While the story ended up fading a bit from the public view, back in 2016 was the shocking news regarding the attack on Mayu Tomita, an indie idol who, outside of a venue she was scheduled to perform at on the night of her attack, was stabbed around 60 times by a crazed fan for rejecting some gifts they had sent her. Thankfully she has been able to mostly recover from the incident, yet the incident also brought an end to her fledging idol career and, though she has recovered, she still is by no means back to the way she was before the attack. Citing fatal flaws in the way police handled the threats made to her before the attack and the massive effect it has had on her life, Mayu Tomita has started a lawsuit against the assailant, her agency and the Tokyo metropolitan government for 76 million yen for the impact the attack has had on her life.
While Tomita has somewhat recovered from the attack, it should still be noted that she still has problems breathing and eating even 3 years on from the original attack where she was stabbed all over her body including the neck before a fan event scheduled to take place in Kogenai, Tokyo. She has also noted she has suffered from PTSD as a result of the attack, struggles to see out of her left side and more.
Before the attack took place, the assailant, Tomohiro Iwazaki, had sent online messages that quickly became obsessive over social media, also sending her many gifts. After choosing to return some of the gifts he had purchased, he sent many hate-filled messages and blog posts, including multiple threatening to kill her, in response to this decision. Although she consulted with police, they failed to adequately protect her by failing to leave police in areas where she could be vulnerable.
The story took over the news at the time because of how violent the attack was, and I remember learning of the story at the time and being shocked about what had happened. As time went on, we began to learn about many of the warning signs in his online behavior that did suggest the attack would take place, and as this lawsuit states, there had been attempts to warn police, as well as discussions with her agency, that took place so that Mayu Tomita could be protected if such an incident was to occur that were not taken seriously enough to prevent the incident that occurred, hence her decision to start a lawsuit for damages.
The lawsuit seeks to establish responsibility for the lack of protection from the police to protect from the incident. In this regard, the acknowledgment from police that they could have done better suggests there could be a strong case for this. Yasuhiro Iwata, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department’s community safety and general affairs section, was quoted as saying, ‘We are making efforts together as one organization to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents, as we take seriously the fact that we could not prevent her from being attacked although we had been alerted earlier.’
This year began with the news of the assault to NGT48 member Maho Yamaguchi, an incident that dominated discussions in Japanese media for months and shone a spotlight on some of the more problematic aspects of the idol industry and the power dynamics that can be found within the industry. While this story had left the public spotlight, it also shows the issues within the industry that leave the performers vulnerable, as power imbalance between managers and idols leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and a lack of protection, while the parasocial relationship between idols and fans do carry a risk of obsessive fans not respecting boundaries and leading to incidents such as this.
What would be an ideal result from this lawsuit is that it recognizes the failure to protect Mayu Tomita from this attack on the side of both the police and agency, adequate compensation is claimed and the case provides some closure to Tomita for the trauma she has been put through these past few years. It would be less likely, but it would be a positive step if it recognized faults in the agency’s work that helped bring about more protections for idols working in this industry going forward. Whatever happens, we will be following this lawsuit regarding Mayu Tomita as it progresses.