Haruna Ogata Graduates from Morning Musume.’18 as She Lights Up Nippon Budokan With One Last Smile
On June 20 2018, Nippon Budokan turned into a bright blue sea of lights as fans came to bid farewell to Morning Musume.’18 12th generation member Haruna Ogata. In March this year she announced her decision to graduate in order to go to university. She gave her last performance as an idol and thus graduated after four years in the group on the last day of their tour Morning Musume Tanjou 20 Shuunen Kinen Concert Tour 2018 Haru ～We are MORNING MUSUME。～.
Morning Musume.’18 was fresh off the success of their new single “Are you Happy/A gonna”—the group’s 65th and Ogata’s last. Its release earned them the number one spot on Oricon’s daily chart ranking, and the fans certainly wanted to give Ogata the best sendoff they could.
Around 10,000 fans packed into the vast arena, armed with sea blue penlights to represent her member color. As soon as the lights dimmed a roar of anticipation rose from the crowd. The curtain rose, and the 13 members of Morning Musume.’18 burst onto stage with their new hit “A gonna”. They got the ball rolling with an aggressive performance of song and choreography, proving to everyone that their number one success was well-deserved. The group raced head-on into the next five songs, keeping their momentum going with “Romance ni Mezameru Mousou Joshi no Uta”, “Fantasy ga Hajimaru”, “Seishun Say A-HA” and “Password is 0”.
At the end of the first five songs, the opening VTR beamed out from the darkness. As each member appeared on screen one by one the crowd cheered, but the loudest cheers tonight went to Ogata as the VTR introduced her for the last time.
The members then came back on stage with “Hana ga Saku Taiyou Abite”, “Help me!! (updated)” and “Ai no Gundan”. Dressed in red checkered dresses, they brought the fiery spirit of Morning Musume. to the crowd. When they took a short breather for the MC, a surprise was waiting for the unsuspecting Ogata. Ayaka Wada, the leader of ANGERME and Hello! Project, stepped out onto stage with a bouqet of flowers as the fans cheered and Ogata reacted with astonishment. Wada warmly congratulated her on her graduation and read out a letter she had written.
“Congratulations on your graduation. When Haachin entered Morning Musume. you were so smiley and fluffy and such a cute girl that it left an impression on me. Even within Morning Musume.’s precise and synchronized movements, I could always immediately notice Haachin’s gentle vibes because you had such a lovely aura. When we met eyes on stage you’d always smile and me I could tell you gave the fans that same beautiful smile.
But during rehearsals I was so surprised when I saw how much fun you were having fooling around with that energetic Maachan. I didn’t know you had this lively side to you. I’m sure that the Haachin who showed all of us so much kindness also has many things that you keep to yourself. Even so, I think it’s all part of Haachin’s charm that you can choose a new path to take with this much strength. It’s sad, but I hope that Haachin will continue on this new path with your kind smile. Also, even after you graduate I’d be glad if you came to Hello! Project’s concerts. Congratulations on graduating.”
Ogata gave her senior a hug, thanking her for coming to send her off. With high spirits, she continued into the next part of the concert with her fellow Morning Musume. members. Going back to their roots, they sang the 20th Anniversary version of Morning Coffee, the group’s first ever single from two decades ago. Generations of members come and go, but the spirit of Morning Musume. was timeless on stage. Nostalgia filled the air as the girls delivered a legacy in their own unique way.
A medley followed, with the members being shuffled as they went through several songs starting with the cheerful “Shanimuni Paradise” and finishing with “Otona ni Nareba Otona ni Nareru”. Each time the girls took turns to come on stage, the penlights in the audience also changed to reflect the different member colors. The venue was awash in bright colors, shining brightly through the ever-changing stage.
More classics emerged, much to the fans’ joy. When the lights turned blue and the opening chords of Resonant Blue played, the audience gave a cry of excitement. Morning Musume.’18 met their cheers with powerful execution, never once falling short of their seniors who had one performed these same songs. When Ogata cried out the iconic “Help me!” line, it got the crowd riled up with excitement.
