The Tale of Sashihara, a Scandal, and HKT48

I’m going to spoil the ending of this story for you: Sashihara is going to HKT48! Well, that is what Aki-P(producer) says he believes anyway, so he will be transferring the highly ranked front-line girl, Sashihara Rino, to help bring HKT up to snuff. We’ve been thrown similar curveballs before(Matsui Jurina and Watanabe Miyuki transferring to Team K and B respectively), but the timing is what people are really talking about.

This announcement was given live over the radio from Aki-P himself, biting at the heels of the controversial tabloid article that published a very vivid and detailed story from a person who claimed to be an ex-boyfriend of Sashihara, which was published just a couple days ago including garbled, unclear pictures that the author claims is of Sashihara. On air, she apologized and admitted that she did know the person who submitted the story, but that they were just friends, saying that the details about their ‘intimacy’ were untrue. Since the news just broke yesterday, we at NSK were just collecting our thoughts and reactions to the news, and decided to organize our opinions into this post. Click below to see what we think.


Sashihara was one of the last people I would have expected to be put through the wringer for a scandal because I thought that she, one of the most flamboyant self-proclaimed idol wota, would adhere extra closely to the golden rule of being an idol. Now, if we’re to believe Sashihara’s side of the story(which I have no problem doing), it was still inappropriate when you look at the cold hard rules. Fans remain fans when you are an idol; you don’t swap numbers and meet up. Sashihara knew that and was basically ready to accept whatever judgement Aki-P was going to sentence her with.

This whole thing is really unfortunate because it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. She just climbed to the fourth rank in AKB48’s election, a coveted spot in the ‘kami 7’ that was completely blocked off for years by original team members. Her reign as a high ranking media senbatsu member will no doubt suffer, as scandal protocol dictates that she keep a low profile for a while, in addition to moving over into HKT48 and the fact that all this will probably have an impact on next year’s elections.

She was also building lots of steam for the concert she was producing/hosting, featuring really great acts like Tokyo Girls Style, Passpo, Idoling!!!, and Ebichu. The concert was also closely tied to her successful solo debut single, ‘Soredemo Sukidayo’, as it was a special event for fans who purchased her single. There’s no doubt that this event now has heavy clouds hanging over it, if it’s not just out-right cancelled(probably not?). And I just watched an AKB0048 episode that was all about how great Sashihara was… such bad timing.

BUT there is something I’m pretty damn excited about, and that’s Aki-P’s call to transfer her to HKT48. I’m excited on the inferred basis that she is not actually being moved permanently, but on loan, much like Matsui Jurina and Watanabe Miyuki. There is potential that this could be a bad move, but if done correctly, it will bring a lot of positive attention to HKT as well as saving Sashihara’s image. Rino is the poster idol for making the best of what one has, so all she’s gotta do keep being herself and not get too down on herself. As for HKT, they could use a little shaking up. Welcome to the crazy 48 family! Weird stuff happens all the time, hope you get used to it!

This could be another instance of Aki-P’s famous intelli-trolls, turning lemons into a delicious pitcher of lemonade; but not before he slaps a sticker on it, labelled “dog urine”. It looks shocking and terrible at first, but you’ll realize it’s just really fucking good lemonade. At least I hope it is.



I don’t really know what parts of this scandal are true and which parts aren’t so I’m not really going to comment too much on the scandal itself. Sashihara herself says that some of the things are true and it’s now up to all of us to decide from that if what she says is fact or if there is some kind of cover up going on. I’m not here to sway your opinion in one direction or the other but I do have some thoughts that I’d like to share if you would indulge me for a little while.

Everyone knows the rules (as archaic as they may be at this point); you have relations with a guy while you’re an idol and you get punished for it. Pretty simple and if what is said is to be believed, this is stipulated in black and white when these girls sign their contracts. Regardless of my opinion that this stupid rule should be done away with (it’s 2012 for crying out loud, not the 1800s) these girls sign a contract so they know exactly what they’re agreeing to from day one. In Sashihara’s case, maybe she didn’t think she’d ever be in a position where this sort of alleged rule breaking would come back to bite her. I mean she’s dorky Sashihara, the fail character and idol otaku so maybe she (or any other girl who isn’t insanely famous in the idol world) just figured where’s the harm because she never invisioned being in a situation where those actions would have consequences. I’m not saying this is what happened here but if you’re in the idol game you should be making every effort to keep yourself out of situations like this.

