Saori Yamamoto’s post-gravure highs and lows

Yesterday, we wrote about the backlash Yua Mikami has faced as she tries to move beyond her former porn career and establish herself as a mainstream fashion brand producer.

The “afterlives” of gravure and JAV idols is a perennial topic on this blog, as regular readers will know.

What happens to those lovely ladies after they disappear from our lives? Mikami enjoyed a hugely successful career and her retirement from AV was fully planned, but most idols just fade away with a whimper, pushed out in a highly competitive market. And which means we rarely get to hear what they do next. (Spoiler: we reckon a lot, especially in porn, go into compensated dating, hostessing, or even straight prostitution, where the money is actually better.)

We recently came across an interview with former gradol Saori Yamamoto, who made her debut in 2002 at the age of 16.

saori yamamoto ex-gravure idol retired japan

With her busty body and winning smile, Yamamoto began to do well, but her career unraveled when a weekly tabloid published a scoop in 2011 about her on a date with her soccer player boyfriend.

It was prohibited by agencies for gravure idols to have boyfriends. (Today, the situation is less severe, though having a public relationship will likely impact your career prospects.)

She was offered an ultimatum by her agency’s CEO: she could either pay ¥20 million to cover her agency’s lost earnings (agencies typically pay their talent a fixed salary in Japan and pocket the majorities of the fees earned by the talent) or break up with her boyfriend and work another three years. The CEO essentially locked her up in the agency office at night and tried to gaslight her.

Eventually, diagnosed with anxiety disorder, Yamamoto quit the industry.

In 2012, she was sued by her agency’s CEO for lost earnings and damages.

saori yamamoto ex-gravure idol retired japan

At age 25, she shifted into working as a hostess and became a success. Having only ever earned a measly ¥100,000 a month as a gravure idol (because the agency had taken the rest), she now found herself earning ¥1 million a month.

If that sounds like a happy ending, it’s not. She had to channel most of this new cash into legal fees.

The first two rulings were in favor of her ex-boss and she had to pay a modest ¥330,000 to him (in general, damages rewarded in Japanese legal cases are small). After she had finished paying her lawyers, she was left with just ¥80,000 in her bank account.

saori yamamoto ex-gravure idol retired japan

What happened with the soccer player, you might ask. Well, they got married in 2012 but divorced the following year.

After dabbling in flower arrangement, Yamamoto decided to use her experience to become a consultant offering advice on relationships and marriage.

She launched a business in 2016. It didn’t go well at first and she soon used up her initial loan on making a website and renting an office.

Things picked up when Yamamoto started a blog and played on her past, offering “consultancy tickets” about “how to date a beautiful woman.” People who knew her gravure past began to come.

saori yamamoto ex-gravure idol retired japan

In 2018, Yamamoto remarried. Her business is today thriving, making ¥60 million in sales a year through seminars, business support for female entrepreneurs, and other services. At 38, Yamamoto is that rare thing among ex-gradols: a successful and independent business leader.

And she is also arguably even more beautiful than she was at the height of her gravure career.

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