The Japanese idol group that was known as Morning Musume 16 in 2016 will now make its debut as the group Morning Musume 17. As we start off the New Year, the group now has introduced two new members of its 13th generation as I have written about before. The 13th generation follows the 12th generation which had 4 members back in 2014 just before the graduation of 6th generation member Sayumi Michishige. It is time to once again pay tribute to this girl group that has released 60 singles and 14 studio albums. The group also has had to deal with a former member getting involved in an extramarital affair (Mari Yaguchi) as well as a publicized scandal involving Miki Fujimoto. But the group has survived through those events and is still active. Morning Musume celebrated its 16th anniversary as a group back in September 2013. They used to be Japan’s most popular girl group until they were overtaken by AKB48. But it does not matter to me because I enjoy the music of both of these groups. How did the group known as Morning Musume 17 get this far?
Morning Musume Early Career
The origins of the group go back to 1997 when music producer TSUNKU agreed to have five girls become part of a new group. His condition was that they had to sell at least 50,000 copies of the single called Ai No Tane.
These five girls did their job and the 50,000 copies of that single was sold in just four days. As part of the reward, the group Morning Musume was born. The first generation of girls was Natsumi Abe, Asuka Fukuda, Aya Ishiguro, Kaori Iida, and of course, the very beautiful Yuko Nakazawa that served as the group’s first leader. In 1998, the group released its first official single called Morning Coffee. I won’t talk about the single here because the focus is about the group. It was also in 1998 that the group would witness the introduction of the second generation of members. There were three members of this generation. They were the lovely Sayaka Ichii of Chiba, Kei Yasuda, and Mari Yaguchi. The 3rd, 7th and 11th generations had only one member win the audition. These winners were as follows:
- Maki Goto (3rd)
- Koharu Kusumi (7th)
- Oda Sakura (11th)
After the entrance of Maki Goto into the group, the 4th generation of members would come in and join the group. The 4th generation had members Hitiomi Yoshizawa, Nozomi Tsuji, Ai Kago, and Rika Ishikawa. In 2001, the 5th generation of members would join. They were Ai Takahashi, Risa Niigaki, Makoto Ogawa, and Asami Konno. Takahashi and Niigaki would stay with Morning Musume until 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Since Risa Niigaki is one of my favorite Morning Musume members ever, I have written a tribute post about her.
In 2011, the group would see the entry of the 9th generation of members including Erina Ikuta and Haruna Iikubo. When Sayumi Michishige graduated from what was then known as Morning Musume 14, Mizuki Fukumura would take over as the group’s leader. Ikuta and Iikubo would then become sub-leaders of the group. Fukumura became leader at the young age of 18. She has released three photo books including her first one called MIZUKI. That photo book saw Fukumura spend time on the island of Guam. That is significant and you are about to see why this is the case. And finally, the 10th generation of members has my current favorite member Ayumi Ishida of Sendai! After doing activities under the name of Morning Musume 14, the group became known as Morning Musume 15 in 2015. The group has also had several of its members get married. I know that I have already discussed this before but I will do it again for emphasis. Marriage is a very happy time especially for these members of Morning Musume. Maki Goto got married back in August 2014. Yuko Nakazawa known as Nakazawa Yuko in Japan got married on April 1, 2012 at 38 to an IT company executive. What is interesting to note here is that Sayaka Ichii is also another former member of Morning Musume to marry a non-celebrity man. In August 2012, Ichii married a 37 year-old hairdresser and eventually gave birth to a baby boy in May 2013. Yasuda Kei also got married in May 2013. In other similar and exciting news, Rika Ishikawa revealed in August 2014 that she is dating Ryoma Nogami, a baseball player for the Saitama Seibu Lions.
Morning Musume 17 and the island of Guam have a certain importance to them. Guam is where Ayumi Ishida’s first photo book was created. The Japanese idol was seen having fun and relaxing in Guam. Guam is also where former AKB48 and JKT48 idol Aki Takajo was seen swimming laps back in 2011. Takajo has since graduated from AKB48. What may often times be overlooked as that adding to Morning Musume 17 and its importance on the Japanese pop music scene is that its members have posed as bikini models for various magazines and photo books. For instance, Ai Takahashi posed as a bikini model for FLASH Magazine. And then, we saw Risa Niigaki release her photo book Ascension before she graduated from Morning Musume in May 2012 along with Aika Mitsui. Risa Niigaki finally graduated from Morning Musume on May 18, 2012 following a concert in the famous venue Nippon Budokan. Mitsui had graduated two weeks earlier on May 4th. Several members of the group have graduated. Reina Tanaka, member of the 6th generation would graduate in May 2013 to spend more time with her band called Lovendor. Miki Fujimoto would leave the group in 2007 following reports that she was seen with her now husband comedian Tomoharu Shoji. Fortunately for Fujimoto, this even has not damaged her career. As of 2015, Makoto Ogawa is the latest former member to retire from the entertainment industry. Morning Musume 17 has released several notable songs during its almost 20 year career. Some of these include the mentioned Morning Coffee, LOVE Machine, Furusato, Help Me!!, Wagamama ki no Mama Ai no Joke and Password is 0. Congratulations to the group Morning Musume 17 and may these talented girls enjoy another successful year! It is my hope that with the coming disbandment of the group C-ute that Morning Musume 17 will last at least another 10 years! I have already talked about the group’s major influence on Japanese pop culture. These girls can sing, dance, and work as models and there is a reason why they are still active. Just like Yasushi Akimoto is responsible for the major expansion of AKB48 into other parts of Asia, TSUNKU is at least partly responsible for the rise and current standing of Morning Musume 17.
Morning Musume 17 Discography
3rd Love Paradise
Ai no Dan 6 Kan
SEXY 8 BEAT
Platinum 9 DISC
13 Colorful Character