Last week, idol singer Maho Yamaguchi, a member of Niigata-based multi-vocalist unit NGT48, broke a one-month silence about being attacked by two male fans as she entered her home.
The men, both 25-year-old university students, grabbed her face and otherwise jostled her while attempting to force their way inside the entryway to her home. The police were summoned before they could gain full entry, and the two men were arrested on assault charges. However, they denied any violent intent, saying “We wanted to talk with Ms Yamaguchi, and we didn’t think it would be such a big deal.”
The two men were subsequently released without charges being pressed, and in statements made through streaming video and her personal Twitter account, the 23-year-old Yamaguchi expressed her sadness and frustration at the lack of response from NGT48’s management in addressing the problem.
“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through this sort of thing, and so I had no choice but to tell everyone,” tweeted Yamaguchi, who also repeatedly reiterated that she did not want fans to think ill of NGT48 itself, and hoped they would continue to support the group.
The timing of Yamaguchi’s tweets came just one day before the three-year anniversary celebration of the opening of NGT48’s associated theater venue in Niigata City, which took place on January 10. Though Yamaguchi did not take part in the event’s opening musical number, she did join the festivities mid-way through, performing on stage before eventually taking a moment to address the fans.
With her voice cracking as she fights to keep from sobbing, Yamaguchi tells the audience “Recently, I caused a large commotion, and I am sincerely sorry.” She then bows deeply in apology before continuing:
“As I explained the other day, there are people I want to protect, and so I ended talking about the things I did. This has caused trouble for people who have helped and supported me, and I would like to apologize for that.
I want to continue working hard as vice-captain of Team G [one of NGT48’s three sub-units] and hope this can be the start of taking NGT48 in a new direction. I hope you’ll all continue to support NGT48.”
In her previous comments about the attack, Yamaguchi insinuated that the men who assaulted her had been able to find her home because of information they’d been supplied with by another idol in NGT48. The group’s official website has since been updated with a statement from the management confirming that another NGT48 idol (who remains unnamed) had been approached on the street by a man who asked her if she knew where Yamaguchi lived. The unnamed NGT48 member did not know Yamaguchi’s address, but during the conversation gave the man enough information about Yamaguchi’s routine that he could estimate what time she would usually arrive home, wherever her home may be.
The statement does not say whether the other idol purposefully leaked the information or was simply careless with her words during what she thought was harmless chitchat. The statement also does not mention whether the man who obtained the information was one of the two that attacked Yamaguchi as she entered her home on the night of Dec 8. The management does say, however, that in addition to the two men who carried out the attack they have confirmed that a third man was involved in its planning or execution, and that all three have been permanently banned from any and all NGT48 events and appearances, including handshake events where the idols shake hands with fans.
NGT48’s management says that it will be instituting security patrols of its idols’ homes, as well as providing its performers with pocket-sized crime alert sirens (a not uncommon personal safety for women and children in Japan). “Maho Yamaguchi having to break the news about the attack herself was the result of our insufficient communication with her and NGT48’s fans,” the management said, while pledging to take steps to ensure such an attack never takes place again, build trust between the group’s members, and provide proper psychological support and care not just to Yamaguchi, but to all of the performers.
The statement of contrition may seem at odds with Yamaguchi herself apologizing in front of fans, but in Japan, it’s often the case that individuals start off by “apologizing for causing a commotion,” regardless of whether they were in the wrong or not. Thankfully, those in attendance during Yamaguchi’s apology don’t seem to feel she’s to blame for anything, as the reaction from the crowd was silence (born of either confusion at why she was apologizing or respect for her determination) punctuated by shouts of “It’s OK!” and “You didn’t do anything wrong!”
Sources: Sponichi Annex via Jin, NGT48 official website
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