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Ai Kago: The Former Morning Musume Member That Has Had a Life of Success and Tragedy

Updated on July 20, 2017

A First look at Ai Kago of the girl group Morning Musume

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Ai Kago is a celebrity that has sometimes gotten attention for the wrong reasons

In the Japanese entertainment industry, few celebrities have gotten the level of attention and controversy that Ai Kago has gotten. Author’s note: I first began researching about the life and career of Ai Kago back in 2011 and did not begin to cover her biography until 2012. Some of you may be wondering why this writer is taking the time to write about the life of a celebrity that many in Western countries may not even know about. This story of her life is to show that no matter how much adversity that you go through in life, there is always a chance to turn your life around. And that’s what Ai Kago has done.

Why is Ai Kago famous?

Ai got her start in the entertainment industry at a really young age. Her career goes all the way back to the year 2000 when she passed the National Audition for the popular female music group Morning Musume. She joined the group at the same time as Rika Ishikawa, Hitomi Yoshizawa, and Nozomi Tsuji. These ladies were part of that famous fourth generation of members. Ai entered the world on February 7, 1988 and she was born a day before me but ten years apart. Kago’s debut with the group was in the group’s ninth single called “Happy Summer Wedding.” It was during the time of the auditions that Kago and Tsuji met and immediately became friends. One interesting fact to take note of is that because they were the youngest members of the group at the time, it is said that they were very hyperactive. They became a favorite among fans and were given the nickname “the Twins” and this is because their personalities and looks were similar to each other. Kago joins Risa Niigaki (October 20) as one other current or former Morning Musume member to have been born in 1988.

Ai Kago's rise to success and work with the unit called W

It did not take long for Kago to achieve success. In 2001 along with Tsuji and fellow band mate Mari Yaguchi, they submitted a proposal to form what is called a new sub unit. The criterion that they proposed was that none of the members was allowed to be taller than 4 feet and 11 inches. Shortly after this, Mika Todd from another group called Coconuts Musume was added to the lineup and the band’s first single became an instant #1 hit! The name of the group was established as Mini Moni. It was also in 2001 that Ai Kago became part of another “Shuffle Unit’ called 3-nin Matsuri and rose to the top!

In 2002, she had her first acting experience when she co-starred with her other Morning Musume members in “Angel Hearts.” In 2002 as well as 2003, she also did some work in the smaller sub-units Mini Moni and Tanpopo. It was in 2003 that Morning Musume split into two smaller groups but since this has been discussed in some of my previous works we will skip that portion here. Ai Kago officially “graduated” or moved on from Morning Musume in August 2004 along with fellow band member Nozomi Tsuji. With help from the talent agency Up-Front Works, Kago and Tsuji formed a new group called “W.” The group put out 2 albums and six singles. Mini Moni was at this time put on hiatus.

A few photos of Ai Kago from her 2010 photo book called Los Angeles

Ai Kago wearing a t-shirt showing the McDonald's famous slogan.
Ai Kago wearing a t-shirt showing the McDonald's famous slogan. | Source

Smoking Scandal and Suicide Attempt: the most rocky years of Ai Kago's life

But a few years later beginning with a series of events, Kago’s life would take a turn for the worse. In February 2006, the Japanese magazine Friday published photos of the singer smoking cigarettes. Since the legal age in Japan for smoking is 20, Kago was only 18 at the time. As a result of this infraction, Kago was suspended for a while. She then returned to her family home in Nara where she spent most of the year 2006 isolated from everyone else. In an interview conducted by the same magazine Friday, Kago revealed that she had gone through several changes about her overall outlook on life and that she had become more mature. But things continued to get worse for the young actress. In March 2007, she was seen dating a 37 year-old man and smoking again. Up Front Agency, the agency that Kago was signed to terminated her contract and released a statement. She also revealed that she had gone to Los Angeles for three months with her boyfriend. She once attempted suicide by cutting her wrists. If that was not bad enough, in 2009, she was once again involved in some serious controversy. She was involved in a romantic affair with actor Hidejiro Mizumoto who was 33 at the time. His ex-wife claims that the reason for their divorce is because of this affair. Ai Kago really has had a few rocky, turbulent years in her life so far.

