can you do?'”
This is why Inohara has spent his time since taking over the role interviewing Jrs. in his spare time.
“I went to Kansai the other day and met the members of Lil Kansai, AmBitious, and Boys be. We sat in a circle in the rehearsal room and and I said, ‘Let’s talk about what happened today.’ We had a long discussion. At the end, we exhanged contact information, and I said, ‘If anything happens, feel free to contact me anytime.'”
Inohara said that he will not forget to thank his colleagues who supported him in his new role behind the scenes.
“Everyone contacted me saying they wanted to help. Kansai Johnny’s Jr. producer Tadayoshi Okura, we talk a lot, we talked until very late yesterday. Taichi Kokubun helped me by creating a space where I could talk to debuting members.”
But then the news of the departures started. On November 4, Sho Hirano, Yuta Kishi, and Yuta Jinguji announced they were leaving King & Prince. On December 20, Shukan Bunshun revealed that the Jr. group IMPACTors was leaving as well. Since IMPACTors are a Jr. group, they are under Inohara, so this news true?
“Yes. In mid-December, I went to ‘Shonen Club’ to see them in their dressing room to talk about new work opportunities in 2023. Before I could do so, they told me of their intent. I was surprised, but I get it. The conversation was short, but I could tell that they had seriously considered their future and made an important decision. I want to send them off comfortably as the same man, as the same Johnny.”
Editor’s note: The original article has a more direct answer to the question of IMPACTors leaving than what Inohara implied. There is no definitive news that the group is leaving the company and there will be no statement made by the company in regards to such at this time.
Speaking of leaving, the reporter said that until recently management companies would engage in the blacklisting of their former talents, but Inohara says this is no longer done in the industry.
“It goes without saying that each talent has their own life. Johnny’s isn’t the only option in life. My former V6 group member Go Morita quit the company. It’s true that the group disbanded because of that, but it wasn’t negative for us. Everyone was in their 40s, with Masayuki Sakamoto approaching 50. I had a career, and somehow I was able to do it smoothly. But, thanks to Morita, I was able to say, ‘Let’s do it seriously’, and we were able to end V6 cleanly while still embracing each other.”
Inohara says he feels the same about King & Prince. Although they wanted to expand overseas, it is said that they decided to withdraw because they did not agree with the company’s policy. “Of course it’s sad to see friends leave, but we will continue to be friends who fight together in the entertainment industry. I haven’t heard from them that they have ‘different policies regarding overseas expansion’, so I don’t know the truth. But if they want to, I think they should do it to their heart’s content. Because life is a battle while you’re young.”
Of the reports that talents are rebelling against Julie, Inohara says, “I’ve never really heard of it. Every time something like this comes out, there is inevitably negative press coverage, various rumors and speculations fly around, but if it’s an “empire” that has been built up by interfering with someone’s life, it should have collapsed by now. Johnny & Associates has been here for 61 years. If it weren’t for the kindness of people who care about their colleagues’ positions and lives, the company definitely wouldn’t have been able to make it this far. If the comapny wasn’t how it is, I wouldn’t want to be president here.”
In regards to the rumor that Takizawa is starting his own company and is poaching talents from Johnny & Associates, Inohara says, “I don’t know at all, I really don’t know. But if it’s true that he wants to start his own company, just do it. When a man turns 20, it’s natural that he wants to do something on his own. If Takizawa creates a new company as a manager, has fans there, and everyone can live happily, I would like to say to him, let’s work together to revitalize the entertainment industry. If Takizawa creates a new company, has fans, if everyone can live happily, I would like to tell him that we will continue to do our best to liven up the entertainment industry together. I don’t feel like fighting.”
On December 22, it was announced that “Takizawa Kabuki ZERO FINAL” would be performed at Shinbashi Enbujo in April. It is the end of “Takizawa Kabuki.”
“At first, I was asked, ‘Are you going to do “Inohara Kabuki”, but I can’t do that. However, there are many young members, including Snow Man, who were raised there, and there are many fans who have been fascinated. At the end, we discussed at the company that it would be better to do things properly, so we decided to do the final performance.”
Inohara took to to speak to the fans who are worried given the departure of so many talents as of late. “When V6 was disbanding, I said half-jokingly that ‘All the fans look sad, but we’re not gonna die.’ The three departing members of King & Prince will continue to live. That’s why you should live where you want to try the most. Again, Johnny’s isn’t everything, I believe that it is important for everyone to live a healthy and happy life. What I have to do now as president is cherish the children who are still working hard. I like this place, so I want to protect it, and I want to sincerely face the Jrs. who say they like Johnny’s and give them as many chances as possible.”
Today, Johnny & Associates released a full page ad in The Nikkei Shimbun, with a mission statement for 2023 titled “Our Promise for 2023.” It was signed by Fujishima. This is the first time the company has done this publicly. Among the four promises are:
Refurbish and strengthen our compliance system
Respect for individuality and development of human resources
Prioritize growth opportunities through learning and create an environment that supports “thinking for yourself”. Providing an opportunity and choice system that respects individuality and changes in thinking. Emphasis on dialogue through the introduction of a mentor system, etc.
This is Johnny’s new initiative to create an environment in which it is easy for talents to voice their opinions.
“When I heard about this from Julie, I said that I would like to help as much as a I can,” Inohara said. “When I joined Johnny’s, it was still a small company, and the distance between the manager and the talent was so close that I would go bowling or skate with Johnny. However, the number of people has increased steadily, and now it is a large company with more than 200 Jrs alone. Up until now, there has been an environment where talents who have troubles can consult with seniors and staff, but from now on, we will develop it as a more open window. When I became president and talked to the Jrs. there were a lot of reactions like ‘Eh, it’s ok to say this?’ Each time I would reply with ‘Ok, ok, keep going.’ There are quite a few who were hesitant and couldn’t express themselves fully.”
So what does Inohara think of his job so far? “It’s really fun so far. I’m a short sleeper, so I always wake up around 5 AM. Five hours of sleep in enough. From mid-morning I’ve very active, going to coffee shops and family restaurants. Johnny’s Island has a president’s office, but there aren’t many people there. I have my own work as a talent and the president’s work, so I’m going back and forth. A little while ago, I had a meeting with some Jrs. at the Teigeki stage rehearsal.”
He said that the other day a Jr. asked him what he should call him. “Inocchi,” he laughed.
“Enjoy interacting with them,” he said of the Jrs. “Johnny and Takizawa must have seen their growth this way too. Of course not all of them make their debut and get the spotlight. But I want them to grow up to be adults who won’t be embarassed when they go out into society.
Johnny’s isn’t everything, and even after I quit, my life will continue for a long time. I want them to grow up to be able to contribute to society even when they get old, so I will continue to face them.”