A passer-by watches a TV news reporting Johnny Kitagawa's passing away in Tokyo Wednesday, July 10, 2019. Kitagawa, who produced famous boybands including Arashi and SMAP and was a kingpin of Japan’s entertainment industry for more than half a century, has died Tuesday from a subarachnoid hemorrhage at a Tokyo hospital. He was 87. (Kyodo News via AP)

Japanese entertainment tycoon Johnny Kitagawa dies at 87

July 10, 2019 - 3:28 am

TOKYO (AP) — Johnny Kitagawa, a kingpin of Japan's entertainment industry for more than half a century who produced famous boybands including Arashi and SMAP, has died. He was 87.

Kitagawa, better known as Johnny-san, died from a subarachnoid hemorrhage Tuesday at a Tokyo hospital, where he had been treated after falling unconscious June 18, according to his office, Johnny & Associates.

Born in Los Angeles in 1931, Kitagawa spent his early childhood in Japan before and during World War II. He later grew up in the U.S. before returning to Japan after the Korean War.

Kitagawa established his office in 1962, producing a four-man group called the Johnny's and spearheading Japan's entertainment scene. He sent many artists to fame, not only in Japan but in recent years across Asia.

Creating boybands was a challenge to cultural norms in Japan back then, but his talent agency grew to dominate the country's entertainment market.

The artists he produced set the standards for Japanese male idols, and "Johnny's" became a word for attractive men.

Kitagawa called the artists and trainees his "children," and was affectionately known as Johnny-san, though he hardly appeared in public.

His agency became so powerful that it virtually dominated Japan's entertainment industry, and he also faced rumors of alleged harassment and sexual abuse.

While Kitagawa was in the hospital, scores of artists he trained came to visit him even though he was unconscious, sharing his favorite foods and recounting fond memories of him, while listening to old and new songs he produced, his office said in a statement.

"Bringing happiness to the people all over the world through entertainment" was his slogan for his business, Kitagawa wrote last year in a message posted on his office's website.

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