Management company explains slow response, maintains no members of NGT48 illegally supplied attackers with victim’s home address.

While a popular idol singer being stalked by obsessed fans is, sadly, not unprecedented in Japan, what happened to Maho Yamaguchi has been causing outrage. Back in December, the 23-year-old member of Niigata-based idol unit NGT48 was attacked by two men who were lying in wait as she returned to her home after a concert, with the men grabbing her face and trying to force their way into her home’s entryway.

Aside from the deplorable act itself, what’s also causing anger is that the incident went unreported to the public for an entire month, until Yamaguchi got tired of waiting for her group’s management to release a statement and decided to break the news herself via a live video stream and her personal Twitter account. “It doesn’t feel like I’m alive,” said the idol, clearly suffering from the stress of the attack and the virtual non-response in which both her assailants were arrested but released without formal charges being filed against them.

▼ Maho Yamaguchi

Through it all, AKS, the company that manages NGT48 (as well as its more-famous sister group, Akihabara’s AKB48), remained silent, even after Yamauchi herself appeared in front of fans and apologized for “causing commotion” following her tweets. Finally, on January 14, more than a month after the December 8 attack, AKS operating officer Takumi Matsumura, along with executives Maiko Hayakawa and Tsuyoshi Okada, held a press conference in Tokyo to apologize for being unable to prevent the attack as well as the company’s response.

In addition, Etsuro Imamura, who had served as NGT48’s manager since its formation in 2015, has resigned from that position and will be transferred to a different role within the company. He will be replaced by Hayakawa, who has been involved in the management of AKB48 and related acts SKE48 and STU48, and assisting her as sub-manager will be Okada.

When asked about the copany’s delay in disclosing the attack, Matsumura said “All we can do is apologize. The primary reason we did not disclose the incident immediately is because the police investigation is still ongoing…Taking NGT48’s members’ safety into consideration, we believed that making the incident public knowledge could lead to copycat attacks. Ultimately, I apologize for the results of that decision, and regardless, it was my responsibility to properly communicate with the victim herself.”

In her statement regarding the attack, Yamaguchi indirectly suggested that a fellow NGT48 idol had supplied her attackers with information about her home address and/or schedule, thus facilitating the ambush. Some fans had speculated that NGT48 members Marina Nishigata and Ayaka Tano might be to blame, since both her unfollowed on Twitter shortly after the date the attack took place. Both have denied involvement, however, with Nishigata recently complying with a police interview request and an examination of her smartphone, neither of which have led to any charges being filed against her.

▼ Marina Nishigata

A statement from Matsumura and AKS representative director Natsuko Yoshinari has also been added to the NGT48 website, in which the executives say that while any NGT48 member who had broken the law would have been reported to the police, the company believes that none of its members actions were illegal. However, a third-party investigative committee, formed of lawyers and other specialists, is being formed to further investigate the incident and determine if any members’ actions or comments were inappropriate or endangering. New manager Hayakawa also posted a statement to the group’s website pledging “Starting with Maho Yamaguchi I will talk thoroughly discuss how to handle the situation with all of NGT48’s members.”

The company has also pledged to enhance its security measures in order to prevent future attacks, though it says that, by direction from its security consultants, it will not be disclosing the specific methods it will be employing.

Sources: NGT48 official website, Yahoo! Japan News/Oricon News via Hachima Kiko, Nikkan Sports via Jin, Livedoor News/Sponichi Annex
Featured image: Twitter/@maho_yamaguchi