The sad fact of life is that people get jealous of other people’s success. Sashihara ranks 4th in the AKB48 senbatsu election and suddenly she is implicated in a scandal. Of course someone was going to try to bring her down because that’s just how some people are. They can’t stand to see others succeed in life and have to do everything they can to ruin it for them. You could almost see it coming as soon as her name was read out, these tabloids would be digging for any shred of dirt they could find. News like this sells papers unfortunately and Sashihara is the hot topic right now so it was almost to be expected. They managed to find some guy who wanted to air his dirty laundry out in public and the rest is history at this point.

Moving away from all of that and looking to the future now, I’m not really sure what to make of Sashihara being moved to HKT48. As I understand it, the move is permanant so this is probably the harshest punishment Akimoto could have imposed without outright firing Sashihara. In that sense it points to the “all will be forgiven in time” approach which is probably the best outcome one could hope for in this instance. Whether or not Sashihara is indeed forgiven by the fans of if she’s eventually hounded out remains to be seen. You do have to give Akimoto credit though, this announcement did knock a lot of the scandal talk on the head. Again proving that Akimoto is the master of diversion tactics.

Finally, let’s spare a thought for the girls of HKT48 in all of this. While outwardly they all seem to be either having a positive or sympathetic reaction to the news, on the inside this must feel like a slap in the face. This decision from Akimoto to send Sashihara to Fukuoka not only casts a dark cloud over HKT that they may struggle to shift but it also all but says they’re not good enough. Not to mention the fact that Sashihara is going to stick out like a sore thumb and I’m sure the HKT wota aren’t going to be too happy with her being there either. How Sashihara handles this “opportunity” will either sink or save her career. I, like most of you am hoping for the latter.



Lets just start off by saying that I am a skeptic for everything. Do I believe in everything that the tabloid alleged Sashihara of doing? No. Do I believe that the entire thing was fabricated and NONE of the allegations are true? No. I’m a firm believer in “where there is smoke, there is fire”. Sashihara admitted to being friends with the man in question named by Bunshun as, “A” but did not address the other allegations. She simply mentioned, “there were some truths and there were some fallacies”. Which leads me to believe that there was more to the relationship than the two just being friends.

Now, my personal thoughts on Sashihara. She is as most of you guys know, one of my favorite members of AKB48. Nothing that  has come from this scandal has affected my thoughts and feelings of Sashihara. If the actual act of her being in a friendly relationship bothers you, I can understand that because that is indeed how fans in Japan feel about idols being friendly with men. At the end of the day, they are young girls. They want to hangout with boys and or fall in love. I have no problem with idols dating and hanging out with men as long as they don’t get caught and be removed from their role in the group. You can blame the age old “no dating rule” but that is part of the idol culture that Japan has lived with as long as idols have been around.

The other elephant in the room; her transfer to HKT48. Do I think this was a fair “punishment” for admitting to having a friendship with a male? No. But, what Akimoto did was pure genius. What Shukan Bunshun wanted to do was to create a scandal big enough to where they would force Sashihara to leave the group. Akimoto took Bunshun’s intentions and gave them a big “FUCK YOU” right back at them by moving Sashihara to HKT and extending her idol career. I have read that the folks at Bunshun aren’t happy and supposedly have “Sashihara Scandal Part 2” ready to fire(they have also mentioned that they probably will not release part 2). We may continue to see more back and forth between them.

Some people are taking Sashihara’s move to HKT48 as a death sentence. I think it’s quite the contrary. I believe that Sashihara would have been stuck as the “hetare” for her entire AKB48 career. Which is not a bad thing but it didn’t help the amount of haters she had to deal with since she started seeing more screen time. With the move to HKT48, Akimoto’s plan is to have Sashihara guide the young girls of HKT48 and lead by example. Show what’s right and what’s wrong. What’s better than having an example of someone who committed something considered “wrong” show up at your door step and lead the way? I think Sashihara will have learned her lesson and be a positive influence on the young and impressionable girls of HKT48.

