Morning Musume (モーニング娘。, Mōningu Musume) is a popular all-girl J-pop group from Japan that often changes its members. It is also known as "Momusu" (モー娘。, Mōmusu). Their act revolves around singing and dancing to generally upbeat melodies. They are the lead group of the Hello! Project, masterminded by Tsunku.
'Musume' means daughter or girl, hence the name 'Morning Girls'.
Japanese producer Tsunku started the group in 1997 through a female rock vocalist audition for his band Sharam Q held on the Japanese TV show ASAYAN. The winner of the audition was Heike Michiyo, later to become a soloist part of Hello! Project. Soon afterwards Tsunku decided to form a girl group consisting of five of the runners-up. They were issued a challenge to sell 50,000 copies of their demo single, "Ai no Tane," within 5 days. They managed the feat in four days in a very grassroots manner, and Tsunku kept on with his mission to create one of the most famous all-girl groups, giving them dance and vocal lessons. The group is particularly well-known for its shuffled line-up, with "graduations" occurring each year ("retiring" a girl from the group), then holding auditions to fill in open slots.
In the beginning of 1998 the girls were ready to start off with their first official single, "Morning Coffee". The success of this single (hitting #6 on the Japanese pop charts) brought them 3 new members: Kei Yasuda, Mari Yaguchi, and Sayaka Ichii, for a total of 8. Their third single, "Daite! HOLD ON ME," hit #1 on the charts. During this time, leader Yuko Nakazawa started her solo career.
In 1999, after several more releases, Asuka Fukuda left the group in order to focus on her studies. Also Tanpopo, the first subgroup, was formed with Kaori Iida, Aya Ishiguro, and Mari Yaguchi — touting slower, more mature songs.
Expectations for the third generation audition were to admit two new girls to the group, but ultimately, only one girl was added to the group, Maki Goto, the youngest member of the group at thirteen. The success of the 7th single, "LOVE Machine," with the addition of Goto, dramatically increased the idol popularity of the group, while arguably making Goto the most popular member of Morning Musume.
This is furthered by placing Maki with Kei Yasuda and Sayaka Ichii to form subgroup Petitmoni (also known as Pucchi Moni), which released their first single "Chokotto LOVE" three months after "LOVE Machine" to great success.
In 2000, Aya Ishiguro left the group to marry Shinya, drummer of J-Rock band LUNA SEA. The 7-member group made one more single "Koi no Dance Site" before another generation joined. It consisted of Rika Ishikawa, Hitomi Yoshizawa, Nozomi Tsuji, and Ai Kago, and gave the group a completely different feel by adding in the young 12-year-old duo of Tsuji and Kago.
After the single "Happy Summer Wedding" in this 11-member formation, Sayaka Ichii graduated to pursue her own music career. She became vocalist in Japanese group Cubic Cross and later married fellow group member Naoki Yoshizawa, no relation to Hitomi Yoshizawa.
With Ishiguro and Ichii gone, both Tanpopo and Petitmoni updated their membership. Hitomi Yoshizawa joined Petitmoni, and Ai Kago & Rika Ishikawa were added to Tanpopo. Meanwhile, Mari Yaguchi had started performing informally with Ai Kago and Nozomi Tsuji in concerts as Mini Moni, a group tailored towards younger audiences with members all being less than 150 centimeters tall (about 5 feet). Mika Todd of Coconuts Musume was later added into the group and Tsunku made them official. Their debut single, "Minimoni Jankenpyon!", was a #1 hit.
2000 also saw the creation of "Summer Shuffle Units," in which all members of Tsunku's big idol family, Hello! Project, were shuffled around to form three one-time summer groups.
As an idol group, they were extremely successful, drawing comparisons to the popularity of former girl idol group SPEED. "Renai Revolution 21," "I Wish", and "The Peace!" continued the trend of happy pop songs, becoming a staple hit for the group. Morning Musume also began their tradition of performing in musicals each year, breaking new ground as idols with their hit musical, "LOVE CENTURY."
