It has only been a few short days into 2019 and there already is a major scandalous issue coming out of the AKS camp.
NGT48 member Maho Yamaguchi appeared on Showroom to speak about an incident that happened to her in December 2018. Before she could go into detail her stream was cut short by management. She turned to Twitter (in a series of now deleted tweets) to explain that she was assaulted by two men after returning home from a theater show on December 8.
While entering her apartment she was grabbed by the face. While fighting off the first man another appeared from the opposite side and tried to pin her down. She screamed for help but her mouth was covered by one of her assailants. The sound of an elevator in her building distracted her attackers attention enough to allow her to escape to safety.
She remained silent for a month about this incident waiting for management to take action to protect herself and her fellow NGT48 members who had faced similar situations. But nothing was done prompting her to take action on social media.
In further tweets she said she was reluctant to speak about the incident because it would cause too much trouble or drama. She wanted to speak up so that other girls would not have to go through the same ordeal.
In addition to being assaulted it was also revealed that one of her fellow NGT48 members had tipped off her assailants about when she would be returning home and what her apartment number was. This has lead fans to speculate about who would plan this attack and who would leak her personal information. Suspicions have lead fans to believe certain members who lived in close vicinity to Yamaguchi are the culprits. Nothing solid has been confirmed by by NGT48 or AKS management in regards to that.
The aftermath of all this is men in question were detained by police but were not charged after they stated that they just wanted to talk to the NGT48 member. The men involved in this assault (including a third man identified as an accomplice) have been banned from all NGT48 events and their identities have not been made public.
Yamaguchi has since apologized twice for the trouble she has caused and for being an inconvenience. That has resulted in a lot of backlash against AKS and NGT48 management with accusations of victim shaming, attempting to cover up the truth and burying the story to preserve the image of the group.
AKS themselves also issued an apology for the way they have handled this situation. They stated all members of NGT48 will be provided personal alarm systems and patrols will be done around areas near their homes to prevent further assaults from happening. AKS wants to build a mutual trust with all members of its groups and will provide psychological care for them starting with Yamaguchi.
Lastly, they deeply apologized for the great discomfort and troubles caused to all the fans due to this incident.
Management’s cold corporate response does not do them any favours when it comes to this particular matter. How they handled this entire thing screams of either incompetence, indifference or a mixture of both.
Anyone who has dealt with the higher-ups in their own jobs knows when they hear a load of hot air and bullshit to placate the masses and that is what the AKS response sounds like. Actions addressing the problem(s) speak louder than a bunch of comforting words.
Sweeping issues such as this under the rug and leaving their front line assets to suffer in silence should not be not be considered standard operating procedure. It appears there is a deeper rooted issue within NGT48 (or within the entirety of the 48 system itself) if its members are planning hits on each other in this manner.
Yamaguchi (and probably countless others like her who have not spoken up) have been let down and management should make a concentrated and sincere effort beyond what they have vowed to do in the fallout of this incident.
While giving out personal alarms and presumably hiring private security (unless AKS staff are going to patrol the members home areas themselves) is a nice gesture in theory. Whether either of those preventative measures will actually work in the real world is questionable at best.
When it comes to Yamaguchi you have to admire her courage to say something even if she got censored in the end. Apologizing for causing trouble really makes no sense given that she did nothing wrong. Yet it looks like it was done as a forced face-saving measure for NGT48 rather than having her place the blame on herself. (Which she should never do.)
Where she goes from here is up in the air. I would not blame her if she decides to graduate after suffering through this traumatizing event. It might just be the best thing for her depending on how damaged her mental state is.
What Yamaguchi has done with outing her experience herself is to let it be known that the world of idols is not the rainbows, sunshine and unicorns many believe it is. The idol business is a cut throat industry with unsavoury downsides for the young girls and women (or young boys and men if you follow major players like the plethora of Johnnys idol groups) who are chasing their dreams to be entertainers. There is a lot of messed up stuff they have to deal with that tends to be ignored in favour of keeping the fantasy alive.
Thankfully Yamaguchi has received the support of many former and current members of the 48 group roster including Otaki Yuria, Ito Raira, Kitahara Rie, Kashiwagi Yuki and Sashihara Rino.
In addition media personalities such as Okada Takeshi, Sekine Hiroyasu, Muramoto Daisuke (Woman Rush Hour) and frequent AKB48 collaborator Toyama Daisuke have spoken up in support of her.
She has also inspired other idols to tell their story as well with ex-GEM member Rana Murakami recently revealing she was a victim of an attempted rape in the past as a show of solidarity with Yamaguchi. Perhaps others will also come forward to show that these are not isolated cases that happen to pop up every once in a while.
This story has caught fire having been picked up by large news outlets such as Billboard, Time and The Daily Mail among countless others so it looks like this will not be going away soon. That could spell bad news for AKS and the increasing coverage could put their PR department into extreme damage control mode (which they have been doing a shitty job of since the story broke) to keep things from getting worse for them.
Fans who are in support of Yamaguchi (or the protection of idols in general from such events) have taken to social media to promote the hashtag #JusticeForMahohon to spread the news of what happened to her in the hopes of raising awareness and keeping the issue in the minds of people whether they are J-Pop idol fans or not.
There was also a petition going around (since closed as of January 13th in Japan) asking for current NGT48 theater manager Imamura Etsuro to resign and for upper management to make a formal apology to Yamaguchi and her fans. Whether that actually results in something is also something yet to be seen.
Whatever the case, one can only hope that Yamaguchi will get the help she needs to recover from such a traumatic event and that this will prompt some sort of change within NGT48 and AKS for the improvement of the security of their roster of idols. Given the measures that management has proposed so far that may be wishful thinking.