It is January 2nd, 2011. Morning Musume is starting to suffer from a severe lack of attention and love due to the reduced size of the group to 5 members with the recent graduation of Eri Kamei, Junjun and Linlin. But on this day, it is officially announced that Morning Musume has a new set of four members, a 9th generation: Mizuki Fukumura, Erina Ikuta, Riho Sayashi and Kanon Suzuki. These four girls would bring a new, youthful charm back to the group that had been missing since the more mature (commonly referred to as) Platinum Era had been the face of the group. They debuted with the single Maji Desu ka Ska!
In the next couple years, the remnants of the Platinum Era slowly graduated from the group, while this new 9th generation started to change the face of the group. Riho Sayashi ended up being the face of these four girls, since she showed a lot of promise due to singing and dancing skills. She would henceforth be referred to as the 'ace' of the group. From then on, she only got better and better, much to the delight of her fans. She also brought her own brand of uniqueness and silliness to the group which is always welcome. Once Sayumi Michishige graduated last year, thus officially ending any connection with the Platinum Era, the whole group evolved into something new and exciting, with many thanks going to the talent and experience of the 9th generation.
It came as a sudden shock, then, when she recently announced that she would be graduating from Morning Musume '15 at the end of this year. Since she's joined the group, she's participated in 19 singles, 12 albums (4 of them with new content, the rest compilations), 6 stage plays, 1 television drama, 1 movie and much more. While her official graduation date will be on December 31st, marking the end of Morning Musume '15 (and presumably the start of Morning Musume '16), the last performances she will be a part of will be on December 7th and 8th. This will be during the Countdown Live at the Budokan in Tokyo. For those of you who would like to go to see her off, I'd recommend you start working on getting tickets immediately, because they will be difficult to get a hold of. Maimi Yajima, leader of ℃-ute and leader of Hello! Project, made a very touching post regarding the announcement in her blog, which you can read at the bottom of this article.
Her future goals are to study English abroad, and focus on perfecting her dancing skills. Something extremely interesting to note is that she is not graduating from Hello! Project, only from Morning Musume '15. She has every intention of coming back to Hello! Project once she's done studying abroad and studying dance to her satisfaction. This could mean that she could come back as a very unique dance-centric soloist, or that she might start a really cool dance unit within Hello! Project when she comes back. There are many possibilities, most of them extremely exciting.
That being said, Morning Musume '15 has evolved into a very beautiful group thanks to all of its current members. It will be tough to see Morning Musume '15 without Riho, but they've all managed to create something really special, and I have full confidence that they will continue to do so moving forward. Let's continue to support the girls with all our hearts, and let's continue to support Riho in whatever she chooses to do from here on. An unhappy performer isn't a good performer in the idol world, so let's hope she comes back refreshed and fully satisfied, so she can continue her career with the same love and care that she's shown in her time within Morning Musume.
Morning Musume '15 is:
- Mizuki Fukumura (9th Generation – 譜久村聖) Leader
- Erina Ikuta (9th Generation – 生田衣梨奈) Sub-leader
- Riho Sayashi (9th Generation – 鞘師里保)
- Kanon Suzuki (9th Generation – 鈴木香音)
- Haruna Iikubo (10th Generation – 飯窪春奈) Sub-leader
- Ayumi Ishida (10th Generation – 石田亜佑美)
- Masaki Sato (10th Generation – 佐藤優樹)
- Haruka Kudo (10th Generation – 工藤遙)
- Sakura Oda (11th Generation – 小田さくら)
- Haruna Ogata (12th Generation – 尾形春水)
- Miki Nonaka (12th Generation – 野中美希)
- Maria Makino (12th Generation – 牧野真莉愛)
- Akane Haga (12th Generation – 羽賀朱音)
You can read her official announcement on her blog here: http://s.ameblo.jp/morningmusume-9ki/entry-12089659596.html
You can read an official translation and a short note about it on Up-Front Link here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/up-front-link/en-concerning-riho-sayashi/967417713317146
The official Hello! Project announcement is here: http://www.helloproject.com/news/3725/
You can read a message regarding the announcement on Maimi Yajima's blog here: http://s.ameblo.jp/c-ute-official/entry-12089611470.html
You can read an unofficial translation of Maimi's post here: https://www.facebook.com/910percent/posts/1187891511225223