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AKB48 (エーケービー フォーティーエイト, Ēkēbī Fōtīeito) is an all-female Japanese theater/idol group produced by Yasushi Akimoto. Unlike other idol groups in Japan, AKB48 is theater-based and have their own theater in Akihabara (a district in Tokyo) where they perform once every weekday, and more than once on both Saturday and Sunday. The theater is set up on the 8th floor of Don Quijote. Some of the title songs released as a single have been made a tie-in song for a television show or a television advertisement. The name derives from a shortened, Romanized representation of 'Akihabara'. AKB48 currently holds the Guinness World Records for being the "Pop group with the greatest number of members".
AKB48 is divided into three teams: Team A, Team K and Team B. There are a total of 48 members with 16 members in each team. Minami Takahashi is the captain of Team A, Sayaka Akimoto is the captain of Team K, and Yuki Kashiwagi is the captain of Team B.
In July 2005, Yasushi Akimoto held an audition for a new theater based idol girl group. Of the 7,924 girls that applied, 45 passed the first round of auditions, detailed screening of the application documents. Finally, only 24 girls were chosen to be in the group.
On December 8, 2005, the group debuted in the theater with only 20 girls, later known as Team A. A new audition was announced, this audition was held in cooperation with Japanese telecom company NTT DoCoMo. It was the first audition ever where the applicants had to send in their audition video with their mobile phones. 19 of the 11,892 applicants were chosen to join AKB48, but in the end only 18 girls joined the group to become Team K in April 2006.
In January 2006, Akimoto let Mariko Shinoda join the group without passing audition, after she won a popularity vote by fans, although she was working as a waitress at the Theater Cafe after she failed to pass the first audition back then.
AKB48 released its debut single "Sakura no Hanabiratachi" in February 2006, which made it to #10 on the Oricon weekly charts and sold 22,011 units in its first week - surprising for a group on an indie label.
On March 1 AKB48 released their first photo book, Micchaku! "AKB48" ~Shashinshuu Vol.1 the DEBUT. On March 31 Usami Yuki graduates, becoming the first member to do so.
From April 1, 2006, Team K begins performances at the theater.
On June 9 they release their second indies single Skirt, Hirari and on the 17th Ayako Uemura graduates.
In August 2006, they signed a major label contract with DefStar Records, a part of Sony Music Entertainment. Their first single under DefSTAR Records, Aitakatta, was released on October 25, 2006 and got to #12 on the Oricon weekly single charts.
In October 2006, a new audition was announced to form Team B, resulting in the arrival of 13 new members in December 2006.
In November 2006, AKB48 performs in their first concert AKB48 First Concert "Aitakatta ~Hashira wa Nai ze!~ at Nippon Seinenkan in Sendagaya, Shinjuku.
In December 2006, the first change was made to the three teams; transferring Kazumi Urano, Shiho Watanabe, and Natsumi Hirajima from Team A to Team B as supporting members. Ayumi Orii graduated from the group shortly after this, though appeared in the unit Crayon Friends from AKB48 after her graduation.
On January 31, 2007, AKB48's fourth single (second under DefSTAR Records) Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru was released, reaching 7 on Oricon charts. There has been speculation that the PV and lyrics to this song are an allusion to Enjo kōsai—voluntary underage prostitution—though this has not been confirmed.
On February 3, AKB48's second photo book AKB48 JUMP&CRY, which photos were taken by Kishin Shinoyama, was released.
Their next single, Keibetsu Shiteita Aijō, which was released on March 18, featured a theme of school bullying and suicide throughout the lyrics and PV and reached 8 on the Oricon charts. AKB48's second concert tour, AKB48 Haru no Chotto dake Zenkoku Tour ~Madamada daze AKB48!~ began on March 10.
In April 2007, Team B was added to AKB48's official website; albeit with five fewer members than had originally been announced. This brought the group's numbers down from 53 to 48 - the first time since its creation that the member total reflected the group's name. Members Yū Imai, Michiru Hoshino, and Ayana Takada graduated at roughly the same time during June 2007. However, Takada was the only one of these to appear in the PV to the group's sixth single "Bingo!", which was released on July 18, 2007.
In October and November respectivley, Watanabe Shiho and Masuyama Kayano graduate.
On December 31, 2007, 43 members of AKB48 appeared on the 58th Annual Kōhaku Uta Gassen for the first time. They sang as part of the Akihabara performance, with Leah Dizon and Shōko Nakagawa following them. They became the most number of people in a single group to be on stage at one time.
