MATSUYAMA--The family of a young idol who took her own life filed a lawsuit with the Matsuyama District Court on Oct. 12 against the production company she belonged to, demanding compensation and to determine what led to her suicide.

Sixteen-year-old Honoka Omoto was a member of Enoha Girls, a local idol group that promoted the charms of farming mainly in Ehime Prefecture, when she took her life at home in March 2018.

Omoto’s family claims that the reasons for her suicide were the heavy workload and repeated power harassment by the production company's representative director, Takahiro Sasaki.

“On the morning of the day she died, Honoka said she was scared to see the president,” said Omoto’s mother and plaintiff, Yukie Omoto, 42, at a news conference after filing the lawsuit on the same day.

The plaintiff also claimed that Sasaki demanded Omoto to pay a “100 million yen" ($890,000) penalty if she left the group.

The company has denied making such a demand, as well as legal responsibility over her death.

According to the letter of complaint and other sources, Omoto passed an audition to become a member of the group in 2015, when she was a second-year junior high school student. She signed a contract with the defendant company, H Project, and had been performing at farmers’ markets and concerts.

No note or letter was left by Omoto.

Her family claims that the company coerced Omoto to work under a tight schedule from early morning through late night despite her being underage and to prioritize idol activities over her studies.

The family also claims that the company repeatedly harassed her when she indicated that she wanted to leave the group, with one staff member sending her an intimidating message on the LINE app: “If you talk nonsense again, I will definitely punch you.”

On top of this, the company did not act on a promise to lend her money so that she could transfer from a correspondence to a regular school, contributing to her despair, the family added.

In response to the family’s claim, H Project released a statement under the name of Sasaki.

The statement acknowledged that some jobs were scheduled “in the early morning and late night,” but that it is “not true that we forced her to prioritize work over her studies.”

It also said it had “reproved her for her behavior,” but “never power-harassed her.”

Regarding the school transfer fee, the statement said, “the company was willing to lend the money, but Omoto herself declined to borrow it.”

(This article was written by Kota Fujii and Hayashi Yanagawa.)