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  A Hello!Online Exclusive: Kago Ai's mother is interviewed; full article translation  
  Hello!Project Written by HPS Staff , updated: 17:26, 8-Oct 2007  

Confession scoop:

The mother of Morning Musume member Kago Ai reveals the background reasoning she used when allowing her daughter to live in Hawaii together with that person (age 35).

With her three younger brothers and sister having a different father, and the parents having a quarrel about their divorce, she shoulders the burden of their lives.

Kago Ai's mother, Aki.

A daughter who was hurt by being told about her parents' divorce. - "She's just a victim."

"Going on a trip during her suspension with a man who is 16 years older than her, and smoking once again." As a result, she was fired from her office. As her fate remains unknown, her mother reveals the hidden truth behind her smile for the first time. This is the true Kago Ai, not the "Kago-chan" everyone is familiar with.

"She said her listening skills are getting a lot better than before. And also, she said happily that she was praised by people around her, like, 'You have a good ear, because you've played music from a young age. You're progressing quickly.' She's also good at cooking. She likes to cook a variety of dishes in her own way. Apparently, she cooks all the time at the house where she's staying now." Going on a hot springs trip during her suspension with an older man, and also having her smoking being exposed, the former member of Morning Musume, Kago Ai (age 19) got the shocking pink slip from her office on March 26th. After all that fuss, she hasn't been heard from again. But her mother says that after a temporary stay in Hawaii, she's currently living in New York. It's her birth mother, Aki (age 38) who has been watching Kago Ai with gentle patience, giving pep talks to her at times. She lives in Nara, and raises her oldest son (age 7), second daughter (age 6) and second son (age 2) by herself. She gave birth to Ai when she was 19. She's 38 years old now. She's wearing a small white one-piece and leggings, and has nicely curled brown hair. It's no wonder she was mistaken by some media reporters for Kago's sister.

She has kept in touch with Kago by phone or e-mail every day since she moved far away from her. She says she's still doing it. Having a look very similar to her daughter in her eyes, she slowly started talking about her daughter's debut and dismissal, what they've been doing lately, and the problems she's facing now - the interview lasted 2 hours.

Tearful apology

Kago Ai and her mother Aki's whole lives were changed by the coverage of her smoking in the Friday magazine which was released in February 2006. As a result, she was given an indefinite suspension.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry..." She made a phone call to Aki and apologized in tears. "I was surprised. I didn't know she smoked. Because I became a mother at a very young age and caused my parents a lot of trouble, I was always trying to be strict with my children. So it's like, 'It can't happen to my child.' I'm very sorry for giving so much trouble to the fans, insiders of the company and all the people around her."

At that time, Aki was worried about the divorce from her husband. Actually, he isn't Kago's biological father. Aki got married at 17 and gave birth to Kago at 19. However, she got divorced when Kago was barely 1 year old. She remarried when Kago was in fifth grade, and had three children together with him since then. It was just before Kago joined Morning Musume that she was told about the existence of her real father. She thought that her "father" was the one who had always been with her ever since she could remember.

"Until then, I had never told her those kind of 'adult' stories. But I was having trouble with my husband back then, and being slightly in a panic, I found myself talking to her about it. In retrospect, I think she must have gotten hurt by that. She's just a victim in that way."

Being against her debut in show business

Kago was selected at "the third Morning Musume additional member audition" held by the variety show "ASAYAN" (TV Tokyo), along with Ishikawa Rika (age 22), Yoshizawa Hitomi (age 22) and Tsuji Nozomi (age 20) and debuted in March 2000. It was right after she graduated from elementary school. She was 12 at the time. She had to move to Tokyo with her grandmother, Aki's mother, in order to do her work in show business. Aki tells us about her mixed feelings at the time.

Kago Ai with her three siblings and grandmother.

"I experienced marriage and childbirth right after quitting high school. So I thought Ai should go into that kind of business after she has studied at junior high, high school, and if possible, college. Honestly, I was opposed to her entering the show business world. Although it was a pleasure to receive the letter of acceptance, I felt a lot of anxiety about it. This was just a 12 year-old girl who had to leave the nest and venture into the unknown world called show business. I went to check on her about once every two months, but I couldn't keep a close watch on everything that happened in her day-to-day life. But you know, I can't just tell the people at the office something like, "Please keep an eye on her every minute of the day."

Actually, the rules in Morning Musume, such as dating policies, are well known for their strictness in show business.