I understand the concern among HKT48 fans that worry about Akimoto throwning a monkey wrench that is Sashihara into the works that is HKT48. I’m also worried about HKT48 management making the wrong moves to promote Sashihara and HKT as a whole(HKT fans have claimed that the HKT manager is an indecisive clown on 2ch). I think we just have to wait and see what kind of catalyst Sashihara becomes to making HKT48 relevant. Is this a bigger gamble than Matsui Jurina and Watanabe Miyuki’s loan to AKB48? Absolutely, but time and time again, Akimoto has always proven everyone wrong. Based on track record, this should be a success but there’s a first time for everything.

But overall, I am disappointed that Sashihara is no longer in AKB48 but I’m excited to see her in a different atmosphere and excited about what she can do with HKT48. For those that had no prior interest in HKT48, the time is now to start taking notice. Akimoto can really take advantage of the attention HKT48 is getting by announcing a single in the near future.

I believe in Akimoto Yasushi. I still like AKB48. I support HKT48. I’m rooting for Sashihara.

About Dae Lee

-Dae, aka Mizu -Writer, broadcaster, and podcaster on New School Kaidan

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  1. Considering that this transfer can be viewed as a punishment worse than being fired, it really kills all momentum of Shuukan Bunshun’s article. If they had anymore substantial evidence, than it’s practically worthless now. AkiP said it will be a little more difficult, but Sashi will be able to keep going with Not Yet and variety show activities. Personally, I’m excited to see how this all turns out, because I expect the best to come out of all of this.

  2. Haha. I’m a little disappointed that this doesn’t include all the writers of NSK. I would like to see Dave’s, Tron’s, and David’s opinions.

    Thanks for writing this, guys. This makes me feel better than the short 120 character statements on Twitter. Let me give my two cents.

    Now that I’m done being shocked, I think I can give a more leveled response than what I posted on Twitter.

    This is really quite troubling, isn’t it? As AKB become more and more popular, the scandals keep appearing. The tabloids want dirt on the hot new shit and they are clearly trying their hardest.

    Of course, this need for a story reached my favorite member. To be honest, we should have saw this coming. The haters were growing in numbers. There were lots of people who wanted to take her down for stupid reasons like thinking she’s too popular. Sashihara was everywhere. It was inevitable that something bad was going to happen.

    She didn’t help the case either. She admitted being friends with the guy and was extremely vague with her answers. While nothing may have happened, she didn’t put herself in a good position. She may have not have known that she would be where she is now, but she did something that caused a misunderstanding. She’s an idol. She shouldn’t put herself in positions like that. It’s a stupid rule but it’s a stupid rule that she signed up with. My point is that while I don’t believe this is 100% true, she did screw up.

    Now about this transfer? I can just say I’m just a bit worried. I don’t like HKT to be used as a punishment. They need to gain fame their own way just like SKE and NMB. But I’m sure Akimoto has a plan. He knows what he is doing. This may be a blessing. She needed her space. She needed room to grow. And as a result, this sates the haters and draws attention away from the fact that it is still up in the air whether this is true or not. If this is done right, she may be more successful than she could ever be in AKB. However, this is going to be hard to do right and I hope it goes right for her sake.

    I adore Sasshi. I will continue to support her. I don’t care whether this is true or not. While she may not be my favorite AKB member anymore, she is still my favorite 48 member. Do your best, Sasshi. I’ll support you.

    Thanks for the article.

  3. I really dont understand this optimistic thing that fan are having about Sashihara going to HKT. I want to know if fans realize that not only that Sashi got exile, I am pretty sure all the work she was signed up to do for the next couple of weeks/months such as commercials, photo shoots and other things such as that are probably lost for her. She may not be in Not Yet anymore and she also has a movie to be that was suppose to continue on from her drama which idk if this scandal has affected it. From a business standpoint, why would Aki-P put Sashihara as the face of HKT? That option would not make any sense:
    – She just took a big hit from her fanbase.
    -I am positive that she wont be asked to go on variety shows for a while that arent produced by AKS for a while so that would also hurt promotions if she was a captain for HKT.
    -Sashihara won’t get as much work (photo shoots, event appearances, commercials, etc) being under the HKT name because if you use the same logic that was discussed on the All Night NSK ep about the state of SKE48, why would companies want to hire in this next few months a former member from the main group that had a scandal instead of just going with someone who is apart of AKB48.

