Maho Yamaguchi Posts Heartfelt Message to Fans After Graduating NGT48
posted on by Kim Morrissy
NGT48 idol Maho Yamaguchi announced after the group's "Team G" sub-unit's final performance on Monday that she and two fellow members of the sub-unit, Riko Sugahara and Rena Hasegawa, will be graduating from NGT48. The performance was the first time in 101 days that Yamaguchi performed with the group, since her comments in January on her alleged assault in December.
Yamaguchi announced her graduation in a pre-prepared letter, stating "the only thing I can do for NGT48 now is to graduate." In the letter, she mentioned that the president of the Japanese talent agency AKS told her not to speak up about the assault when the suspects were never charged. "He even told me that I was 'an assailant attacking the company,'" Yamaguchi said.
The alleged assault occurred in December; two suspects allegedly confronted Yamaguchi outside her own home in Niigata and grabbed her face as she was entering her home. According to the police, both suspects were 25-year-old unemployed university students. The police said that the suspects "only wanted to talk to Yamaguchi, and didn't think it would be a big deal." The suspects denied the assault and were subsequently released without charges.
Yamaguchi began speaking about the incident on social media about a month later. Yamaguchi said that she initially kept silent about the incident so as not to cause trouble, but eventually spoke out because, as she said, "it's been so hard on me. I don't want the same thing to happen to the other girls [of NGT48]." At a performance on January 10, Yamaguchi apologized for "causing trouble," apparently because of these statements.
On Thursday, after her graduation announcement, Yamaguchi posted a heartfelt message to her fans on Twitter, thanking them for all their support. Even after everything, she wrote that she is glad that she joined NGT48 because of the friends she made through it.
Her full message is roughly translated below:
"I, Maho Yamaguchi, will be graduating NGT48. I'm terribly sorry to tell all my fans about my graduation. I at least wanted to do it with a smile, but I was very sad about Rena and Riko announcing their graduation in front of me, and it was all I could do to stop my tears.
"I loved AKB48 and idols. I hated myself for falling in love with idols and for going against my parents' wishes by becoming one. I thought that if I had never joined NGT48, I would never have experienced this feeling. But now I'm glad that I joined NGT48.
"Rena, Riko, and Mofu were always there to support me. No matter what anyone said to them, they protected me, always believing what they do is right. I think that if I had done something wrong, they would have gotten super mad at me. They were able to believe in me, not because we had known each other for a long time, but because they shared the same convictions. And just like how they supported me, I want to support them. If I had never joined NGT48, I would never have known who my real friends were. I'm so glad to have met such wonderful friends.
"And if I had never joined NGT48, I would never have met all my fans who have supported me. My fans took the time to think about me the way they think about themselves. I've thought about you all every day. I've always regretted that the last time everyone saw me was at the apology. It would've been one thing if the only person I'd hurt was myself and not any of the other members. But I've made my fans very sad. I'm so sorry for making you all see me like that. That's why I resolved to announce my graduation on the final day with a smile, but when I saw the news the next day I couldn't muster a smile at all. The image of all of you crying is burned in my mind.
"For the next two handshake events and the graduation performance, I want to smile for you. I want you to smile to make up for all the sad emotions I've made you feel. Just like how you supported me, I want to lift your spirits in turn.
"There are some people who only found out about me for the first time because of what happened. There are people who say they wish they could have gotten to know me another way. But the sad and bitter experiences are also part of my life as a whole. I'm glad that we met, no matter what form it took. Thank you for finding me. All your messages, photos, and illustrations have stuck with me and encouraged me during the time I wasn't performing as an idol. Thank you so much for that.
"I may be quitting as an idol, but as a regular person, I want to be a strong and kind woman who is deserving of your love. No matter what people say about me behind my back, I'll live true to myself and stay on the path that I believe in. This time, I'll show you the happy me and work towards my dream. Hopefully, I can give you some strength and courage too.
"I won't ask you to support me. Just knowing that you're watching makes me happy.
"You are all my treasure."
Maho Yamaguchi, Riko Sugahara, and Rena Hasegawa will officially graduate on May 18. NGT48 Team NIII member (and current AKB48 member) Yuki Kashiwagi additionally announced on Saturday that she will leave NGT48, although she will stay in AKB48. Kashiwagi had previously held positions in both AKB48 and NMB48, but left NMB48 in March 2015 and announced at the same time she would join NGT48.
NGT48 is a sister group of the AKB48 idol group based in Niigata prefecture, and it launched in 2015. The group announced on April 11 that the group's current two teams would be "dissolved" after the final performances on Sunday, and is "restarting" as first-generation members and new members in training (also known as "research students" in AKB48 and its sister groups like NGT48). The remaining members of the teams who are not graduating will, regardless of what generation they are from, become either new "first-generation" members or new members in training.
The dissolution of the NGT48 group's current teams is the latest in a series of shakeups for the idol group that began with the alleged assault incident. The fallout led to the replacement of NGT48 director Etsuro Imamura with the new theater manager Maiko Hayakawa and new assistant theater manager Tsuyoshi Okada.
AKS posted a statement in January, saying that Imamura had been working with the police to investigate the issue, and that another member of NGT48 had given up the time in which Yamaguchi returns home to a man who accosted her on the street.
However, in another later statement, the company announced that it had not found any evidence of "unlawful action" by NGT48 members, but it would still tap lawyers and experts to form a third-party committee to investigate if any members had performed "inappropriate conduct." The company announced Imamura's resignation in the same statement. NGT48 posted the third-party committee's findings in March, which state that no evidence of "inappropriate conduct" was found in this case.
AKS announced the resignation of AKB48 theater manager Takahiro Hosoi in March, and also canceled its contract with Imamura, both as a result of alleged "inappropriate conduct." Oricon News had reported that day that Hosoi and former AKB48 theater manager Tomonobu Togasaki had shared a photograph of them drinking with Imamura on Twitter, and Togasaki posted (and later deleted) the comment, "I've heard about the whole thing. Everyone, don't be fooled by the worthless reports."