Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Composer Apologizes, Admits To Bullying Classmate

Photo: (Photo : Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

A famous Japanese musician, who worked on creating one of the theme songs for the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, has apologized and admitted that he bullied a classmate with a disability.

The incident happened over two decades ago, but Keigo Oyamada, now 52, offered to step down from the Tokyo Olympics after initially resisting calls for him to resign.

According to reports, Oyamada, also known as Cornelius in the industry, drew many criticisms for a resurfaced interview, first published in Quick Japan magazine in 1995, where he detailed how he treated a classmate with an intellectual disability. Oyamada relayed that he forced the classmate to get inside a cardboard box, eat his own feces, and masturbate in front of the class. The composer also discussed the same incident in another magazine a year after talking to Quick Japan.

Following a public clamor, Oyamada said in a statement on his official site and social media pages that he was an immature man during his school days. He also said that he accepts all the advice, criticisms, and opinions directed at him, especially on social media, due to this controversy.

Oyamada's Music Cancelled

The composer wrote a four-minute song for the Tokyo Olympics, but the organizing committee said this would have to be scrapped from the program. Initially, the committee had plans to keep Oyamada on board because of his apology.

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However, the firestorm did not subside even as Oyamada expressed his deep regrets. One commentary said that Oyamada spoke of the bullying incident in a "boastful nature" rather than reflecting on a funny childhood memory. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, one of the most outspoken members of the government, also said that Japan's Olympic organizers should deal with Oyamada's behavior appropriately. The organizers then pushed back on their earlier decision and said they would find a replacement for the composer.

Oyamada's reputation as a musician has been likened to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. He is credited for developing the Shibuya-kei sound that draws inspiration from American composers like Burt Bacharach or Phil Spector. In the 1990s, he was a rising musician who was frequently featured in the local media.

High-Profile Resignations and Firing

But the composer isn't the only high-profile resignation or firing that the Tokyo Olympics committee dealt with in recent months. In February, the head of the committee, Yoshiro Mori, stepped down after he made disparaging remarks against women. 

In March, Hiroshi Sasaki, the creative chief, exited the team after suggesting that Naomi Watanabe, a plus-size Japanese comedienne, should appear in the opening ceremony wearing pig ears as the "Olympig" mascot.

Days after Oyamada's controversy, director and comedian Kentaro Kobayashi was also let go after his anti-Semitic joke from 1998 resurfaced. Sources said that Kobayashi has also been accused of bullying a person with a disability.

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