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.

Dae:

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.

 

Garry:

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.

 

Anthony:

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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