Japanese Pop Idol Apologizes After Being Allegedly Attacked [Updated]

Illustration for article titled Japanese Pop Idol Apologizes After Being Allegedly Attacked [Updated]
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Maho Yamaguchi is a member of Niigata-based idol group NGT48, a sister group of AKB48. Two men have been arrested for allegedly assaulting her. Yet tonight, it was Yamaguchi who apologized.

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Update Jan. 15 - 6:30 am: On Monday, an AKS official for NGT48's parent company apologized this week, saying that the reason why it hadn’t spoken in public prior was due to the police investigation. The official also announced that an NGT48 manager had been replaced. AKS has confirmed that a member of NGT48 helped the attackers but added that nothing illegal happened.

Japanese TV news did a recreation of the alleged attack. 

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Update #2 March 26 - 7:00 am: An internal investigation apparently showed that no other members of NGT48 were involved in the attack on Maho Yamaguchi. “Why are they continuously telling lies?” Yamaguchi wrote on Twitter (via Tokyo Reporter). “I’m really sad.” Yamaguchi also alleged that if she had not apologized, she was told other members would read a prepared statement on her behalf.

The original story, which was first published on January 15, 2019, continues below.

Run by a talent company known as AKS, AKB48 is one of Japan’s most successful idol groups with numerous spin-off groups, including NGT48 of which Yamaguchi, whom fans call “Mahohon,” belongs. Each of the groups has a massive amount of members—hence, the 48 number.

NHK reports that on December 8, two men, both in their mid-20s, allegedly grabbed her face, assaulting Yamaguchi at her home’s entrance.

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The two men said they “just wanted to talk with her.” They denied the assault and were later released without charge. Japan’s Daily Sports reports that it was told Yamaguchi screamed with surprise when she saw the men, causing them to cover her mouth. A police officer, the paper adds, rushed to the scene.

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Yamaguchi’s account of what happened is terrifying (translation by @jeauexe):

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Earlier this week, Yamaguchi spoke about what happened in an online stream, saying she thought she could have been killed. You can watch below, but it suddenly stops while she was speaking.

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Here is a translation by @ithebigc of the speech:

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As website Asian Junkie (via tipster Oxhex) points out, Yamaguchi had also discussed the incident on Twitter, alleging that a fellow group member had given out her home address and told the men when she would arrive. Yamaguchi accused the group’s management of covering up the incident.

Here are some translations of her tweets by @fryan_get.

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According to Daily Sports, NGT48's management denies that another group member gave out Yamaguchi’s home address.

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Tonight, Yamaguchi went on stage and apologized for “causing trouble,” bowing several times before a packed crowd.

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Apologies are called for, but not from her.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

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DISCUSSION

This is absolutely stomach-turning. Any time someone tells me “rape culture” doesn’t exist (and yes, I know, “well, actually” brigade, she wasn’t raped in this instance), I point to shit like this; a woman can be assaulted—in the US, Japan, or anywhere else—and the onus inevitably comes back to her, even if her attacker(s) eventually face justice.

In this specific instance, it looks like management basically said, “Shut up, say we’re perfect, or your career is over,” and she decided to play ball—but god damn is this infuriating. No one—man or woman—should ever have to apologize for being assaulted.

Not for nothing, this is just one more example of why I find Japanese idol culture so fucking sickening (and, no, I don’t have to “respect the culture” when a specific aspect of that culture is openly and wantonly damaging to a specific subset of that culture). Idols are not allowed to have significant others specifically to “maintain the fantasy” for fans that they are attainable, their personal lives are forever under a fucking microscope, and they get cycled out like last week’s garbage the second they get too old/do something that knocks them off the pedestal their fans and management have placed them on.

The focus is on the entitlement many (but not all, in the interest of being fair) fans of these idols feel toward their bodies, their lives, and their persons, rather than the health and wellbeing of the “idol” themselves.

In this specific case, it looks like the fans took Yamaguchi’s side, and that is absolutely a good thing, and something I’d like to see a hell of a lot more of—but the fact that she felt compelled to apologize for “causing trouble” over reporting an assault bespeaks a deeper darkness in the idol system that desperately needs to be addressed.

It is an absolutely inhuman set of strictures to place on a person.

And the first dipshit who tells me, “Hey, they chose this life,” is going to get a lengthy explanation on power imbalances, and what “choice” means when one option involves forever changing the individual’s (and potentially their family’s) life from a financial aspect, and the other involves—well, the other’s not really a choice at all, given the dichotomy present.