AKB48 released their first studio album on New Year's Day entitled Set List: Greatest Songs 2006–2007. On the 23rd their 7th single Romance, Irane is released, reching 6 on the Oricon charts.
On February 27, 2008, AKB48 released their 10th single entitled, Sakura no Hanabiratachi 2008. At the time of the release of their debut single "Sakura no Hanabiratachi", there was only team A in AKB48. This 10th single features 10 members from team A, along with 6 selected members from team K, and 5 selected members from team B making it the 2008 version. It was planned that people who collected 44 posters of the single CD would be invited to a special event, but this act was suspected as the violation of the antitrust law and was eventually cancelled by DefStar Records. In August 2008, they moved from DefStar Records of Sony Music Entertainment to King Records.
In August 2008, Kikuchi Ayaka was fired (She was rehired through another later auction).
On October 22, 2008, the single "Ōgoe Diamond" was released from newly contracted King Records under "You, Be Cool!" label, and finished the first week with number-three in Oricon charts. It was AKB48's first single that made into top three of the chart.
On November 3, 2008, Nakanishi Rina, Komatani Hitomi, Ohe Tomomi, Narita Risa and Tojima Hana graduated.
On February 11, Noguchi Reina and Matsuoka Yuki, and Kawasaki Nozomi graduate.
AKB48 released their 11th single "10nen Zakura" on March 4, 2009. The single made into number three of Oricon charts in the first week and eventually became the first single for them to sell over 100,000 copies on the Oricon charts.
On April 26 Oshima Mai and Hayano Kaoru graduate, and on May 24 Naruse Risa graduates.
AKB48 Team A became the honour guest for the Japan Expo in Paris between July 2 to 5, 2009, and featured English-lyric version of "Ōgoe Diamond" first time.
AKB48 12th single "Namida Surprise!" released on June 24, the single include handshaking event ticket and a voting card (with a serial number) for their next single. "Namida Surprise!" sold 104,180 copies in the initial week on the Oricon charts. Their 13th single "Iiwake Maybe" was released on August 26, 2009.
AKB48 had a US Debut Concert at Webster Hall in New York on September 27, 2009.
In October 2009, their three singles 10nen Zakura, Namida Surprise! and Iiwake Maybe were certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of Japan at the same time for each shipments of 100,000 copies by September. Their 14th single River was released on October 21, 2009, and hit number 1 on Oricon upon its debut.
AKB48 released their 15th single "Sakura no Shiori" on February 17, 2010. The single topped the Oricon chart and sold over 300,000 copies in its first week, which is the best record in seven years of Japanese female artists. Their 16th single "Ponytail to Shushu" released on May 26, 2010, sold over 400,000 copies in its first day, and over 513,000 copies in its first week, making It become AKB48's first biggest selling single in its first week. On April 27, 2010, it was announced that AKB48 would be attending and performing in the United States at Anime Expo, the nation's largest anime convention, as official guests of honor. AKB48 had their concert on July 1, 2010, at the Nokia Theatre.
On AKB48's concert at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium on a Sunday in July 2010, it was announced that Team K member Erena Ono would be graduating from AKB48 to study acting abroad. Erena graduated from AKB48 on September 27, 2010 in a Team K theater performance and is now studying acting abroad in London. On October 27, 2010 AKB48's new single "Beginner" was released. In only the first week, the 18th single sold 826,989 copies making it the highest first week sales for AKB48, as well as highest first week sales ever for a female idol group single. As of February 2011 the single has sold over 1,010,000 copies.
The first single of the year, named "Sakura no Ki ni Narō", was released on February 16. Upon the first day of release, AKB48 sold 655,000 copies of their single, beating their previous top record (568,000 copies of "Beginner"). The single sold 826,989 copies in its first week, AKB48's highest record.
In February, graduation of Yūki Kanazawa and Manami Oku was announced.
Their second studio album, namely "Koko ni Ita Koto (ここにいたこと)", will be released in 6 April. On March 12, 2011, it was announced on their blog they have closed the AKB Theater due to the earthquake, and also canceled all activities for the next few days, that includes overseas activities.
On March 14, it was announced on their official blog that 1) their concert "We will follow Takamina (たかみなについて行きます, Takamina ni tsuite ikimasu)", scheduled to be held on March 25–27 at Yokohama Arena, will be cancelled, 2) opened bank accounts at Resona Bank and The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ to raise donations for 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami relief.
On March 15, it was announced to donate 500 million yen on those bank accounts as AKB48 groups, including SKE48, SDN48, NMB48, and Yasushi Akimoto. On the same day on their official blog, as well as postponement of the release of new album, "Koko ni Ita Koto (ここにいたこと)".
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