Apparently it’s not just Japanese idol singers themselves who can cause a scandal by being chummy with the group’s fans.
While the general public may not always agree with the practice, contractual clauses prohibiting Japanese idol singers from forging personal relationships with fans are a pretty standard aspect of the industry. Performers who violate such clauses have been ordered to pay legal damages to their talent agencies, and groups have even been disbanded following such scandals.
So the fact that Miniature Garden, an idol unit based in Osaka, is splitting up following secret communications involving a male fan isn’t all too shocking in and of itself. What makes the group’s situation unique, however, is that none of Miniature Garden’s five vocalists themselves were involved in the clandestine communiques.
On June 6, a post was added to Miniature Garden’s official blog, with the author simply identifying himself as a member of the group’s management staff. The manager relates that he recently received a tearful late-night phone call from Ramu Takenouchi, one of the group’s members. Initially, the manager wasn’t too surprised to hear Ramu crying, since she would often call to vent or seek emotional support following a bad day at school or an argument with her brothers or parents.
▼ Ramu Takenouchi
竹ノ内良夢＠MG (@MG_ramu1001) May 29, 2017
However, this time was different. Ramu said that she had been looking through her mother’s cell phone, and discovered that she’d been in secret yet frequent communication with a male Miniature Garden fan. She later showed the manager screen captures of LINE messages confirming the activity.
This troubled the manager, as the talent agency’s arrangement with Miniature Garden strictly prohibits not only the idols themselves, but also their guardians, from having personal relationships with fans. When confronted by the agency about the situation, Ramu’s mother originally claimed that she and the fan had only conversed about her daughter’s well-being, but the screen captures Ramu had taken told a different story, in which the mother and fan would frequently badmouth the four other Miniature Garden vocalists, as well as the group’s fans, including those with a special fondness for Ramu.
Had that been the extent of the problem, the manager still thinks things could have been patched up. Unfortunately, as part of their griping about the other members of the group, the mother and fan insinuated that the singers were involved in indecent relationships with their fans. In her shock at discovering the messages, Ramu mentioned the accusations to two other members of Miniature Garden. The manager asserts that these claims of wrongdoing on the part of the other idols are completely baseless, but having such rumors spread about them behind their back has damaged the bonds of trust and interpersonal chemistry between the idols.
In response, the manager says that Miniature Garden will permanently disband on July 17, ending its three-plus years of life as a musical entity. Ramu has decided to retire from show business altogether. Meanwhile, three of the other members will transition immediately into other projects such as solo careers and participation in other idol units (in the current idol industry, it’s not uncommon for a single performer to concurrently be part of multiple groups), while the remaining soon-to-be-former Miniature Garden idol will take a break from the music industry before returning to singing.
As for the fan who was in contact with Ramu’s mother, he told the group’s manager “You can go ahead and ban me from their concerts.” Considering how few appearances Miniature Garden now has left, though, that’s really not going to be much skin off his back.