Mariko Tsukamoto, a 38-year-old mother of two, who joined idol group AKB48 as an adult member in April, has "graduated" and says she is happy to go back to being a mother.
Tsukamoto was picked from a pool of over 5,000 applicants, including an 82-year-old lady, in the Glico Papiko spring campaign to appeal ice cream lines to the over-30 demographics.
Since she was introduced at a press conference on April 17, Tsukamoto has been working as an idol, participating in handshaking events and concerts. She made her stage debut on July 16.
At her graduation performance held at the AKB48 theater in Akihabara on Aug 31, Tsukamoto , Tokyo, she sang 20 songs including "Oshiete Mommy" (Tell Me, Mommy), Sports Nippon reported.
Tsukamoto told the audience that the past four months were quite exciting and she thanked fans for their warm-hearted support and kindness which she said gave her courage.
The collective, whose 90-plus singers and dancers are rotated in and out of the limelight according to their waxing and waning popularity, regularly pump out songs that sell more than a million copies.
AKB48, one of the most lucrative groups of all time, is part pop act, part talent show, where a member's time on the front line is determined by how much adoration they inspire from fans.
The most popular girls or young women remain a part of the core group that sings and dances their way through formulaic bubblegum tunes. Those who fall out of public favor are demoted to a sub-group in an organization structured somewhat like a soccer league.
Much of the group's appeal lies in frequent opportunities for fans to meet them, chat with them or befriend them on social networking sites.© Japan Today/AFP