A heartbreaking gesture of kindness for a woman in an industry that often doesn’t treat its performers like people.


Late last year, idol singer Maho Yamaguchi, of Niigata-based idol unit NGT48, was attacked by two men who’d been lying in wait near the entrance to her home. Yamaguchi stayed quiet for a month while waiting for NGT48’s management to address the issue, and when they didn’t, she broke her silence, revealing the incident through her Twitter account.

The scandal has led to a number of shakeups, including the replacement of NGT48’s manager and the dissolution of its intra-unit sub-team system, and the latest personnel move involves Yamaguchi herself. On Sunday, the 23-year-old Yamaguchi said that she’ll be leaving the group (or “graduating,” to use the idol industry’s parlance), crying as she read her statement.  While Japanese society has largely come to accept intense psychological pressure as an inescapable part of the highly competitive idol industry, one child’s touching gesture is serving as a reminder that idol singers are human beings too, and deserving of compassion in times of distress.

Japanese mother and Twitter user @SMART_TIMES was watching a TV report on Yamaguchi’s graduation when her son, who looks like he can’t be more than two or three years old, walked over to the screen, with a tissue in hand, and began trying to wipe away Yamaguchi’s tears. “What’s the matter?” the boy asked, apparently not knowing the traumatic turn of events she’s been through, but being very much aware that the idol was sad and could use a little sympathy.

“He’s such a good kid,” tweeted @SMART_TIMES, and other Twitter users were quick to agree:

“NGT48’s managers need to have this kid’s values.”
“They should make him the president of [NGT48’s managing company] AKS right away.”
“What a kind child. I’m sure he’ll grow up to be a wonderful man.”
“We should all follow his example.”
“It’s so important to instill empathy in kids from a young age.”
“This kid is my hero.”

In her statement, Yamaguchi starts by saying “I loved being an idol, and I loved NGT48. That’s why I wanted the group to change. I went through painful things, and I was ready to throw everything away so that the other members, who are so important to me, wouldn’t have to go through the same things.”

Yamaguchi goes on to say that at one point, the president of AKS, the company that manages NGT48 and its sister acts, called her “an assailant who was attacking the company,” and that she’s subsequently come to the conclusion that “This has become a place where I can no longer be an idol” and “The only thing I can do now for NGT48 is to graduate.”

Yamaguchi will be officially graduating from NGT48 on May 18, as will two other members, Rena Hasagawa and Riko Sugahara, both of whom Yamaguchi thanked for their moral support in her graduation announcement. Along with Yamaguchi herself, Hasagawa and Sugahara removed mention of their affiliation with NGT48 from their Twitter profiles after the home attack on Yamaguchi became public knowledge.

However, Sponichi Annex reports that unlike most idol graduation events, where the departing members are joined on-stage by the remaining idols who see them off and wish them well, on May 18 only Yamaguchi, Hasagawa, and Sugahara will appear. While this could have something to do with Yamaguchi’s repeated insinuations that other members of NGT48 leaked her home address to her attackers, it could also be a sign that even now NGT48’s management is hoping to keep anything related to Yamaguchi as quiet as possible, and the lack of sympathy for her plight might mean that she’ll have more tears for @SMART_TIMES’ son to dry next month.

Source: Twitter/@SMART_TIMES, Sponichi Annex, IT Media
Featured image: Twitter/@SMART_TIMES
Top image: Twitter/@maho_yamaguchi
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