While I took a brief break from updates as I was working on the year-end list, the news unfortunately didn’t stop coming. One of those stories was that of NGT48 member Yamaguchi Maho, who earlier revealed her assault by two men and the involvement of a group member, then had to apologize for it on stage, and subsequently saw AKS reassign/replace NGT48’s manager with no member punishment.
Anyway, we got a visualized look at how that attack went down and why she felt the way she did.
I had actually thought this happened outside the residence, so honestly this is even worse.
Since then, in addition to the story going international (1/2/3/4/5), it has made mainstream press in Japan as well, with additional reports saying that it was actually three fans involved who were fans of another member, and that member was close with the said fans.
The article calls the incident an “unprecedented case in the history of 48 Group.”— ま。2月に東京 (@qc_bb) January 15, 2019
It contradicts NGT48 official statement saying “no members are involved.” Although it too has not named anyone other than Yamaguchi.
Meanwhile it was reported that these stalker types were funded by money they got by selling info on the members to media and others. And also that they got a female manager of NGT48 who tried to clean things up fired.
Update: Tokyo Sports publishes article on #NGT48, claiming that a former manager, Ms. Kitagawa, was harassed by the “Idol Hunter Gang.” She is likely the manager that Inaoka claimed to have forced out through his connection to management. #NGT48 #山口真帆 pic.twitter.com/H166rjHGOh— ま。2月に東京 (@qc_bb) January 17, 2019
Tokyo Sports new article (Jan. 19, 2019):— ま。2月に東京 (@qc_bb) January 18, 2019
-Interviewed local media
-Female manager who protected Yamaguchi Maho was dismissed by Dec. 31, 2018, and left Niigata
-She had been fighting against delinquency and bad morals within the group#NGT48 #山口真帆https://t.co/exC3RWab4o pic.twitter.com/K6NkmqN1uV
That report about the female staffer has been denied by NGT48.
NGT48 official site releases a statement that deny the rumours about their female staff, and claims there was no such fact after re-confirming with the female staff herself. NGT48 also complain against the related media reporting a false news story.
After everything that’s happened, it’s hard to believe anything management says, however.
As far as changes, at least it seems like they’re moving their dorms. Yay?
According to Japanese newspaper The Hochi Shimbun, NGT48’s non-Niigata-hometown members have moved out from current dormitory, where the group’s management provides. It was reported that the group member Yamaguchi Maho was attacked by two men at her living quarter, and it was also reported that a fans group stays at the same mansion, according to the related party, the management finds it is serious and move the members to other mansion.
Realistically, this is unlikely to do much because the stalker type of fans will just find where they live again.
Meanwhile, as if to specifically fuel further conspiracies, the governor of Niigata Prefecture Hanazumi Hideyo just wants it all to go away as quickly as possible.
At a recent press conference, Hanazumi was quoted as saying, “As soon as the facts of the case are made clear, I hope everything returns to normal.” (Oof.) #山口真帆https://t.co/KfbG4mwxGw— Kat Bee (@katbeee) January 17, 2019
Why is Hanazumi so invested in brushing away the scandal? He knows the group is a huge driver of nationwide recognition for Niigata, calling NGT48 “a beloved part of the charm of Niigata tourism.” NGT48 means big business for the prefecture. #山口真帆 https://t.co/Kx78DznXbc— Kat Bee (@katbeee) January 17, 2019
Hanazumi offered no words of support or sympathy for Yamaguchi — who, regardless of the situation, was still assaulted and made to feel unsafe in her home — but he did say he “[hopes] the scandal doesn’t impact the public perception of [Niigata].” https://t.co/y55cG02M0A— Kat Bee (@katbeee) January 17, 2019
Fans were already looking for a reason to think a cover-up of this goes deep, but this just adds even further fuel to that fire.
Still, any attempt at a cover-up doesn’t necessarily seem to be working, so I’m not sure why management insist on going this direction.
One of their sponsor Ichimasa Kamaboko has already removed NGT48 related ads videos on the official website. Moreover, according to The Niigata Nippo, another sponsor “The Daishi Bank” express they would not extend the contract with NGT48 at this moment.
Niigata local organization Niigata Chamber of Commerce and Industry have removed Niigata Port Opening 150th Anniversary PR Movie Page. LAWSON group who is running a campaign with NGT48, has removed NGT48 PR video from YouTube, though the official site still keep the campaign page. Ichimasa Kamaboko official site release a statement today that the enterprise have pulled off NGT48 CM, because they received the customers’ comments, before knowing the fact, they decide to remove NGT48 members’ CM. Z-Kai release a statement that the company have no relation with Z Club (Note: According to Shukan Bunshun, 2 Z Club members broke into Yamaguchi Maho’s apartment on 8 December 2018).
All this falls on how management has chosen to handle the situation.
Nakamura Ryuutarou worked for Shuukan Bunshun from 1995 to 2014. He won awards for investigative reporting on incidents such as NHK’s Bribery case in 2004.— ま。2月に東京 (@qc_bb) January 22, 2019
Wezzy (online magazine) column (2/2):— ま。2月に東京 (@qc_bb) January 20, 2019
“Fans have resorted to a semi-humorous witchhunt, and forgotten about caring for the safety of Yamaguchi.
But this situation was created due to the silence and lack of transparency by AKS, the company behind NGT. #NGT48 #山口真帆 pic.twitter.com/SnDybOU6CD
Right, all the rampant speculation surrounding this story only exists in unprecedented droves because management has failed to be honest and has treated fans and the public like complete idiots who are unable to put two and two together.
Through everything that’s come out of this, it has been revealed how commonplace this experience is for many female idols, with one report saying there are many others who simply quit/graduated.
And there are others who are speaking out directly, like former Onyanko Club member Nitta Eri and former SKE48 member Tezuka Machiko.
Former GEM member Murakami Rana, meanwhile, told a horrifying story of her own.
Meanwhile, as cool and brave as Sashihara Rino was for speaking out against her bosses in support of Maho, I suppose there are real consequences for keeping it real like that.
And the group themselves definitely seem to be feeling the effect now.