"She said that even if they share the stage with Johnny's stars, exchanging phone numbers is a big no-no, so they've never been able to do such things. People at the office trained them strictly in place of their parents, like, 'Don't do this!', or 'Don't do that!' But still, she was just a child back then. At times, she made a phone call to me, saying, between her tears, 'I was scolded again.'"

Under a great deal of pressure which ordinary junior high school students would never feel, it often happened that they could only sleep an average of three hours a day because of their tight schedule. Even under such conditions, Kago has shown her faintheartedness only once before.

"Within a year of her debut, I said, 'If you ever fall into hard times, you can always come back home.' She replied, 'I'll try and tough it out for another year. If I can't stick to it, then I'll tell you so, Mom.' Ever since then, she has only said, 'I'm fortunate to get a job that I really like,' and has never whined about it. 'She's standing on her own feet now,' or so I thought." Because she believed her in this way, she wasn't ready for the surprising news report about her smoking.

"I accept it because he's the one Ai chose."

The mentally-handicapped brother

"I had her come back to stay here (in Nara) during her suspension. I wanted to take her under my care."

Kago took her punishment with the utmost seriousness. She went out very little for half a year, and she was committed to housework full time. She volunteered to take her brother, who is a mildly developmentally-disabled child, to and from the elementary school.

"When my oldest son was two, it was detected that he was a disabled child. At that time, Ai was chosen as a member of Minimoni besides being active as a Morning Musume member. So she was being overwhelmed by her busy schedule. I hesitated to tell her about it, but after wavering, I told her. She replied, 'I'm your family. We gotta help each other. I'll study about disability. So mom, don't worry about it. It's nobody's fault. Please don't think it's your fault or anything.' Because she was already a celebrity back then, I was worried too much about a lot of things. I was at a loss as to how to tell her about it. So, those words of hers really encouraged me. Even now, they're what keep my spirits up."

The discussions between the three of them

After her suspension, Kago moved up to Tokyo again in January of this year. She was doing things like serving tea or watching the phone at her office. In March, as the expectations for her comeback were just being raised, the incident happened.

"I never expected there would be a second incident. I received a call from her immediately, same as the first time. She mentioned nothing about the smoking at first, just told me that she went on a trip with an older man and it'll be reported by some media. It's a ridiculous thing to go on an overnight trip with an older man during her suspension. I chewed her out. But after a bit, she called me again, then I first learned about the smoking.

She was weeping on the other end of the phone. I shouted at the mouthpiece, 'Come back here right now!' It was particularly shocking because we had been encouraging each other, saying that she has to get back to basics and try really hard for her comeback. My heart was filled with the feeling of, 'All our efforts for the past year have amounted to nothing?'

Ai came back right away after the call. And that man was with her. He apologized with a deep bow as soon as he saw me. Of course, I already had gotten a call of apology from him. He could have run away, yet he came all the way to Nara to explain. He gave a consistent explanation with his sincere attitude, talking seriously, including things about the future.
So, I said, 'We can't undo what happened. What we're going to do is more important than that. We've got to talk about it.'

He paid the cost of staying

Kago had worked to earn her brothers and sister's living, tuition and rehab money, on behalf of her mother, who was concentrating on parenting and housework.
She had to support the household even though she was a teenager. But the only man to whom she could show her weakness and count on, would be "too adult" for a Momusu member.

His name is Ishimoto Yasuyuki (35 year-old), the owner of the popular cafe in Shibuya, Tokyo, "SOMA". He has had to spend a lot of time between Japan and foreign countries for business reasons. Some of the media have said that he used to be the manager of a sex parlor and is a talent-killer or whatever...

"I know there're lots of bad rumors going around about him in some magazines, but he's actually a good man. If what he said was incongruous, I wouldn't be able to forgive him. But he sincerely explained things with future plans in mind. And what's more, he's the one Ai chose. I accept it. I hope she'll have a good relationship with him. He went to Hawaii with Ai, paid the cost of staying there, and took care of her."

Having been an icon for children and forced to live a life where she has been hounded by rabid fans since the age of 12, despite her appearance, she must have matured enough in her mind for a lifetime. The handicapped son, the daughter who has just become an elementary school student, and the small child who is still unable to walk by himself. As a single mother, Aki will have to continue to raise her children in the future. As for her daughter, Kago Ai, whether she comes back to show business or becomes a mother, she must carry on living strongly.


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