Johnny & Associates, Inc.

file - 03.06.2009 07:00

The story of a company that began the boy band phenomenon in Japan and what it means to be Johnny's.

Johnny & Associates is a huge corporation in the Japanese entertainment industry which includes not only music, but also cinema, TV, media and other varieties of mass culture.

There are approximately 13 groups in the agency all of whom are currently extremely popular; and this does not include temporary or junior groups. Each band has its own huge fanbase who follow every step of their idols. However, many of the fans have no clue about how the successful company, which has brought so many young men to fame and glory, began and now operates.


It all began in 1962 when, under the management of Johnny Kitagawa and his sister Mary, a group called Johnnys was created. Four young men (Maie Hiromi, Iino Osami, Nakatani Ryou and Aoi Teruhiko) became the first ever Japanese boy band and eventually the predecessors of generations of boys who would subsequently be labeled as 'Johnny's Type'. The first male group existed until November 1967 and left the new term "Johnny's" as its legacy; the term is now used to determine every performer in the agency, so the name of the first group slowly changed into Founding Johnnys or First Generation Johnnys.

In the second year of Johnnys' career, in 1963, a new company was founded to look after the existing group and to seek out more talent. The name of the company was Johnny & Associates (Johnny's Jimusho). Later, in 1997, the agency would start its own record label, Johnny's Entertainment.

The next project of the still-new agency was Four Leaves. Four Leaves' career started in the very same year as the previous group has disbanded in, and made their debut was only three years later in 1970. This group enjoyed every more popularity and existed until 1978. Around the same period, in 1972, the first solo artist of the agency had his debut. It was Hiromi Go, and his career is still ongoing.


In 1975 came the new term "Johnny’s Junior," and since that time all artists who have not debuted yet are labeled as thus. Nowadays, there are about 20 different units with the boys taking part in numerous TV shows, dramas and acting as backing dancers during concerts of debuted groups, with all of them desperately wanting to gain some popularity and to be successful. At about the same time as the emergence of Johnny's Junior, Johnny & Associates tried hiring some female performers for a new project, Orange Sisters, but it was closed quickly and disbanded without the group ever having debuted.

Until 1985 there were three more groups, all three of whom were quite popular although their careers did not last long. On the 12th of December 1985, a new and band debuted: Shonentai. They are still popular today. Since 1986, the members of this band have participated in the musical PLAYZONE, in which many Johnny’s artists haven taken part. Today, Kazukiyo Nishikiori, Katsuhide Uekusa and Noriyuki Higashiyama are occupied mainly with their own solo careers.

Both projects, Hiromi Go and Shonentai, had reached the top with their popularity, but the agency had no plans to stop and in 1987 a new super popular group, Hikaru Genji, had their debut. The band itself was active for only six years (it disbanded in 1993), but the existence of this group wrote a new page in the history for the whole agency. It was the first group with two subgroups in it: Hikaru and Genji, with two and five members, respectively. Since then, a new tradition of picking up future debutantes from numerous back-up dancers appeared; the next group to debut in 1991 was SMAP, who still top the music charts to this day and are five of the biggest household names in Japan.


In their turn, SMAP was the one who created a new style for all concerts by the groups of the agency. The name of the band means 'Sports Music Assemble People' and in their performances the band focused on athleticism for the first time. Since then all the crazy jumps, acrobatics, flying in the air over crowds and other stunts became an essential part of all Johnny's concerts. Another thing SMAP started was grouping a variety of talents and calling it a band - though all the members are skilled performers, not all of their skills lay in singing. For example, Nakai Masahiro is famous for being the unheard leader of the group. Kimura Takuya is more famous for his looks and acting talent, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and Katori Shingo are also counted as good actors (the last one is excellent in the comedy sphere), and only Inagaki Goro is considered to have good singing skills in a group of five vocalists.

Three years after SMAP debuted, in 1994, Johnny & Associates began to promote a brand new project, a new group named TOKIO. This group has a special feature, with the members playing different instruments and only one lead vocalist, Nagase Tomoya. It is currently quite a unique group in the agency.

After one more year, in 1995, a new band called V6 had its debut, and like Hikaru Genji they have two subgroups of three people each - 20th Century and Coming Century. The older members, aka 20 Century, are mostly occupied with stage plays, while the younger Coming Century members often take roles in movies and dramas.

In 1997, one of the most popular projects of Johnny & Associates came on stage: KinKi Kids, earlier called Kanzai Boya. Comprised of Domoto Koichi and Domoto Tsuyoshi (though sharing a surname, they are unrelated), the duo was the first band to place focus on their birthplace (Kansai region or Kinki region) and the first ever Johnny's band that had all 28 singles on top of the charts, which is a Guinness record now.

There were no particular debuts in 1998, but since that year a tradition of temporary units consisting of already debuted idols began. The first one was J-Friends, and now there are about five similar groups.

September 1999 was marked by the debut of the new band Arashi, which has slowly become one of the most famous groups of Johnny & Associates. At the moment, it is the only band which has its name written in kanji while the other groups use Latin letters and abbreviations. Arashi is also known for its characters, because each group member has his own bright character and talent in a particular entertainment sphere. Moreover, the existence of this group was the reason the second label of Johnny & Associates, J-Storm, was founded.


The next three years were quiet, and only in 2002 did a new group come up: the two-man group Tackey & Tsubasa. It was known that Takizawa Hideaki and Imai Tsubasa were to make two separate solo debuts, but fans of the duo strongly protested and the band was created, though its members are occupied with their solo careers quite actively.

In 2003 the band NEWS debuted. In the beginning it had nine members, but after a series of scandals, their number was dropped to six. In 2006 they became the first group to have been put on hiatus as a result. It was only for a year though and after they made a quick comeback.

In the next year, 2004, the second "regional" group had its debut: Kanjani8. In contrast to KinKi Kids, this band keep their Kansai image by singing enka-styled songs and being famous for their funny and noisy characters. This group also has an enormous amount of subgroups (six subunits while having only seven members).

After about two years, in 2006, the time for a new group had come and KAT-TUN was created. The new band used a lot of rock elements in their music. This project had a long pre-debut history, as it was founded in 2001. After its foundation, all six members of the group worked as backup dancers for debuted bands. However, KAT-TUN was the only unit to have their own concerts before the day of the debut. Moreover, just like Arashi, KAT-TUN heralded the creation of the third label called J-One.

The last group to have their debut was Hey!Say!JUMP in 2007. It has the most members of any other group so far at ten people. Unsurprisingly, this group has two subgroups divided based an age: the older five are Hey!Say!BEST and the younger ones are Hey!Say!7.

After almost 50 years since its establishment, the small talent agency Johnny & Associates became one of the largest and most famous in Japan. Now the term Johnny's is a brand that gives fans all they want and wait for: wonderful and unforgettable concerts, talented and handsome idols, bright and excellent music. Each group is a unique one, and each one is sure to offer something you'll like!
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