They took the force a notch down with “Shouganai Yumeoibito” and “Naichau Kamo”, showing the fans the versatility of their expressions through the more emotional numbers. They then revved back up again with “Hand made CITY”, “Aisaresugiru Koto wa Nai no yo” and finally “Moonlight night～Tsuki no Ban da yo～”, the vigorous choreography perfectly in sync with the beat.
Even after all the singing and dancing, the girls just couldn’t stop. As several of them left the stage, Erina Ikuta, Ayumi Ishida, Sakura Oda and Kaede Kaga remained for the MC and introduced a “Try Dancing It!!” corner where they would attempt the choreography of random songs. “Lalala Pipipi” played, and the girls scrambled to dance the cute moves characteristic of this song. Next was ℃-ute’s “Dance de Bakoon”—Kaga, who had been a back dancer for ℃-ute before her debut, showed off her experience with her flawless moves.
The other girls came back on stage in new white dresses, and the concert resumed with the sentimental “Ame no Furanai Hoshi de wa Aisenai Darou?”. The beautiful piano chords rippled out into the audience, and everyone listened intently as they raised their hands together with the members. The ballad brought the members and the fans together, the connection fostered by the tenderness of the lyrics and the members’ voices.
They then changed into glittering blue dresses, an appropriate color in celebration of Ogata. “One Two Three” cranked the concert back up to full volume, neon lights exploding across the arena as the members leapt into the electronic dance hit with their iconic dance formation. They hurtled on with “Utakata Saturday Night!”, turning Nippon Budokan into one big dance party. “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke”, “Mikan” and “What is LOVE” rounded out the medley, created from a poll where fans had ranked the top 5 songs that hyped them up at concerts. True to the results, the medley charged up the venue to full battery as both the members and the fans got pumped up. Even between the songs the snippets of choreography were pulled off perfectly. During a transition, the girls danced with red towels that glowed in the dark, creating a visually stunning effect that enhanced the sharp intensity of their dance.
At the end of “What is LOVE”, a surprised Ogata found herself in the middle of the members who surrounded her in a heart-shaped formation. She gave an endearingly shy smile as she stood amidst the audience’s applause.
She announced the last spurt of the night, segueing into the next round of songs with high spirits right up till the last number “Jealousy Jealousy”. The venue was bathed in purple lights, fans shouting along to the rap with renewed vigor. With that, the members left the stage and the encore call rose from the audience. The “Haachin” call continued without stopping as everyone chanted Ogata’s name, the entire Budokan transforming into a beautiful sea of blue. It was a sight to behold as the arena lit up to become one.
When Ogata returned to the stage in a gorgeous sea blue dress, the fans welcomed her with the loudest cheers and applause of the night. Beaming bashfully at the audience, she stood alone in the middle of the stage and began to read her final message of appreciation to everyone.
“I, Haruna Ogata, will graduate from Morning Musume.’18 and Hello! Project as of today, June 20.
I’m seriously bad at conveying my feelings to people, but in order to show my gratitude for these 3 years and 9 months in my own way, I wrote a letter so please listen.
I was 15 years old and didn’t know my left from right when I entered Morning Musume., but I had my fellow members, staff and my family who understood me the most who were sometimes strict, sometimes kind, but gave me love. I had friends who never changed nor forgot the real me. More than anything, I was able to keep going forward despite the troubles and struggles I faced in my activities because of all the warm fans who accepted and supported me all the time no matter who I was.
That’s why the days I spent as a member of Morning Musume. will be a treasure I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. Thank you so much. I learned so much from my time in Morning Musume. I can’t speak highly about my singing or dancing, but I learned a lot about things like manners and human relationships through my work.
I gave everything I had in my own way, and I want to use everything I gained in my life from now on. After I announced my graduation, everyone told me to become happy. But right now, in this moment, I’m already very, very happy!
From tomorrow onwards I’ll be taking a different part, but I’ll work hard in order to believe in my choice and learn much more in my life as a student as I search for new dreams.
After this concert I may not be able to meet everyone again, but for one last time I wish with all my heart for all of you to have days filled with happiness.”
