The Japanese talent company that runs the popular AKB48 band and its numerous spin-off groups is in hot water over its handling of the assault of a member of one of its local girls units, with the victim having to apologize in public for "the trouble caused" after coming forward with her ordeal.
Maho Yamaguchi, a member of Niigata-based idol group NGT48, a sister group of AKB48, revealed on social media earlier this week that she was attacked by two men at the entrance to her home in December and that "I was trapped in my home and thought I was going to be killed."
Investigative sources said the two men, both in their 20s, grabbed Yamaguchi's face. The two were arrested the next day and were quoted as saying they had "just wanted to talk with her." The police released them without pressing charges.
こんなこと言いたくない。お世話になってる人に迷惑かけたくない。皆さんにngtを嫌いになってほしくないからこの1ヶ月つらくても黙ってた。報道でもngtということは伝えないように私がお願いした。それもこのグループが大切だったから。そして全部対処、処分してくれると信じてたから。— 山口真帆 (@maho_yamaguchi) 2019年1月8日
On Thursday, a day after Yamaguchi took to Twitter to reveal the incident, she appeared on stage at a NGT48 show in Niigata and apologized to fans, saying, "I am sorry for the trouble caused."
Later on Thursday night, the talent company AKS issued a statement acknowledging that an NGT48 member had been approached by a man on the street and gave him information that made it possible to guess what time Yamaguchi would arrive at home. The company did not give further details on who it was.
Many criticized the company for its handling of the matter, among them former NGT48 member Rie Kitahara and Rino Sashihara of HKT48, another AKB48 sister group based in Fukuoka.
"I don't want to think that the management made her apologize for such a grave incident. But even if it was her own doing, I am worried that she might be blaming herself and thinking that she must apologize for how the situation has developed," Sashihara said in a tweet early Friday.
防犯ベル、わたしは怖くて震えて、取り出すことさえできないと思う。。— 指原 莉乃 (@345__chan) 2019年1月10日
"And I wonder why there wasn't a single staff member (of the management) who stood up and told her you don't have to apologize," Sashihara added. "I hope she will recover as soon as possible. We cannot let the same thing happen again."
Sashihara is a four-time winner of the AKB48 family's annual popularity contest and remains a leading member even after she transferred to HKT48 in 2012.
"I am pretty sure there are many members who want to make their voices heard," Sashihara added in another tweet. "But since I know they probably can't say what they want to say, I, with my loud voice, will give it a go."
Kitahara said on Twitter, apparently addressing Yamaguchi, "You shouldn't apologize! Don't apologize. You haven't done anything wrong. Seriously! It's wrong (for you to have) to bow in apology. I'm upset and frustrated."
"It's not that I want the men who were the perpetrators to apologize. But this is absurd, isn't it? This is absolutely wrong. I am extremely sad," Kitahara said.
On Friday, AKS announced that it will cancel three scheduled NGT48 shows through Monday.