Introduction to the members from Team A, AKB48’s founding team17 May, 2010 by Chad
The members of AKB48 consists of 48 girls spread among Teams A, K and B. In an idol group with 48 members, it’s difficult to make out who is who in AKB48. It doesn’t help that the list of members changes frequently. This is the first in a trilogy of posts that will help identify all the different members of AKB48.
Many prominent members have left the group in the past couple of years and for a while now, the group consisted of less than 48 members. Finally, in March this year, there was a large reshuffle between the 3 teams of AKB48. As a result, many members new members unfamiliar to myself were introduced into the teams.
1. Maeda Atsuko
If the concept of AKB48 had to be summed up into one girl, it would be Maeda Atsuko.
To comprehend what sets Maeda Atsuko and the other AKB48 girls apart from other talents you will need anunderstanding of Japan’s show business and the system behind AKB48. In a country where idols are a dime a dozen, the girls fight a constant battle to vie for the attention of fans.
AKB48 as a company, does only the minimal to promote the girls as a whole. Individual girls have to rely on their popularity to find their own talent agencies. Unpopular members are easily let go, and replacements are easily found from the thousands of girls dreaming of fame. The harsh reality of this industry, keep the girls’ humility in check. A stark contrast to the diva complexes of Western stars.
Prior to AKB48, idols in Japan were always held by unrealistic standards. AKB48 founder Akimoto Yasushi saw the potential for down to earth idols, a concept foreign to Japanese. With AKB48 he introduced the concept of idols you can meet.
As Japan’s sweetheart, Maeda Atsuko is the personification of this concept. For all her talent, she is perfectly normal and it is this normalcy that makes Maeda Atsuko the cover face of AKB48. Though in reality somewhat of a dork, on stage Maeda emits confidence with her crafty smile. The fans love her, and she knows it.
Since the start of AKB48 in 2005, Maeda Atsuko has been the poster child of Team A. Thanks to her popularity, Maeda Atsuko remains the most prominent member in AKB48’s singles. She also ranks #1 on the list if Top 10 AKB48 Members. But it is her hard work and vocal talent that allows her to retain her spot.
Maeda Atsuko’s blog can be found here. Her blog is often ranked among the top 3 most female blogs on Ameba.
2. Takahashi Minami
AKB48 as a whole has no clear leader, instead each team has an appointed Captain that takes up certain leadership duties. Often, the captain is one of the lead members in the team. For Team A, the duty falls to Takahashi Minami who despite measuring at only 148cm, is one of AKB48’s strongest vocalists.
Part of AKB48’s charm, is how different each girl is from one another. Despite her looks, Takahashi Minami was one of AKB48’s younger members when they first started (today she is only 19). As the dire opposite to Maeda’s girl next door demeanor, Takahashi is rough, clumsy and rather boyish. This is apparent from her stage performances, though in recent years she has improved slightly.
What she lacks in coordination, Takahashi Minami makes up for with pure vocal power. Through the group’s history, Takahashi has maintained a lead singing role in all of AKB48’s singles. While Maeda Atsuko often leads in falsetto, Takahashi provides most of each song’s bass. And it is for this reason that Takamina is one of the group’s most popular members.
Outside of her singing career, Takamina is well known for her interest in drawing. Takahashi Minami’s personal blog is available only to Fan Club members, but she currently shares another public blog together with Kojima Haruna and Minegishi Minami here.
3. Shinoda Mariko
Shinoda Mariko’s entry to AKB48 is a unique case. Unlike the other members who were selected through auditions, Mariko was voted into AKB48 by fans. Originally a waitress at the cafe next to the group’s theater on the 8th floor of the Don Quijote building, Mariko was unable to participate in auditions due to her job schedule. She shared this story with customers, who eventually decided to petition her inclusion into the group.
At 24 years of age, Shinoda Mariko is AKB48’s oldest member. While other “aged” members have been forced to leave the group, Mariko’s “cool” personality puts her among the group’s leading members. Mariko is also AKB48’s tallest member.
Shinoda Mariko joined the group during their second single, Skirt Hirari. Initially, she wasn’t a key member of the group (she can only be seen for a split second as a backup dancer in the video). However, due to her fast rising popularity, she displaced Narita Risa’s position at the front by the time the group released their third single.