    How is someone like Sashihara is suppose to be some savior for HKT like I am reading under comments of articles or forum posts if she has to deal with all of these things in which Japan will not let go of because that is how their entertainment media works.

    • A lot of the things you list probably will happen, but I see them as immediate and short term trials. HKT will eventually get their spotlight and show up in more things. Sashihara will eventually be able to show up on tv shows and photoshoots again.
      The scandal is all shiny and shocking now, but will become old soon enough. Will there be a permanent popularity hit? Probably, but we’ll just have to wait for that.

      • I can see her rising back up again but not to the height of her popularity of where she is right now. This is also Japan we are talking about and even though I feel a scandal like having a bf is pretty stupid, that puts a stain ppl’s careers so I honestly dont believe that it will wash away anytime soon. I just dont like how fans are acting like she is the 2nd coming of Christ for HKT.

      • I agree. I can see things washing over pretty quickly since the scandal doesn’t explicitly reveal any details that are overly incriminating. The racy photos with cleavage and bra shots are supposedly of Sashihara, and I place emphasis in writing the word “supposedly” because her head is out of view. Call me a skeptic but considering that Shukan Bunshun is a tabloid magazine, I wouldn’t be surprised if they added in fake photos just to up the sensationalism. Unless they are able to provide racy photos that visibly indicate it being Sashihara, It’s all hearsay as far as I’m concerned.

        Overall, this whole scandal is rather tame compared to what was previously discovered during Oba Mina’s scandal. Regardless of what had happened, gradually throughout the year, Oba still managed to resume her career as an idol nearly unscathed from the vitriol spewed her way. With how popular Sashihara has become, I believe this scandal will have an even more profoundly minimal effect on her career in the long run. Let’s just hope that Shukan Bunshun doesn’t have a more devastating follow up to this story.

        • Like I said, there is a possibility for her to rise back up again but not to what she use to be. Even if you look at the Oba mina situation, she hasnt completely risen back to how she use to be. Im not a pessimistic person but Im looking at it for the point of view is that if this would have happened to another popular top 10 member like a Yuko or Kashiwagi, everyone would react the complete opposite so I just dont understand how ppl are optimistic about it or I am just missing something about Sashihara that ppl are seeing.

          • I never did say that she would fully recover from this. I agree that this will certainly leave a stain on her career. I do, however, believe it’s not controversial enough to have a tremendous impact on her career in the long run. The reason for my optimism is because there is no evidence that she did anything incriminating. She admits to being friends with this guy and nothing more. There is no outside evidence that can refute her statement, but at the same time there is nothing that can refute the supposed ex’s claim. So, she can be criticized for being friends with a fan and swapping numbers, but no one can say something to the extent of, “You had sexual relations with this guy, so I’m not supporting you anymore.” because there’s nothing that truly proves anything went on between the two and therefore, there isn’t any significant reason for any fan to stop supporting her.

            What bothers me is that the half nude photos don’t show her face. They could have easily posted any random nude girl with an obscured face and said, “these are supposedly nude images of Sashihara Rino” and they would completely avoid being sued for libel because they didn’t try to pass of the info as fact, instead they made an implication. It’s what these tabloid mags do and why the most incriminating details should be taken with a grain of salt. Also, Bunshun supposedly called her phone number that was given to them by her ex and she picked up. Of course, they can’t post her personal info, so there’s no way of confirming whether or not this was even true either.

            It comes down to a game of he said, she said. He says there was something going on and she says that they’re just friends. There is no factual evidence that will result in a clear conclusion. If they can prove that the racier photos were sent from her phone to his, then I’ll refrain from my skepticism and eat crow.

            Until then, I’ll only mind the info that matters, which is Sasshi’s official statement. Sasshi says that they’re just friends and that’s the only thing we can believe because there’s nothing that truly says otherwise. I’m not saying that there wasn’t an intimate relationship, just that there’s no factual evidence proving it to be true. No one knows for sure, so there’s no reason for anyone to further condemn her or stop supporting her altogether for unproven acts she may have done outside of just being friends.