Ai Kago: the song All of Me

Solo Album Release and second suicide attempt

In March 2010, she released her first solo album titled “Ai Kago Meets Jazz the first door.” That album sold a total of 527 copies. A live DVD of the album was released a year later. On the 9th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, she held a solo concert in Webster Hall in New York City. There was only a small crowd of 200 people. Because it was a somber day, Kago made a statement in Japanese and English. She revealed that she would like to live in the US someday. A year after the concert on September 11, 2011, she was found on the floor of her apartment bleeding because she had slashed her wrists and was attempting suicide. This was due to suffering from depression. This was due to her boyfriend being involved with an organized crime group and he was allegedly extorting money too. Police also stated that she had taken prescription drugs. She obviously later made a full recovery. On June 22, 2012, Ai Kago gave birth to a baby girl. Her daughter’s name is Minami.

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A few more photos of Ai Kago

Ai Kago and her messy divorce

As of 2016, Ai Kago is officially a single woman. She revealed to her fans via her official blog that she got divorced in June 2015. In spite of the divorce, Kago also said that she is doing well. That’s great news because a divorce can leave one or both people in the marriage emotionally and mentally damaged. Kago’s husband at the time Haruhiko was arrested on the charge of domestic violence. It was reported that on May 12, 2015, there was an assault at the couple’s apartment in Roppongi. Kago was reported to be pushed and kicked. She suffered injuries to her neck, shoulders, and knees. The injuries took ten days for a complete recovery. The worst seems to be over for Kago who has had her share of adversity and struggles including being involved in a smoking scandal and a suicide attempt. Kago was very gracious and expressed gratitude to her fans for the support that she has been given. Kago expressed hope that she will be able to move forward as she has always done.

Kago is the third member of Morning Musume to get divorced. The first member to get divorced was second generation member Sayaka Ichii, 32. Then Mari Yaguchi also got divorced following a highly publicized extramarital affair.

Kago got married in December 2011 when she was 23. (Note: I wonder if she was influenced by AKB48 member Minami Takahashi or whether she just likes that name). Kago’s husband was arrested in October 2014 for charging an illegal interest rate on a loan. However, he was not prosecuted for this.

Ai Kago: her career from 2004-2008

In August 2004, Kago and Tsuji would both graduate or leave Morning Musume. Up-Front Agency then made an arrangement where a duo would be formed so Kago and Tsuji formed a duo named W. As a part of this duo, Kago and Tsuji would release six singles and two studio albums. The first one released in 2004 is called Duo U&U followed by the second one released in 2005 called 2nd W. However, the group would be put on a hiatus period when Kago was caught while smoking because she was underage. W would be permanently disbanded in March 2007 when she was caught socializing with an older man. In Japan, anyone who is under contract with any girl groups or Hello! Project units is not allowed to have a boyfriend. These groups have a no dating policy in place that forbids their girls to engage in such activities. In 2008 Kago admitted that she had begun to smoke in order to feel like an adult without even realizing the impact that it would have on her fans. Contrary to what was reported, Kago had not gone to New York but to Los Angeles for three months in 2007. The reason given for the trip was because she felt like she was a criminal in Japan. In LA, she met actress Winona Rider. Kago was able to reflect on her situation and start her new life.

Career of Ai Kago (2014-present)

In July 2014, Kago made her debut in the group called Girls Beat!! The group’s first single called Sekai Seifuku was released on July 22, 2014. The group would release their second single called Mada Yareru in September 2014. Ai Kago has successfully re-established herself in the entertainment business in spite of her personal struggles. I hope that her story can be an inspiration to those who feel like they have no hope. If there is one important lesson that can be learned from the life of Ai Kago, it is that we should not give up on life when we are faced with challenges.

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