Outside of AKB48, Shinoda Mariko has started a successful modeling career. She often appears in fashion magazines for teenage girls and most recently even graced the catwalks of the Tokyo Girls Collection Spring/Summer 2010. Unsurprisingly, Shinoda Mariko has become a favorite of female fans.
In fact, recent popularity polls on Mixi (a social network system in Japan along the likes of Facebook that operates through mobile) has Mariko even outranking Maeda Atsuko. This puts Mariko as a contender for the top spot in this year’s upcoming member elections.
Mariko’s blog can be found here.
4. Takajo Aki
Takajo Aki is one of AKB48’s newer members. She deserves special mention as the fastest training member to have been promoted into AKB48.
Other than the 3 main teams, AKB48 also operates a group of research students known as AKB48 SEED. AKB48 SEED consists of trainees hoping to debut with AKB48. They serve as assistants and backup dancers to the main girls from AKB. Many of these girls never do find their way into the main teams, and others take up to a year of training before getting promoted.
The first thing that I noticed was Takajo Aki’s striking resemblance to Morning Musume’s Michishige Sayumi. The similarities end there though for unlike Michishige, Takajo actually possesses a decent singing voice and an adept dancer. Due to her talent and immense popularity, Takajo was placed into AKB48’s Team A after training for only 2 months.
Takajo is definitely one member worth paying attention to. She seems to be rising up the ranks at speeds unheard of for new members. She was even one of the 12 girls selected to appear on the cover for AKB48’s new album, Kamikyokutachi.
Takajo’s blog is currently hosted at her talent agency, Watanabe Pro.
5. Kojima Haruna
One of the founding members of Team A, Kojima Haruna is a consistently popular member from AKB48. Though not as prominent as Maeda Atsuko or Takahashi Minami, Haruna is often given quite a bit of screen time during PVs.
Back when the group first started, everyone was looking ungroomed and awkward but Kojima Haruna was one of the few members who stood out for her more conventional idol looks. Retaining the same hairstyle since since their debut, Harunyan has the most unchanging image of all the girls.
At 22 years old, Kojima Haruna is the next oldest member to Mariko Shinoda. However, she is often regarded as one of the most air-headed girls in the group. Haruna’s defining features include her large ears, nasal voice and preference for confined spaces.
Outside of AKB48, she is the most active actress among the group having appeared in 9 dramas to date. She plays small roles in the popular dramas and takes the lead in more obscure shows.
Like Takahashi Minami, Kojima is part of the Production Ogi company whose members’ Ameba blogs have been recently taken down and her personal blog is only open to Fan Club members. Her shared blog can be found here.
6. Oota Aika
At only 16 this year, Oota Aika is one of AKB48’s younger members. She joined Team B back in 2007 when she was only 12 and quickly rose to become one of the team’s leading members. During last year’s election, Oota placed among the top 20, finally earning her a spot in all subsequent singles.
Oota Aika’s traits include her dimples, left handedness and generally being adorable. She is affectionately called Lovetan by fans. Within Team B, she is known for being close friends with Watanabe Mayu and the two shared many performing moments together. Following the reshuffle, Oota Aika was placed into Team A. The announcement brought Watanabe to tears.
As self confessed otaku, Lovetan enjoy collecting Disney and Sanrio merchandise. She shares a blog with with the other Team B members from Production Ogi here.
7. Kuramochi Asuka
Kuramochi Asuka was a former AKB48 training student that was brought into AKB48 back in 2007 when all the teams combined into a single Team Himawari (sunflower) for a while. She functioned as the alt to former member Oshima Mai until the teams reformed. Kuramochi then joined the Team K lineup. Interestingly, both Oshima Mai and Kuramochi share the same birthday.
Asuka is the daughter of former Lotte Orions pitcher, Kuramochi Akira. As such, she is a fan of baseball herself. She is also well known for her triceps fetish and can be often found biting or cuddling the arms of the other other girls.
During last year’s election, Kuramochi barely made the cut by placing at number 21. Thanks to the votes from fans, Kuramochi got to take part in singles since then.
8. Iwasa Misaki
Iwasa Misaki is among the newest lot of AKB SEEDs that were promoted into teams during the recent reshuffling. At only 15 years old, Iwasa is one of the younger members of AKB48. There isn’t much to be said about Iwasa since she has only joined the group for a few months but she is reputed to be a great dancer.
