Last first-generation member of AKB48 quits: 5 facts about Japanese idol group and Minami Minegishi

 Popstar Minami Minegishi announced that she would be "graduating" from the group on Dec 8, 2019.
Popstar Minami Minegishi announced that she would be "graduating" from the group on Dec 8, 2019.PHOTO: MINEGISHI_31CHAN/INSTAGRAM

Pop star Minami Minegishi - the last of AKB48's first-generation members - has shocked fans by bidding farewell to the Japanese idol group.

Ms Minegishi, 27, thanked fans at the 14th anniversary show in Tokyo on Sunday (Dec 8) for standing by her and announced that she would be "graduating" from the group.

"I will be starting over again, and if you will all watch over me, I'll be grateful," she added.

While there is no word on what she will do next, her options include tapping her previous experiences appearing in movies and TV shows.

Here are five things you may not have known about AKB48 and Ms Minegishi:

1. Akihabara, or Akiba for short, is an area in Tokyo where the group's theatre is located

The group was created in 2005 by veteran music producer Yasushi Akimoto. When it started out, it had 48 members, but it now lists 107 member profiles on its official website. There are also splinter groups set up in various Asian cities, including Jakarta (JKT48), Shanghai (SNH48) and Taipei (TPE48)

2. Akimoto's concept was to create 'idols you can meet every day'

The girls among the 107 members are aged between 13 and 28. They form five teams, A, K, B, 4 and 8. Fans can track each singer's progress, vote for each girl in elections so that she progresses within the tiers of AKB48 and meet them at various sessions. During one of these fan sessions in Iwate, northern Japan, in May 2014, two members of the group were attacked by a man wielding a saw.

3. AKB48 opened a cafe and a concept store at *Scape in May 2011

There were plans for members of the group to fly to Singapore for two days every month and do two shows a day at the building. But the cafe closed soon after in December 2012 although the performing space still plays host to performances by other J-pop groups.

4. Who is Minami Minegishi?

The Tokyo native, nicknamed Mii-chan, was part of the first generation of AKB48 recruited in 2005. She was also part of the sub-group No Sleeves, also known as no3b.

 
 

5. She shaved her head in apology to fans after being spotted leaving her boyfriend's apartment

In early 2013, photographs of her leaving the apartment of her boyfriend, a dancer in a boy band, surfaced. Idol members are forbidden from having romantic relationships.

A few hours after the photos surfaced, it was announced through the AKB48 official blog that she would be demoted from one of the official members of Umeda Team B to kenkyūsei (trainee) status as of Feb 1. On the same day, the AKB48 official YouTube channel published a video of Minegishi with her head shaved weeping as she apologised to her fans hoping that the management would let her stay in the group.

She was reinstated as a full member and captain of Team 4 in August that year.

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