Good Bye and Thank You: Significant Departures From the Idol World in 2015

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Good Bye and Thank You: Significant Departures From the Idol World in 2015

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Those dreaded words “important announcement” or the image of a single member remaining on stage or raising their hand right before the final bow, which are usually followed up by the declaration of a graduation, can stop a fan dead in their tracks. Perhaps it was a ripple effect after Minami Takahashi’s surprise announcement during AKB48’s 9th Anniversary Concert on December 8th of the previous year, or a consequence of there being so many idol groups competing for a limited amount of fans as the boom matured into a movement but, there was definitely an air of uncertainty as the notifications began to flood in throughout 2015.

While it would be impossible to go over in detail about each and every departure, some of the major ones will be discussed. We have decided to put them into 3 categories: Extremely Shocking and Devastating, Not Surprising but Still Disappointing, and Unavoidable. This is by no means to trivialize the losses, as each and every one affected the idols and their fans on deep emotional levels.

For more about graduations, please check out the article in the link below.

What’s Behind the Word “Graduation”? The Difference between “Graduation” and “Withdrawal” in Japanese Idol Culture

Shocking and Devastating

Riho Sayashi – Morning Musume. ’15
Announcement Date: October 29, 2015
Final Date: December 31, 2015


After the graduation of leader Sayumi Michishige in 2014, it was definitely too soon for Riho Sayashi to announce her graduation from Morning Musume. ’15 when she did, particularly with 2 months remaining for fans and members to process the news. Sayashi will remain in Hello! Project despite leaving the group in order to study abroad and work on improving her dance skills but, the track record of members who have left to go overseas has not been promising. If anyone were able to pull off a reverse graduation, it would be great to see Riho Sayashi be the first!

Rena Matsui – SKE48
Announcement Date: June 10, 2015
Final Date: August 31, 2015


The most impactful graduation of SKE48’s 7 year history, up until Rena Matsui began her AKB48 no All Night Nippon radio broadcast shortly after 1:00 am (JST) on June 10, 2015, there was still a small sliver of hope that the reports by Nikkan Sports made hours earlier could be wrong. There had already been some rumors swirling about as Rena had opted out of the Senbatsu Sousenkyo, which is usually a prelude to a graduation announcement. As part of the double-center combination known as “W-Matsui” with Jurina Matsui, she had been at the very front of the group’s releases since their debut and a constant senbatsu member in AKB48 singles as well. With the graduation announcement of Sae Miyazawa on December 16, 2015 and end of Jurina’s concurrent post in AKB48 coming to an end, the future of SKE48 remains uncertain.

Ruuna Akimoto, Koumi Hayasaka, Mimori Tominaga – Dorothy Little Happy
Announcement Date: April 28, 2015
Final Date: July 12, 2015


Sendai’s Dorothy Little Happy had just released their best of album “The best of Dorothy Little Happy 2010-2015” (release date: April 1) and was about to begin their 5th anniversary tour when Ruuna Akimoto, Koumi Hayasaka, and Mimori Tominaga announced that they would be leaving to devote themselves fully to their recently launched “self-produced” group callme. On top of the shock from such a major separation, the group had to keep things together as they toured through 14 cities over several months, culminating with the finale at the legendary Nakano Sun Plaza on June 12, 2015. Perhaps one of the saddest things about it was seeing the artist photo for their single “Tell me tell me!!” change from 5 members to 2 as Dorothy Little Happy was introduced as one of the performers for many of the big summer music festivals.

DJ HIKARU and MC HIME – Rhymeberry
Announcement Date: February 26, 2015
Final Date: February 26, 2015


Rhymeberry seemed to be back on track after the loss of MC YUKA earlier in 2014. They released a new single “IDOL ILLMATIC” and had a successful 2nd One-Man Live “MAGIC PARTY VOL.2” on December 22nd to close out the year but, everything came crashing down on February 26, 2015 when DJ HIKARU, MC HIME, and producer Yoshikazu Kuwashima announced their graduation from the group effective immediately. Undeterred, MC MIRI took the stage with MC MISAKI (ex-Aither) as Rhymeberry on March 1st and the group released a single under their new formation titled “MIRRORBALL” in May. DJ HIKARU is now a solo idol under the name Hikaru Nobuoka. Hime is the newest member of lyrical school, replacing Hina Komatsu who graduated on December 13th.

Yurika Akiyama – Ciao Bella Cinquetti (formerly known as THE Possible)
Announcement Date: August 10, 2015
Final Date: August 10, 2015


After 9 years in THE Possible, who just changed their name to Ciao Bella Cinquetti on July 8th, coinciding with a move to PICCOLO TOWN and Up-Front Works, Yurika Akiyama shocked fans with notice that she was graduating from the group on August 10, 2015, just days after she had been on stage at Tokyo Idol Festival. Citing that the last 6 months had been 80% painful and 20% fun, Akiyama admitted to feeling less enthusiastic than the rest of the group as their activities increased in preparation for what was their long-awaited breakthrough. With no recent entries on her Twitter or blog since that day, we hope that it is because she is too busy with some newly found happiness to bother with such things.

