On Jan 23, Center Hirate Yurina (18) was announced "withdraw" from the popular idol group Keyakizaka46. It has not yet been stated why only Hirate chose to withdraw while other members "graduate"
There is no doubt that the root of the problem was in the "Hirate regime".
Hirate has been the center for all eight singles since Silent Majority, released in April 2016. However, as previously reported, this "Hirate regime" drove many members and staff, and as a result, Hirate become independent. The root of this was the special treatment of Aki-P.
“Everyone seeing that as love” (Keyakizaka related staff)
Aki-p have a high praise over Hirate immediately after debut. In an interview “Nikkei Entertainment!” for October 2016 issue, he said this.
“The center, Hirate got attention, but she certainly is amazing.
When you've been watching stars for the past 40 years or so, you're going to find out how the stars will be. Her face may be a normal 15 y.o, but her eyes in Silent Majority, or the feeling of staring at the camera sparks the audience's imagination.”
But the "normal 15 y.o" girl was under a great pressure. The shooting of the mystery drama "Who killed Tokuyama Daigoro?" (TV TOKYO), became the trigger of the increasing her anxiousness. Then, the “smoke incident” occurs, as if it was the final blow.
At the national handshake event of Keyakizaka46 held at Makuhari Messe in Mihama Ward, Chiba City on the night of June 24, 2017, unemployed Ryohei Abe ignited the flares and interrupted the handshake event.
The defendant was charged with obstructing business and violation of the sword law, and the Chiba District Court sentenced him to two years in prison and three years in probation with a suspended sentence of three years.
In response to the incident, Hirate shuts her heart off against others.
After the incident, Hirate told the staff, ’I don't want to go to a handshake event. I don't want to see the face of the fans. ‘ Hirate didn't listen and jumped over the staff. She came to talk directly with Aki-p in various ways. Aki- was the only adult she trust.
In fact, one week after the smoke incident, the weekly Bunshun Digital Coverage Group witnessed Hirate and Akimoto's "Midnight Secret Meeting." It was took place near an apartment area in Tokyo where many members lived at around 23:30 on June 30, 2017.
About an hour and a half after the members returned home, a luxury foreign car carrying Akimoto appeared in front of the dormitory. The car slowly moves around the dormitory for about 3 laps so as to watch out for the surroundings and stops at the nearby parking lot.
Three minutes later, Hirate in a sweat shirt appeared from the dormitory and walked towards the parking lot. Hirate got into the back seat of the car.
Ten minutes later, Hirate came out of the car and returned to the dormitory. Hirate was holding a black paper bag that she did not have when she left the dormitory.
"Akimoto often went out for meals with his favorite members, such as Atsuko Maeda and Jurina Matsui, even during the golden age of AKB48, but I have never heard of a visit to the place where the members live." (AKB48 related staff)
Regarding the relationship between the two at the time, the keyakizaka related that was mentioned above looking back to it.
"Even among the staff there’s a rumor that Aki-p was only interested in Hirate, and that the relationship was so odd. Since the smoke incident, these two are getting close and their relationship has become a relation where you can say anything.
Especially, when choosing the songs for Keyakizaka46. Hirate-san was in charge for that. Akimoto asked Hirate first, "How about this song?" and the song will not be decided until she says “yes.”
In fact, when Hirate made a guest appearance on a live radio program on May 3, 2018, “Today is the luxury day of 'Akimoto Yasushi Song' 2018” (NHK-FM), Aki-p made the following statement.
"If there’s a song that I and Hirate thought it was good, and I offered it to another artist, she’s going to be very mad to me. After that, if there’s another song that I thought Hirate would like it, I’ll keep it for her.''
Aki-p talked as if he boasting about Hirate scolded him.
"Because he overlooked Hirate, Akimoto forgave Hirate's selfishness. The members even felt how close relationship between those two with their skin. Some members even felt the existence of “the Emperor” Akimoto-san, and began to “believe,” so the “Hirate regime” was solidified.
That was happened three years ago in the “Joint Selection Cancellation Case”. The executives' plans were easily rebuked. Hirate-san complaining to Aki-p after heard that the next single will be a joint senbatsu between Kanji and Hiragana.
The incident happened in the summer of 2017. The 5th single of Keyakizaka46 released this year is "Kaze ni fukaretemo," but actually for the this single, the management had a plan to make a senbatsu team which contain the members of both kanji and hiragana.
In the first place, the management seemed to have a plan to flexibly engage in personnel exchanges between the two groups, kanji and hiragana, and to activate both groups. In an interview, Yoshio Konno, the representative of Keyakizaka46's management office Seed & Flower, stated:
“Basically, we are a member of the same Keyakizaka 46, but we are working as a separate group. However, members who stand out in hiragana may be participating in Kanji” (Nikkei Entertainment! May 2017)
Eight "Kanji" lost, five "Hiragana" selected
On certain day in July 2017, almost all members of Kanji and hiragan were gathered at the management office. Keyakizaka related staff that was mentioned above said this.
"In front of the members who have been gathered, Konno-san said ‘the next single will be a senbatsu system from 32 members of Kanji and Hiragana.’ The members who knew nothing were upset, and Konno read out the names of the 18 selected members one after another in front of them.
In the end, 8 out of 21 Kanji members were dropped, and 5 names from Hiragana were selected. With surprise and excitement swirling around, some of the hiragana members were selected cried over the joy.
After all, "Hiragana" still had the image of 2nd troops, so I think it was a great pleasure.” (same staff)
“Keyakizaka is 21. I won't do it anymore if there’s senbatsu it. Hirate-san said to the staff, including Konno-san. Along with her statement, the air in that place feels like it was frozen, and the Hiragana members, who were crying happily couldn't say anything and looked down.
