UPDATED (3X) Announced at Morning Musume ’14’s concert in Yamaguchi, Michishige Sayumi will graduate from the group and Hello! Project at the end of their 2014 fall concert tour.
A statement from Michishige, producer Tsunku and UFP representative Minoru Ohama has been posted on the Hello! Project website.
The decision was made by Michishige herself after consulting producer Tsunku and UFP management. She stated that it is time, with 5 consecutive Oricon #1’s, to pass the torch to the new generation. By graduating she is “giving something back to the group she has gotten so much from.”
While discussing her plans it was decided that, given the group’s momentum, this would be the ideal timing for a graduation. The other members of Morning Musume ’14 were told the news the day before.
The Tower Records store in Shinjuku immediately put up a sign of support for Michishige.
【新宿アイドルチーム】この時がいつか来るとは思っていましたが…道重さゆみさんが秋のTOURにてモーニング娘。’14卒業することを発表(泣） 新宿店はずっと応援してゆきます!!! でもやっぱり寂しいよぉぉぉ pic.twitter.com/drICSqarwh
— タワーレコード新宿店 (@TOWER_Shinjuku) April 29, 2014
Michishige joined Morning Musume as one of three 6th generation members in January of 2003. She has the longest tenure ever as a Morning Musume member at 4118 days.
The takamaruyo fansite has translated the full statements pertaining to the announcement.
I have said roughly two years ago when I was appointed leader that I would “pay my debt of gratitude to Morning Musume”. During it all, it has not been by my efforts alone that we were able to achieve 5 consecutive Number 1s, but through all our various activities, little by little, I feel that perhaps I was able to pay off the favor. Therefore, after consulting with Tsunku-san and the company, it was decided the graduation will take place in this year’s concert tour.
(…)And now, from here on is when I truly pay back the favor. I would like to graduate from Morning Musume in its best form, as I pass the baton over to the next generation.
Former H!P-soloist Mano Erina also offered her reaction.
Source: Hello! Project
H!NS comment: Takahashi and Niigaki kept the ship afloat during the storm but it was Michishige that set it firmly back on course. We wish her the very best and are 100% confident that both her personal future and that of Morning Musume & Hello! Project are as bright as a thousand stars.