TOKYO: One of Japan’s most popular comedians denied sexual assault allegations published in a prominent magazine today, his talent agency said, adding it was considering legal action.
There are “no facts whatsoever” in accusations published by weekly Shukan Bunshun against comedian and TV presenter Hitoshi Matsumoto, his talent agency said in a statement.
The Bunshun report quoted two women as alleging Matsumoto, now 60, forced them into sexual activities at private parties at a Tokyo upscale hotel in 2015.
Among the claims, one woman alleged forced oral sex and the other said she was forcibly kissed.
The article “seriously degrades the social reputation of (Matsumoto)”, Yoshimoto Kogyo, the agency, said.
The firm will “lodge a resolute protest” against Bunshun, including over the way it “persistently questioned and filmed” the comedian in the lead-up to the report’s publication.
“We’re considering legal action,” the statement said.
When contacted by AFP, Yoshimoto Kogyo’s public relations office declined to comment any further.
Matsumoto is half of the comedy duo known as Downtown, a household name in Japan.
Bunshun was one of the first publications to report, as long ago as 1999, on a sex abuse scandal that rocked Japan’s entertainment industry earlier this year.
A boy band empire formerly known as Johnny & Associates admitted in September its late founder had sexually abused young recruits over decades, leading to an organisational shake-up.
The global #MeToo movement was slow to pick up in Japan, where many victims are said to be too scared to come forward, although a handful of high-profile cases recently forced a reckoning.