Uta Shimamura – Country Girls
Announcement Date: June 12, 2015
Final Date: June 12, 2015


The reboot of Country Musume. under the name Country Girls seemed like it was off to a great start; they had Momoko Tsugunaga from the recently inactive Berryz Kobo and were being advised by Mai Satoda, the longest running member of the original group, and they would be making their major label debut. At the center of it all was the angelic young Uta Shimamura but, things did not last long as it was announced that she had withdrawn from the group on June 12, 2015 after disputes between her family and management could not be resolved.

Aya Goto – SUPER☆GiRLS
Announcement Date: January 10, 2014
Final Date: March 31, 2015


Aya Goto shocked SUPER☆GiRLS fans at the afternoon show of their first one-man concert of the year at Tokyo Dome City Hall on January 10, 2015 when she revealed that she would be graduating from the group and retiring from the entertainment industry at the end of March. Because she would be graduating before her 18th birthday, her final live with the group was on March 1st and was full of tears as fans and members looked back on her time with the group before picking up her mandarin orange flag and walking off the stage. Although there was a scene of an unidentified girl in the ending video of her final concert, no news of a new member has been revealed since.

Mari Mizuta – Pla2me
Announcement Date: April 1, 2015
Final Day: May 31, 2015


It seemed like a bad April Fool’s joke when a notice appeared on Pla2me’s official website appeared at 1:00am notifying fans that Mari Mizuta would be leaving the group due to artistic differences between her and Saki Kamiya. Those who had a chance to see the two friends interacting during performances and events might have found it unusual to hear that a rift had been steadily growing between them. Mari also cited homesickness due to many of Pla2me’s events being held far away from Osaka. As the first group to emerge from the ashes of BiS, Pla2me made a big splash when they debuted at Tokyo Idol Festival 2014 with their unique musical style and image. At the same time that it was announced that Mari would be leaving, auditions for new members where anyone male or female between the ages of 17 and 28 would be eligible. Currently, Mari Mizuta is active as a solo idol as well as a member of the group mtopi. Pla2me renamed themselves POP (Period of Plastic 2 Mercy) shortly after Mari’s final performance and are active as a 5-member group following the return of Saki Kamiya, who was on indefinite hiatus due to disciplinary reasons.

Sako Makita – PASSPO☆
Announcement Date: April 4, 2015
Final Day: May 31, 2015


Following up on the marathon 6 and a half hour New Year’s Day graduation live for Makoto Okunaka, news of PASSPO☆ losing another member in Sako Makita was an unexpected patch of turbulence for the group as they were just finding their way as an 8-member group. Initially, it sounded as if she would simply be absent from performing on stage with PASSPO☆ but, as the months of her being away from the group, especially with her working closely with her kouhai group 3min., some “passengers” (PASSPO☆ name for fans) may be wondering if Sako will ever return.

Not Surprising but Still Disappointing

Minami Takahashi – AKB48
Announcement Date: December 8, 2014
Final Day: March 28, 2016


Although it seemed like General Manager “Takamina” would always be a part of AKB48, as the group began their 9th year, the departure of their leader was bound to happen. Even though many “experts” kept claiming that it would be Haruna Kojima leaving before her, it was the other two members of No Sleeves that ended up sending her on her way in the MV for her graduation song “Senaka Kotoba”. The farewell tour of Takamina hit a snag though when it was revealed at her final handshake event on November 23, 2015 that her graduation concert an AKB48 theater performances would be postponed until the end of March 2016. When Takamina’s final day does arrive, it will be a day not to be forgotten but the strength of a group like AKB48 is that it is something that was build by the members and their fans. With so many different personalities and abilities on both sides, even if the “Kami 7” may change, AKB48 has a good chance of being around to celebrate their 20th anniversary regardless of who ranks in the 2025 Senbatsu Sousenkyo.

Rina Kawaei – AKB48
Announcement Date: March 26, 2015
Final Date: August 4, 2015


Following the unthinkable events that transpired at the AKB48 handshake event in Iwate prefecture on May 25, 2014, things were irreversibly changed. Security measures were tightened at the AKB48 Theater and Rina Kawaei, who had been enjoying a boom in popularity, found herself unable to return to meet her fans as she had before. While the response from fans was of extreme disappointment, no one could blame Rina for making that decision, especially after what had happened to her. After 2 days of concerts at Saitama Super Arena and an AKB48 Theater performance where she fought to maintain a smile until the very end on August 4, 2015, Rina Kawaei began the next chapter of her life as an aspiring actress.