Group leader Yuko Nakazawa graduated in April 2001 to concentrate more on her solo career, putting Kaori Iida and Kei Yasuda as Morning Musume's co-leaders. During this time, the popular Rika Ishikawa was "lent" out to the rather dormant group, Country Musume.
At the end of 2001, four new girls joined the group as the fifth generation through the audition "LOVE AUDITION 21": Ai Takahashi, Asami Konno, Makoto Ogawa, and Risa Niigaki, bringing the roster to 13 girls.
Late 2002 was marked by the graduation of Maki Goto and a mass re-shuffle of the sub-units. Tsunku removed Kaori Iida, Mari Yaguchi, and Ai Kago from Tanpopo, adding in Asami Konno, Risa Niigaki, and Ayumi Shibata of Melon Kinen-Bi to join Rika Ishikawa. Tanpopo only released one single with this line-up before the group was put on an indefinite hiatus status. Makoto Ogawa and Ayaka Kimura of Coconuts Musume joined Hitomi Yoshizawa in Petitmoni to replace Kei Yasuda and Maki Goto, but the group did not even release a single, only performing in concerts. Their song "Wow Wow Wow" was later released on the Hello! Project's compilation CD Petit Best 4. In Mini Moni, Mari Yaguchi was replaced with Ai Takahashi and the new line-up went on to make several singles and a 2nd album until member Mika Todd graduated in May 2004, adding Mini Moni to the "indefinite hiatus" subgroups.
In the beginning of 2003, three new girls were added as the sixth generation: Eri Kamei, Sayumi Michishige, and Reina Tanaka. After a successful appearance on the New Year's music program "Kōhaku Uta Gassen" with several Morning Musume members dancing as backup, Tsunku also added in Miki Fujimoto, who was originally an up-and-coming solo singer under Hello! Project, as part of the sixth generation. Their debut concert was also Kei Yasuda's graduation concert, and Tsunku said that this one-time 16-member group is the largest Morning Musume will ever be.
Mari Yaguchi became Morning Musume's sub-leader after Kei's graduation and was also put in charge of training and assisting the up and coming group of Hello! Project Kids, eventually forming a group with 5 of them, known as ZYX.
Later in 2003, Morning Musume was split into two subgroups so that it could tour more cities (especially smaller cities that cannot support a 15-member troupe). Morning Musume Sakuragumi included Natsumi Abe, Mari Yaguchi, Hitomi Yoshizawa, Ai Kago, Ai Takahashi, Risa Niigaki, Asami Konno and Eri Kamei and Morning Musume Otomegumi had Kaori Iida, Rika Ishikawa, Nozomi Tsuji, Makoto Ogawa, Miki Fujimoto, Sayumi Michishige, and Reina Tanaka. Both groups made 2 singles and were reasonably successful.
In January 2004, Natsumi Abe (known as "the face of Morning Musume" to the general public) graduated to pursue a soloist career, followed by the graduation of 4th generation Nozomi Tsuji and Ai Kago in August to focus on "W (Double U)", their new duo group.
7th generation auditions (named "Lucky 7" to commemorate the 7th generation, 7th year of Morning Musume, and 7 auditioning locations across Japan) were held in various Japan cities in 2004, resulting in 6 finalists. However, on January 9th, 2005, Tsunku announced that no one in the Lucky 7 audition would be added onto Morning Musume, adding that he had set his expectations extra high this year in hopes of finding an "ace".
On January 30th, 2005 - then-leader and last 1st generation member Kaori Iida graduated to pursue a solo singer/artist career, with Mari Yaguchi taking on leadership role and Hitomi Yoshizawa as subleader.
In February 2005, Tsunku started another audition for Morning Musume's 7th generation. He noted that he was still intent on finding an "ace". This audition resulted with Koharu Kusumi finally being chosen as the sole "miracle" member of the new generation.
On April 14, 2005, Mari Yaguchi announced that she had retired from Morning Musume and would continue on with solo activities, after photos were taken of her with a male actor on the 10th (and were scheduled to be published in a gossip magazine "Friday!" on the 15th). In her public statement, Yaguchi said she could no longer sustain an "idol" image befitting of Morning Musume.