Venturing into the middle of the arena, Ogata sang her last solo song “Namida ga Tomaranai Houkago”. Her smile shone brighter than all the lights in the venue, singing the bright yet gentle song in a way that was so befitting of her sweet nature. The only inexperienced member of her generation when she had first entered the group, she showed the incredible progress she had made over the last four years through her determination and effort.
Her fellow members then joined her on stage to send her off in a touching graduation ceremony. Leader Mizuki Fukumura presented her with a large bouqet of blue flowers, embracing her and thanking her for working hard. The members gave their messages to Ogata in turn, reliving old memories and sharing funny episodes as Ogata laughed sheepishly. Tears were shed in the midst of the emotional moments, and the fans watched over the members as the 13 of them stood together on stage for the last time. The strong bond between the members was clear as they looked back on their time together with Ogata. Each spoke fondly of her, drawing laughter and tears even from the fans. It was evident that Ogata was a beloved junior, senior and generation mate.
It was time for the end of the concert, and Ogata was determined to finish it with smiles all abound. The group sang “Are you Happy?”, the other A-side from their latest single, pumping up the audience for a final burst. As they went into the last song “Aozora ga Itsumademo Tsuzuku You na Mirai de Are!”, shiny blue streamers burst from the roof and sent everyone into a flurry of delight as the confetti floated down. Written on each strand was a final message from Ogata: “This is the proof that I could share my passion. Thank you for everything till now! \(^^)/ Honana!”
With that the 13 members wrapped up the last song of their concert tour and closed another chapter of their history. Clutching the shiny blue streamers they held hands and gave a standing ovation before the massive crowd, the air filled with festivity.
After everyone had left, Ogata hopped back on stage to wave to the fans for the very last time. The blue lights shone brightly along with her smile, and the atmosphere was filled with energy and bittersweet emotions. As she gave her final bow and stepped off the stage, the yells of support firmly remained. Although she may start a different journey now, her time in Morning Musume. and her ever-bright smile will certainly not go forgotten.
1. A gonna
2. Romance ni Mezameru Mousou Joshi no Uta
3. Fantasy ga Hajimaru
4. Seishun Say A-HA
5. Password is 0
6. Hana ga Saku Taiyou Abite
7. Help me!!(updated)
8. Ai no Gundan
9. Morning Coffee(20th Anniversary Ver.)
・Shanimuni Paradise/Sakura Oda, Akane Haga, Kaede Kaga, Chisaki Morito
・Lemon Iro to Milk Tea/Mizuki Fukumura, Haruna Ogata, Maria Makino, Akane Haga, Kaede Kaga, Reina Yokoyama
・Tokimeku Tokimeke/Mizuki Fukumura, Erina Ikuta, Haruna Iikubo, Ayumi Ishida
・INDIGO BLUE LOVE/Sakura Oda, Miki Nozomi, Chisaki Morito
・Bouya/Mizuki Fukumura, Haruna Iikubo, Masaki Sato, Haruna Ogata, Maria Makino
・Otona ni Nareba Otona ni Nareru/Erina Ikuta, Ayumi Ishida, Masaki Sato, Miki Nonaka, Reina Yokoyama
11. Resonant Blue
12. Shouganai Yumeoibito
13. Naichau Kamo
14.Hand made CITY
15. Aisaresugiru Koto wa Nai no yo
16. Moonlight night～Tsuki no Ban da yo～
17. Ame no Furanai Hoshi de wa Aisenai Darou?
・Utakata Saturday Night!
・Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke
・What is LOVE?
20. Narcissus Kamatte-chan Kyousoukyoku Dai 5ban
21. Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai
22. Jealousy Jealousy
EN1. Namida ga Tomaranai Houkago/Haruna Ogata
EN2. Are you Happy?
EN3. Aozora ga Itsumademo Tsuzuku You na Mirai de Are!
Morning Musume. ’18 Official site: http://www.helloproject.com/morningmusume
Morning Musume. ’18 Official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Morningmusume.Official/
Morning Musume. ’18 Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/MorningMusumeMg
Morning Musume. ’18 Official YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/morningmusumechannel
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