Atsuko Maeda 'graduates' from AKB48
AKB48 member Atsuko Maeda, 20, on Sunday night announced her retirement from the mega-popular group (or “graduation,” as Japanese media refer to such announcements).
A teary Maeda made the announcement to 25,000 fans during a concert at Saitama Super Arena. “I am very anxious about the future but I have to move on and make way for younger members,” she said.
One of the more popular members of the group, Maeda stunned fans by saying, “I have something to tell you.” She closed her eyes, put her hands on her chest, and started to talk slowly. There was a silence among the fans who sensed something unusual was going on.
Maeda said, “I auditioned for AKB48 when I was 14 years old. That was my first and biggest decision in my life. And, today, I would like you to allow me to make the second biggest decision here. I am going to graduate from the group.”
Minami Takahashi, 20, was the only member of the group to know beforehand, she said. “Please accept her decision. AKB48 is not the ultimate goal in life,” Takahashi told the audience.