            As for the other popular members, I’d say the reactions depend on how scandalous the dirt is. If it were similar to Sasshi’s situation, then my assumptions for their future careers would be the same. The allegations are too weak and their popularity is too strong for their careers to take too much of a hit in the long run.

            You’re right in saying that Oba hasn’t fully recovered. She’s dropped below her previous position in this year’s senbatsu ranking. Even so, she’s still getting a steady flow of support from her fans and she was given the opportunity to resume her role as captain of team 4. It’s amazing that she’s even still around considering the dirt they found on her. For instance, she had actual blog posts under an old account of hers that explicitly spoke about underage drinking and enjo kosai. Again, comparing Oba’s scandal to Sasshi’s scandal makes sasshi’s look tame. For one, Sasshi’s scandal involves a supposed ex with no real evidence of their intimacy and there wasn’t any act of her doing something illegal. Ultimately, she’s only being punished for swapping info with a fan and being friends.

            Like I’ve said before, Oba’s scandal was more controversial and yet she was still able to return as captain of team 4 with a decent senbatsu ranking. So, how much bigger of a hit will Sasshi’s career take in the future? With someone like Oba, who’s presence and popularity was not as nearly established as sasshi’s, being able to return to the group after being involved in a scandal of that magnitude means that we should expect the same level of impact on sasshi’s career, if not less.

  4. I’m excited to see what Sashihara will do in HKT, but I didn’t even think about how the scandal may have an effect (which it probably will for a while) on her TV appearances and other stuff.
    And I completely forgot about the idol concert she is holding and how that could be effected.

    • I think a lot of entertainers understand the trouble that fame entails. Once you’re popular, everyone is out to get you and perhaps, most people in the entertainment business will be able to sympathize with that because sasshi’s not the only entertainer who has been harassed by tabloid mags. So, even though it’ll take time, televisions producers or whoever will still be open to working with her again, especially since the scandal doesn’t prove that she did anything shameful.

  5. My thoughts:

    AKB48 and Sashihara are popular. Everyone’s jelly and they’re going to be a huge target. I’m surprised they haven’t been getting hit with more dirt.

    The bottom line is in this industry, rules are rules. They’re fairly strict about them, too.

    The evidence the tabloid laid down is not strong enough to convict her, that’s for sure. However, it’s potent enough to damage her reputation.

    Wotas are angry, blah blah, so let’s at least save some face and do something about this by showing some shame, ya?

    Honestly, the transfer to HKT48 was one of the biggest win-wins for most parties involved.

    Not yet remains intact, Sashihara can still do TV shows like Waratte Iitomo, she can still be in the Election single, Aki-P doesn’t lose a strong asset, Sashihara still has a job, HKT48 receives a boost in veteran power, Itano regains her spot in the Kami 7. etc etc…

    This was a huge deflection technique and hurts the momentum that the scandal built up. Maybe the best case scenario would have been an apology and outright denial of the scandal, which would lead to everyone going on with their lives, or maybe all Sashihara had to do was run a marathon (sorry, Sayaka). Regardless, this is definitely not the worst thing that could happen.

    Even if Sashihara remains “banished” in Hakata Land, the main group is mostly unharmed, the family prevails.

    I think Sashihara has enough presence in the media entertainment industry that even from a low, she can bounce back pretty well.

    I mean come on, I feel like I can see her on TV more often than Maeda Atsuko or Oshima Yuko.

    No way in hell should she be the savior of HKT though. If HKT’s lack of promotion is based on their management, then that’s their fault. I hope they take this change in their lineup as a good chance to start restructuring how they do things down there.

    Long story short, don’t worry about it. Everything’s going to be fine. If you like drama though, bask in it all you want right now. Maybe I just don’t care enough. Sashihara has more than enough supporters in our own community as well as the foreign community as a whole, so stay strong, brothers and sisters.

    TL;DR: God damn it Sashihara thanks for ruining the next single, oh wait nevermind Not yet Suika Baby BEST SONG 2012.

  6. I think Tamori-san will support Sasshi with this transfer….one reason is his hometown is Hakata =]

  7. I guess one of the things I’m legitly worried about is the Yubi Matsuri and how that may affect TGS lol

  8. thought I best post my thoughts after going away for the weekend and coming back to this news!

