Last week, when I was going through Japanese idol news sources to write my weekly news roundup, I came across a really sad piece of news: the idol Honoka Oomoto died on 3/21 at the mere age of sixteen and it was reported to be a suicide. I’d never heard of Honoka Oomoto or her group Enoha Girls, but when I started to read articles and watch videos on Honoka and Enoha Girls, I found myself being heartbroken by the story of an adorable girl with big dreams who brought joy to many being in so much pain that she decided to end it all.
To start with, Enoha Girls is an Ehime prefecture based idol group with an agricultural concept. Their aims are to introduce Ehime to the rest of Japan and the world, get people interested in agriculture, and stop girls who do farm work from being looked down upon. The girls all do farming themselves as part of their group activities. Enoha Girls debuted in 2012 and they have eight singles. While the first five were just released locally, their three latest singles, Agrhythm, Monochrome, and Berry Berry, were released nationally and they are currently being sold on CDJapan. They mostly focus on performing in their region and at agricultural events, but in 2016, they performed at Tokyo Idol Festival and last year, they were on a show with ex-Berryz Koubou/ex-Country Girls member Momoko Tsugunaga and Country Girls member Risa Yamaki. At the time of Honoka’s death, there were five members ranging in age from 14-22, but there are currently three members. Attached to the same agency is a trainee group called Ange and a number of talents/entertainers.
Enoha Girls have very little in the way of professionally produced content, however, they seem to perform in a lot of places where fans are allowed to film the lives and because of this, there are a lot of live performances videos, many of which are very high quality. They definitely feel like a low budget indie group, but they have a certain charm to them and if I lived in Ehime, I could see myself becoming a fan.
There are no full-length music videos on the internet anywhere, but there is a short PV for Enoha Girls’ 2nd single Nijiiro Magic:
I was also able to find a recorded version of Enoha Girls’ derivation unit Enoha egg’s first (and only) single, Orange Monster:
I think their recorded songs sound nice, but while Enoha Girls has very energetic lives, the live versions of most of their songs don’t exactly grab me, with one exception: Monochrome. Monochrome is Enoha Girls’ 7th single and live it’s a bit rough around the edges, but I think a recorded version of this song would be really good. I’m even considering buying the CD sometime:
Now that I’ve introduced the group, let’s talk about Honoka. She was sixteen years old at the time of her death and started in Enoha Girls when she was fourteen. Honoka decided that she wanted to become an idol after becoming a big fan of Momoiro Clover Z and AKB48 and ended up joining Enoha Girls because they were in her area. At first, she wasn’t interested in agriculture, but she started to really enjoy it and it became one of her primary interests. Honoka listed her hobbies as “tennis, tennis, agriculture, and tennis” and her special skill as running. In her opinion, her strong point was her ponkotsu personality and her weak point was her tendency to tease others. Her favorite foods were her mother’s omurice and avocados. Honoka was also a fan of Monster Hunter, Initial D, Tekken, Osomatsu-san, Nanatsu no Taizai, and yume kawaii fashion. Since Honoka loves avocados, she grew really attached to the avocados she started raising in the Enoha Girls greenhouse and even named the crops and considered them like family to her. The particular crops were difficult and took ten years to raise, so she was really looking forward to seeing how they turned out.
Those who knew Honoka said that she was a simple and innocent girl with a calming, illuminating smile. She was said to be like a mini sun for those around her who was very talented at cheering people up and quickly brightened her surroundings.
Here’s a short introduction of Honoka when she first joined the group as a 9th grader:
Some cute videos of Honoka messing around on a trampoline:
Honoka was studying sign language and demonstrated it a number of times during their live performances:
You can tell that there were a lot of Enoha Girls fans that liked Honoka by the number of oshi cam videos that she has up on YouTube. Here are a few of them:
Honoka’s death came as a shock to everyone; she was performing just days before she died and from what I can tell, her fans couldn’t see any signs that she was struggling or unwell. Shortly after her death, reports on Twitter started to come out that Honoka Oomoto took her life, but Enoha Girls management was silent about the matter until the 23rd. On the 23rd, they didn’t say anything about Honoka, but they said that because of various circumstances, Enoha Girls would be going on temporary hiatus. More sources started to confirm that she had passed away on the 21st and one of Honoka’s friends said that shortly before she took her life, she was betrayed by the Enoha Girls company president and that at the time of her suicide, her mind was brimming with thoughts of this betrayal. An open funeral service was held for Honoka in Ehime prefecture’s Matsuyama on 3/24 at 1:30 PM. On the 26th, Enoha Girls management put out another statement that again didn’t say anything about Honoka specifically but said that although there is various information floating around and inquiries have been made to them, they can’t comment on anything because of family wishes.
I don’t want to speculate too much, but most fans and idol otaku seem to believe that before Honoka’s death, her company’s president used his position of authority to abuse her in some way. Obviously there’s no way of knowing what happened exactly, but that just makes an already awful situation even more terrible. There is a lot of potential in the idol industry for abuse, particularly when it comes to small underground idol groups where the girls aren’t well known and are easily disposable. It’s also an industry with incredibly low pay, long hours, and extreme pressure to constantly update your fans with every detail of your life, look good at all times, avoid gaining any weight, and keep your fans happy by whatever means necessary. Japan is notoriously bad at dealing with mental illness and being in this type of environment, especially at such a young age, can lead some idols to very dark places. It’s unclear if Enoha Girls will ever restart their activities what with only three members remaining and their company being under attack by idol fans, but honestly, it sounds like it might be a good thing for the rest of the girls to get out.
Just reading Honoka’s blog, looking at pictures of Honoka, and watching videos that featured her, I found myself drawn to her energetic performances, fun-loving personality, and wide smile. It’s clear that she improved the lives of many and that she will be missed. Thanks for everything, Honoka.