Fans Upset Japanese Pop Star Felt Pressure To Apologise For Her Own Assault

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Almost a week ago, a member of the Japanese girl group NGT48 apologised to fans for talking about her own assault, making headlines and generating controversy in the process. The conversation has since devolved into a larger discussion about unfair treatment of women in Japan, specifically in the idol industry.
The 23-year-old Yamaguchi Maho, nicknamed “Mahohon," reportedly returned home on December 8 to find two men waiting for her. A statement on NGT48's website confirmed the assault. On social media, Yamaguchi has shared a suspicion that a fellow member of the band had told fans about her schedule. The men allegedly grabbed her face. They were arrested, but later released after they claimed they had simply wanted to talk to Yamaguchi.
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Following the incident, Yamaguchi kept quiet until she talked about the assault publicly during a live stream (which was cut short) as well as on Twitter. She said that she hoped she could be honest and relate to other fans with her story, and implied that her management company, AKS, wasn't responding appropriately to her situation.
"I am sorry to shock you guys. Some might get scared to hear what happened to me. I am really sorry. I wanted to help those who were going through the same experience," she wrote on Twitter. "I didn't do anything for a month because I didn't want to impose on everyone that supports me. I don't want you to dislike NGT (the pop band) ... That's because I believed they'd sort all this out."
Later at the pop group's three-year anniversary show on January 10, Yamaguchi took time to apologise to fans for "causing trouble." This apology caused an uproar among fans who felt that the idol had done nothing wrong, and led to the creation of a hashtag for them to voice their disapproval with her management: #JusticeForMahohon. Sashihara Rino, a member NGT48’s sister group HKT48, also tweeted her support for Yamaguchi. Fans then created a petition on Change.org in support of the singer that called for her manager's resignation. When it closed on January 13, it had amassed 53,000 signatures.
Yamaguchi's insistence on sharing her story, and the subsequent outrage her forced public apology caused, feel like familiar aftershocks of the global #MeToo movement. More than a year after the Times published its exposé on Harvey Weinstein, the conversation about sexual harassment and assault continues to spread around the world, from Stockholm to Mumbai — and now, Tokyo. But it hasn't been easy: In the World Economic Forum's index measuring the degree of gender equality, Japan is ranked 110th out of 149. Furthermore, in an interview with CNN, Kukhee Choo, a cultural studies expert at Sophia University in Tokyo, explained that "Japanese culture is still bound by notions that women have to behave in a so-called 'womanly way' to elicit sympathy. 'In Western culture, strong women are respected, but in Japan, even when you're strong you have to perform the victim.'"
On Monday, the company that manages NGT48 removed one of its officials due to criticism of its handling of Yamaguchi's alleged assault: "We're determined to build trust with each of the members and to provide mental care for Maho Yamaguchi and all other members," read the company's statement.
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