Honoka Oomoto's agency pressured her to work harder as a performer according to reports, and also said she would face a “penalty fee” if she left
25 May 2018 - 12:46 PM  UPDATED 25 May 2018 - 12:46 PM

Honoka Oomoto, an idol based in Japan’s Ehime prefecture, died by apparent suicide on March 21 of this year. The story has gained renewed attention in Japanese media this week, as publications in the country have looked into Oomoto’s relationship with her management, with her family commenting that the pressure of being an idol contributed to her death.

Last Friday, Japanese publication Shukan Bunshun published a story about Oomoto’s suicide, focused on comments shared by her mother.  She details the relationship between her daughter and the agency that managed the group — called Enoha Girls — she was a member of. The piece focuses on how her work as an idol conflicted with her life as a high school student, and how the agency appears to pressure Oomoto about placing more of an emphasis on the group at the expense of her education. The mother also says that the agency said Oomoto would have to pay a “penalty fee” if she left the group. Bunshun also published messages from the application LINE between Oomoto and her agency in subsequent stories.

The agency denied that they required a “penalty fee.”

Shukan Bunshun’s story spread quickly online, and made netizens in Japan angry and critical of how Oomoto’s agency pressured her in regards to her idol career.

The idol-focused blog Yes Tiger! wrote an in-depth look at Oomoto’s life. Enoha Girls is a local idol group in Ehime prefecture focused on agricultural and promoting the idea that women who work in the field should not be looked down upon. The group’s recorded output isn’t much, but they performed locally quite a bit.

The well-being of idols has been a constant topic of conversation in Japan, and only picked up in recent years. Some of the bigger entertainment stories of this decade have revolved around cases where idols dealt with mental or physical problems, with overwork being a common issue. Recent issues include the member of an idol group being suspended by her group for failing to meet a targeted weight loss. Concern over how idols in the J-pop industry are treated has become more of a talked about issue online in Japan, with more and more netizens believing talent agencies are exploiting and overworking the performers.

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