Kanon Fukuda – ANGERME (formerly known as S/Mileage)
Announcement Date: May 20, 2015
Final Date: November 29, 2015


As one of the last remaining 1st generation members of S/Mileage, the timing of Kanon Fukuda’s announcement to graduate may have been surprising but, it was one of those things which many felt was going to happen soon. Kanon had been active as an idol for 11 years and had seen many of her fellow idols come and go and experienced highs and lows, including the success of the group after they had changed their name to ANGERME in December of 2014. Having called herself a “reincarnation of Cinderella”, on that one night at the Nippon Budokan, Kanon was able to be a princess before moving on to the next chapter in life.

Announcement Date: September 10, 2015
Final Date: Unknown


The “father” of Hello! Project officially announced that he would step away from his role with the idol empire that he had been leading since deciding to turn a group of young women who had failed an audition into a little pop group called Morning Musume. back in 1997. Despite being diagnosed with laryngeal cancer, and having his vocal cords removed as a result, he’s still going, having worked on all 3 songs for Morning Musume. ’15’s 60th single. It seems that people like Tsunku♂ never stop working even after they say that they’re going away.

Mitsuki Kimijima, Mizuki Kimoto, Saki Takeda, Yumi Nakano – palet
Announcement Date: April 5, 2015 (Kimijima), May 11, 2015 (Kimoto) December 11, 2015 (Takeda, Nakano)
Final Date: June 21, 2015 (Kimijima, Kimoto), December 28, 2015 (Takeda, Nakano)


Losing 4 out of 7 members in one year should belong in the “shocking and devastating” category but, according to TGU’s resident palet expert and Saki Takeda fan Kenji Harada, the reaction to the graduations that hit palet in 2015 were met with a mature resolve for the pure-hearted idol group. The time that young women spend as idols is a temporary thing as they build up their skills in preparation for the next step in life. It did seem particularly cruel that palet released a single titled “Time to Change” to coincide with the graduations of Kimijima and Kimoto and another titled “All for One” shortly before the graduation announcements of Takeda and Nakano. The addition of 3min. member Mayu Watanabe has had a noticeable effect on their dance performances but it will remain to be seen what will happen when the new members are announced in the near future.


All Members – Idoling!!!
Announcement Date: April 3, 2015
Final Day: October 31, 2015

Idoling!!! (2015)

With over 1,000 TV shows and 9 years of service, it seemed like just another prank when word that Idoling!!! would be disbanding began spreading in March of 2015. When the official announcement arrived on April 3, 2015, things actually became more confusing. All of the members would graduate from the group on October 31st following their 15th live at the Nippon Budokan but Idoling!!! would not be disbanded, and 7th generation members would join the group in July. Being able to take the news seriously was challenged further when the 7th generation was revealed to be younger sister of Nao Asahi, Runa Asahi, older sister of Kaede and Ruka Hashimoto, Natsuki Hashimoto, and Hitomi Sakai’s mother, Yoshiko Sakai. Despite it all, the members of Idoling!!! went out with a bang during a festival-themed live that might have had some fans hoping until the very end that it would be revealed that it had all been one of the most elaborate pranks in entertainment history.

All Members – Berryz Kobo
Announcement Date: August 2, 2014
Final Date: March 3, 2015


While the words used to describe it tried to make it sound like a hiatus, after 10 years, Berryz Kobo effectively came to an end, closing the book on one of the longest running idol groups to continue with most of the original members since their formation. Berryz Kobo took their final bow (for now) at the Nippon Budokan on March 3rd, the anniversary of their debut. The shock was so great that one of our writers Yuji Hara seems to have stopped contributing.

Ayami Muto
Announcement Date: December 16, 2015
Final Date: December 23, 2015


The short time frame between the announcement and final performance of Ayami Muto before going on hiatus may be one of the shortest, barring those who used the Internet to inform their fans of their immediate departure but, after all that she has done in her young life, she is long overdue for a break. Like Kanon Fukuda, Yurika Akiyama, and all of the members of Berryz Kobo, Ayami has been in the entertainment industry for over a decade so it’s not surprising that she would take a break at all. Hopefully for her fans, she is re-energized with new ideas when she does.


2015 also brought one of the saddest farewells of all to the idol world when it was revealed that solo idol Karin Maruyama had passed away at the age of 21 on May 22, 2015, after battling cancer for most of her young life. Karin had fought through 7 surgeries since she was in elementary school and was a Miss iD 2013 semifinalist, having applied for auditions from her hospital bed. She was given an emotional tribute on what would have been her 22nd birthday during the Miss iD stage at Tokyo Idol Festival 2015 as they sang her debut single “Eternal Summer”.

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, this is far from even a fraction of the farewells that fans had to make this year as idols from far and wide took their final bows in 2015. Change is inevitable and sometimes it hurts. Although it’s easier said than done, instead of dwelling on the pain of separation, try to focus on treasuring the memories and be thankful that you were there to experience them.

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Related Artists : ANGERME Country Girls Pla2me Ayami Muto palet
Kai Okudara

Writer, researcher, photographer, foodie, KSDD

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