On May 7, 2005, Rika Ishikawa graduated from Morning Musume to assume full-time leadership of the Hello! Project trio known as v-u-den.
Because of the nature of her departure, Yaguchi did not receive a ceremony like other ex-MoMusu members when they "graduated". Subleader Hitomi Yoshizawa took over as the leader of Morning Musume, and Miki Fujimoto became sub-leader as of July 15, 2005.
On December 31, 2005, graduated Morning Musume members Kaori Iida, Natsumi Abe, Mari Yaguchi, Yuko Nakazawa, Ai Kago, Nozomi Tsuji, Rika Ishikawa, Maki Goto, and Kei Yasuda joined the current lineup of Morning Musume to perform the band's signature hit "Love Machine" on the 2005/2006 edition of Kōhaku Uta Gassen. The performance was Yaguchi's first since leaving Morning Musume eight and a half months earlier.
On January 16, 2006, it was announced that Morning Musume had won a Kanagawa Image Up Award in recognition of Hello! Project's support of an anti-pollution campaign. Yoshizawa, Fujimoto, and Takahashi represented the band to accept the award.
On April 28, 2006, it was announced by Tsunku from his official website that 5th Generation members Asami Konno and Makoto Ogawa are going to graduate. Konno graduated on July 23, 2006 to go to University, and Ogawa graduated on August 27, 2006 to study English. Both have left Morning Musume, but only Konno has left Hello! Project entirely; Ogawa intends to return to H!P after completing her studies.
The 8th generation audition for Morning Musume was announced by Tsunku. The audition started on August 27, 2006 and ended in Tokyo on October 22.
On December 10th's Hello! Morning, it was announced that the only 8th generation member would be Aika Mitsui.
Recently, a 10 Year Anniversary Unit has been made, consisting of Kaori Iida, Natsumi Abe, Maki Goto, Risa Niigaki, and Koharu Kusumi. They will release a commemorative single called "Bokura ga Ikiru MY ASIA". This is to symbolize the grassroot beginning of the group; how they had five members ranging in age from 13 - 24.
On January 2, 2007, an announcement was made during Hello! Project's 2007 winter concert that the group's current leader, Hitomi Yoshizawa will graduate from Morning Musume on May 6, the last day of Morning Musume's 2007 spring tour. The location for that concert is the Saitama Super Arena, where Yoshizawa's hometown is. Miki Fujimoto will take her place as leader and Ai Takahashi will replace Fujimoto as sub-leader.
On June 1st, 2007, Miki Fujimoto left Morning Musume. Thus, making
Ai Takahashi the leader and Risa Niigaki as sub-leader.
On March 15th, 2007, two Chinese "exchange students" from China, Jun Jun and Lin Lin, were added to the group as part of the 8th generation.
On December 15th, 2010, Junjun, Linlin and Eri Kamei left Morning Musume.
Junjun and Linlin left to pursue careers in China, meanwhile Eri Kamei left for treatment on her skin condition.
On January 2nd, 2011, Morning Musume received four new members, ages 12-14 years old, Mizuki Fukumura, Erina Ikuta, Riho Sayashi and Kanon Suzuki.
On January 9th, 2011, Morning Musume leader Ai Takahashi announced her upcoming graduation in Autumn, After her graduation, Risa Niigaki will take over the leadership role.