In the beginning, we’ve been prepared, but gradually members who agreed with Hirate's opinion appeared. "I think so" and "Me too!" ]. The staff members worked hard to persuade, but they couldn't get the story together.
The final statement was made by Hirate-san by saying, "I will talk to Akimoto-san."
Later, there was a notice from Aki-p, and in the end, as usual, “kaze ni fukaretemo” was released with kanji members as senbatsu and the situation calmed down. Hiran's opinion was adopted, and the plan of the joint selection by Konno-san and others disappeared as a vision.
"I think that Konno-san was sure to try to sell Hiragana by tying it, but it was completely ruined. If you look at Hirate-san, it seems that she opposed the commercialism of person. The “pure blood principle” may have protected 21 fellow Keyakizaka as a result.
What’s worrisome, however, is that among the eight members who were eliminated, five members, let’s say A to E, who usually worshiping Hirate-san, were included. The five “Pro-Hirate” members have become even more united, and Hirate has been even more uplifted since then. ”
The interview team also knows the real names of the defeated groups, including A to E.
And this “joint selection ‘rejection’ case” would result in the loss of another popular member. At that time, Nagahama Neru (21) was in double position as kanji and hiragana member.
It is no exaggeration to say that Nagahama's debut is another "special treatment story" by Akimoto. In the first place, hiragana was formed on November 30, 2015 for Nagahama Neru as an under group of Keyakizaka46. That is because Nagahama rejected the final audition of Keyakizaka46's 1st gen audition because of her mother's opposition and she was eliminated. However, in response to her strong desire, Neru’s father consulted with the management, and as a result, she joined Keyakizaka46 with a special delay.
Nagahama first will do activities in a different form from other Keyakizaka46 members, and a group called Hiragana Keyaki was formed by Nagahama alone. Then, on May 8, 2016, 11 people selected by audition joined. Hiragana Keyaki became a group of 12 people focused in Nagahama.
Regarding Hiragana Keyaki, Konno-san, the head of the management, said:
“Hiragana is not same as under, but rather the idea of Aki-p who wanted to make a friend for Nagahama Naru. That's why this group is destined to wondering about “what are we?" (Quick JAPAN January 2018 issue)
It is said that the Pro-Hirate members and Hirate did not think that Nagahama's special treatment by Aki-p and the management and big success were interesting. Keyakizaka related staff mentioned earlier confided.
"Why Hirate rejected the joint selection so clearly? The answer is clear. That was a rejection towards Nagahama-san and Hiragana. Not only was the plan canceled, but Nagahama-san was forced to make a decision to choose between Kanji or Hiragana.
Nagahama was in double position as “Kanji” and “Hiragana” from Keyakizaka46's 2nd single to the 4th single. However, the story of joint selection flowed due to fierce opposition of Hirate, and the direction of self-reliance of Kanji and Hiragana was solidified.
It was a situation where concurrent duties were not allowed. Nagahama was forced to make a choice from management.
In the end, Nagahama chose Kanji. Immediately after the cancellation of the joint selection, on September 25, 2017, Nagahama was released from concurrent post and became a fully-pledged Kanji member. It was announced on the official website.
"The management giiving up the idea of mixing and selling both groups after Hirate-san said she doesn’t want to do this anymore if there’s senbatsu, and decided to treat it completely differently.
Nagahama-san’s decision of being a fully-pledged kanji member should have been a tough decision. " (same staff)
Another Keyakizaka related staff who know the relationship between Hirate and Nagahama reveals the truth.
"There was a Kanji member who did not think that the soared popularity of Nagahama-san should have been a special frame. In fact, a member of Kanji who was jealous of her bad-mouthing about Nagahama-san. I often heard it at that time. One of Pro-Hirate members.
The fact that individual activities were more prominent than group activities seemed to be the reason why she was targeted. For Nagahama-san who came in late, it must have been quite difficult.
Nagahama always became the center in hiragana, but she is a simple girl who has just come out of the countryside of Nagasaki, and is originally a retractable character. The center of the team seemed to be quite a burden for her.
Moreover, she also has no gen mates. Nagahama-san has been called “Nerusan” by Hiragana members and had been treated as someone else. Nagahama couldn’t accustomed herself to other members.
Nagahama's determination to remain as “Kanji” seems to be largely due to the presence of member Manaka Shida (21). Nagahama-san was worried about bad-mounthing towards her, but Shida-san was also at the same age with her, so she was able to talk about anything.
Shida herself often missed live shows and events because of dissatisfaction with the group. In the spring of 2018, those two were spotted in Niigata, hometown of Shida-san and it became a topic, but it seems that it was a small trip in the flow of such consultation. ''
In the end, Shida graduated on November 16, 2018. And Nagahama graduated from the group on July 30, 2019. Nagahama simply left the group and not stating about stay or leaving the entertainment world.
Ironically, hiragana keyaki has sold without resorting to cross-selling since this “Joint Selection incident.” In June 2018, they released their own album "Hashiridasu shunkan" and went on a nationwide tour.
In April of the same year, their own program “Hiragana Oshi” (TV Tokyo series) started. And on March 27, 2019, Hiragana keyaki was renamed to Hinatazaka46 and made its debut.
The company asked Yasushi Akimoto Office to confirm the facts about the late-night secret meeting in 2017, but no response was received by the deadline.
We also asked Seed & Flower, the management office of Keyakizaka46 about "Joint selection single cancellation", but there was no answer.
Nagahama, whose fate changed due to a protest by Hirate, left the group and in the end, the independent Hirate also withdraw from the group. Aki-p treated them specially, but did they end with "two great men cannot coexist"?.