9. Ooya Shizuka
Prior to the recent shuffling, Ooya Shizuka was a training member for AKB48 SEEDs for two years. Her defining feature being the gags that she often pulled off. She didn’t see much popularity but was still recently moved into the main teams due to the shortage of members.
During this March’s concert at Yokohama however, it was announced that Ooya will sign onto Watanabe Productions the company that handles Takajo Aki and Kashiwagi Yuki, so it is possible that her future will change for the better.
10. Katayama Haruka
Katayama Haruka or Haachan was one of the founding members of Team B before being moved to Team A. As one of the more mature members of Team B, she acted like an older sister to many of the girls.
While not nearly as prominent as Watanabe Mayu or Kashiwagi Yuki, thanks to her strong vocals, Katayama was given the lead in some Team B’s songs. On stage, she is rather passionate about her performances. Despite this, she doesn’t come across as a particular popular member. In singles, Katayama’s is only featured on B-Sides as part of the “Under Girls” (those ranking between 22-30).
Together with Sato Amina, Haachan is signed to the Atelier Duncan label. Her Ameba blog can be found here.
11. Sashihara Rino
Sashihara Rino is another former Team B member. Initially Sashihara started as a second generation research student (there have been 9 generations so far) who served as Itano Tomomi’s assistant during Team A’s 4th stage and as a backup dancer during Team B’s 3rd stage. She was one of the more popular training members, popular for her exaggerated expressions.
Sashihara Rino was later promoted to Team B in 2008, replacing Kikuchi Ayaka who was removed due to a scandal (Kikuchi has since returned, but to Team K).
From the time she joined AKB48 up until last year’s elections, Sashihara was one of the selected members to perform in singles. However, after coming in at #27 in the votes, she was demoted to performing B-Sides instead.
Rino’s blog here. She recently joined AKB48’s top members Maeda Atsuko and Oshima Yuko at Ohta Pro.
Sashihara is known for being a huge Morning Musume fan. She is an avid supporter of Kamei Eri.
12. Nakagawa Haruka
A founding member of Team B, Nakagawa Haruka is yet another Team B girl that was shuffled into Team A this March. Despite her tiny frame and youthful looks, Nakagawa is actually older than she looks. When compared to the other high pitched squeals on Team B, Harugon can be noted for her more soothing, husky voice. She is noted for being close friends with Kikuchi Ayaka.
Nakagawa is not exactly a popular member, she didn’t even place among the top 30 members during the elections. However, she has started to take part in B-Sides for the last three singles. Her shared blog with the other Team B members from Production Ogi can be found here.
13. Nakata Chisato
Nakata Chisato was formerly one of the 14 first generation training students that joined mid 2007. One year later, she was promoted to Team A to replace the lot of 5 graduating original members late in 2008. She made her debut during Team A’s 5th stage.
Prior to joining AKB, Nakata worked as an amateur gravure idol. She is the younger sister of the opera singer Nakata Asaka.
Nakata is another unpopular member of AKB48 that did not make the cut during last year’s elections. She has recently signed up with Mousa, a newly formed talent agency created to cover some of the less popular AKB48 memberrs. Her blog here.
14. Nakaya Sayaka
Nakaya Sayaka was another founding member from Team B that was lately transferred to Team A. Though a handful of other girls suffer from shoddy vision, Nakaya is noted for being the only AKB48 member that wore spectacles on stage. Quite the hassle, considering how much dancing the girls have to do. Like many other members, she has since opted to wear contacts instead.
Nakaya was also transferred to the Mousa agency this year. Her blog here.
15. Maeda Ami
Maeda Ami is another research student brought into AKB48’s Team A during the new restructure. Despite her looks, Ami is actually one of the group’s youngest members (she’s 15) after Oku Manami. Ami’s thick eyebrows are her most identifiable feature. Not much is known about this girl at this point but Maeda Ami’s blog can be found here.
16. Matsubara Natsumi
Despite being a founding member of Team K, Matsubara Natsumi is one of the often overlooked members from AKB48. Part of the reason being that Matsubara had mostly remained unsigned to any agency for the longest time and as a result receives no publicity outside of theater performances. Even then she is often overshadowed by the dozens of other talented girls in AKB48.
Matsubara came in at #30 during last year’s elections, the last cutoff for B-Side members. She was transferred to Team A during the recent restructure.Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.