As of January 2011, the following 9 members are in the group:
Ai Takahashi (高橋愛)
Risa Niigaki (新垣里沙)
Sayumi Michishige (道重さゆみ)
Reina Tanaka (田中れいな)
Aika Mitsui (光井愛佳)
Mizuki Fukumura (譜久村聖)
Riho Sayashi (鞘師里保)
Erina Ikuta (生田衣梨奈)
Kanon Suzuki (鈴木香音)
First generation (1997)
Yuko Nakazawa (中澤裕子, graduated April 2001) - Nicknamed Yuu-chan
Kaori Iida (飯田圭織, graduated January 2005) - Nicknamed Kaorin
Aya Ishiguro (石黒彩, graduated January 2000) - Nicknamed Ayappe
Natsumi Abe (安倍なつみ, graduated January 2004) - Nicknamed Nacchi
Asuka Fukuda (福田明日香, graduated April 1999) - Nicknamed just Asuka
Second generation (1998)
Kei Yasuda (保田圭, graduated May 2003) - Nicknamed Kei-chan
Mari Yaguchi (矢口真里, "retired" April 14, 2005) - Nicknamed Marippe
Sayaka Ichii (市井紗耶香, graduated May 2000) - Nicknamed Ichii-chan
Third generation (1999)
Maki Goto (後藤真希, graduated September 2002) - Nicknamed Gocchin
Fourth generation (2000)
Rika Ishikawa (石川梨華, graduated May 2005) - Nicknamed Rika-chan
Hitomi Yoshizawa (吉澤ひとみ, graduated May 2007) - Nicknamed Yossi
Nozomi Tsuji (辻希美, graduated August 2004) - Nicknamed Nono
Ai Kago (加護亜依, graduated August 2004) - Nicknamed Aibon
Fifth generation (2001)
Ai Takahashi (高橋愛 will be graduating 2011) - Nicknamed Ai-chan
Asami Konno (紺野あさ美, graduated July 2006) - Nicknamed Konkon
Makoto Ogawa (小川麻琴, graduated August 2006) - Nicknamed Mako
Risa Niigaki (新垣里沙) - Nicknamed Gaki-san
Sixth generation (2003)
Miki Fujimoto (藤本美貴) - Nicknamed Mikitty
Eri Kamei (亀井絵里, graduated December 2010) - Nicknamed Eririn or Kame-chan
Sayumi Michishige (道重さゆみ) - Nicknamed Sayumin or Sayu
Reina Tanaka (田中れいな) - Nicknamed Tanakacchi (by Risa Niigaki) or just Reina
Seventh generation (2005)
Koharu Kusumi (久住小春 graduated December 2009) - Nicknamed Miracle-chan
Eighth generation (2006)
Aika Mitsui (光井愛佳) - Nicknamed Micchan
Li Chun (李純, リー・チュン graduated December 2010) - Nicknamed Jun Jun
Qian Lin (銭琳, チェン・リン graduated December 2010) - Nicknamed Lin Lin
Ninth generation (2011)
Mizuki Fukumura [譜久村聖] - Nicknamed Fukuchan or Miichan (14 years old)
Ikuta Erina [生田衣梨奈] - Nicknamed Eripon (13 years old)
Riho Sayashi [鞘師里保] - Nicknamed Yasshii (12 years old)
Kanon Suzuki [鈴木香音] - Nicknamed Zukki (12 years old)
A member of Morning Musume - usually the oldest member of the band according to Hello! Project tradition - is appointed as the group's leader. The next oldest in the generation is appointed sub-leader. Here are the list of the leaders in chronological order:
1st - Yuko Nakazawa (Formation - April, 2001)
2nd - Kaori Iida and Kei Yasuda (May, 2001 - May, 2003)
3rd - Kaori Iida, subleader: Mari Yaguchi (May, 2003 - January, 2005)
4th - Mari Yaguchi, subleader: Hitomi Yoshizawa (February, 2005 - April 14, 2005)
5th - Hitomi Yoshizawa, subleader: Miki Fujimoto (April 15, 2005 - May 6, 2007)
6th - Miki Fujimoto, subleader: Ai Takahashi (May 7, 2007 - May 31st, 2007)
7th - Ai Takahashi, subleader: Risa Nigaki (June 1st, 2007 - Present)
* In 2011, It was announced Morning Musume's longest serving member/leader, Ai Takahashi will be graduating.
* Oricon – Most consecutive Top 10 singles by a female group in Japan.
* Oricon – Most Top 10 singles by a female group in Japan.
*Oricon – Best selling female group in Japan—11 million 85 thousand copies sold, becoming their fifth Oricon record.
*All of their singles except for the first, Morning Coffee, have ranked in the Oricon Weekly Singles Top 5.
*Kōhaku Uta Gassen's youngest participant – 12 year old Ai Kago (51st Kōhaku).