    This whole thing is really bad at a worse time. She just climbed to the fourth rank in AKB48′s election for goodness sake and this whole thing came along at this rather, well convenient time…..

    As for the scandal itself well it’s just all over the place so I will just say that I think all of what they said happened did not, but also there may be some truths in it too, perhaps they were friends once, I expect that is the case but some of the other stuff, I’m not sure, the thing is really that it was serious enough for this course of action to be taken

    I’m not really sure what to make of Sashihara being moved to HKT48. Well this ‘punishment’ that Aki-P handed out is probably the harshest he could of done without firing her In that sense it points to the “all will be forgiven in time” idea much like girls such as Oba and Milky in a way, the plan was to attempt to keep Sasshi involved so maybe this was the only way it could of been done, we should really spare a thought for the girls of HKT48 in all of this too.

    Well this is a demotion for Sasshi no doubt (it would be if she went to SKE or NMB too) and I can see where HKT fans are pretty pissed at this as Sasshi will stick out for alot of reasons, it also takes that scandal to the girls that have had nothing to do with it and it might hang over them too, I do feel sorry that in a way they have become almost like a ‘dumping ground’ shifting Sasshi out of the way until things perhaps blow over, I just hope it dosn’t hurt their own development

    As for Sasshi, well I think that if she can turn it around then that great, she still has alot to give as an idol I think but will she ever get back to where she was, well, we will see but I wonder if Aki-P will back her like he did before……

  9. What hurts the most is that even if you’re not a Sashihara fan, she felt like one of us. So this is kind of like having this happen to a friend, so it hurts more than if it happened to anyone else.

  10. I think she’s done.

    I think she will be used for a short period of time (<1 yr or so) as a token center of HKT48, but I think it's clear that, not unlike the captain of Team K (who's my favorite, but got nailed and had to resign her position because of a night with a producer and even the _appearance_ of impropriety), she's got a ceiling now that will basically take her out of the main picture.

    Sasshi was probably going to be the next "center" of AKB48. And I think the bigger story is that someone was trying to stop that. Someone didn't want Sasshi as the next "center", the #1. Doubtful it would be the current #1, who's #1 by such a margin that, barring similar scandal, she's AKB48's "center" as long as she wants it.

    But I think Sasshi is effectively finished, and Aki-P is just finding a more delicate way to deal with it than just outright firing her. Remember, Japan is a country where "health problems" are usually used as a substitute for saying a person was fired.

    The more ominous concept is thinking what might've been behind this. Someone didn't want Sasshi skyrocketing through the ranks, and I think this story is _far_ from over.

  11. I love Sashi, she’s so cute, she reminds me of Yuki Kaida, who is my favorite seiyuu. Anyway, I only recently liked AKB48, and when I found out she reached 4th rank on the elections, that made me happy since that’s pretty high, the fans worked hard to put her there. From rank 9 to rank 4 is pretty high jump, plus she wasn’t even in the top 10 before, so she must have worked hard for that, it wasn’t that easy for her.

    But It’s so sad that at the moment of her success, suddenly this stupid scandal starts. Why must people be jealous of success. I hope Sasshi does well in her career, I feel like she’s really nice and natural.

    She should be back in AKB, to prove to those who are trying to put her down that they can’t, those articles are just made to hurt Sashi’s reputation. Plus also what’s wrong with Sashi in the top ranks with the others, she deserved that.

    Some had scandals in the past haven’t they? Tomomi had drastic surgery done(although I luv her too), and the agency is trying to protect her. Sashi said the scandal isn’t true, why couldn’t they just protect her the same way? I know those are two different things, but c’mon.

    I dunno how to accept this,since I’d love to see more of her. I have this feeling that akimoto doesn’t really like Sashi that much, especially his previous comments about her, that she was mediocre even though she ranked higher. Even then, I still support Sashi no matter what. Damn those haters, they are just jealous.

    Plus also Erika Sawajiri was in more scandals, much more worse that Sasshi’s, and if she can make it back, so can Sasshi :)

  12. Interesting read here after 5 years. Looks like the loan of Sasshi to HKT48 is permanent by now, that it has been a roaring success both for her and for HKT48, and her career is now totally on the up and up especially now that she has won two (I think two?) elections. Love her slightly brash ‘out there’ style, and love HKT48. The two together are total win!

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