Graduation

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Graduation (卒業 Sotsugyou) is a term used to refer to when a member of AKB48, Sakamichi Series, SNH48 and their respective national and international sister groups leaves their respective group. The term is not exclusive to these groups, and is used by other idol groups as well.

Graduation Process

1. Announcement

Members usually announce their graduation from the group as a surprise announcement at the end of theater performances. The date of the member's final performance is usually decided by management at a later time.

Other methods of graduation announcement include (but are not limited to):

Reasons for graduation can vary. Common reasons include:

  • Choosing to focus on studies
  • Poor health
  • Pursuing a career in show-business outside the AKB48 Group
  • Personal reasons
2. The Ceremony

The graduation ceremony for a graduating member of AKB48, SNH48, and their respective sister groups, usually consists of a final theater performance. After this performance the member takes down her picture from the portrait wall of the theater. Senbatsu members often get segments of concerts dedicated to their graduation in addition to a theater ceremony. In rare cases, a full concert can be dedicated to and named after the graduating member/s if the member is highly significant to the group.
(See: List of Graduation Concerts)

In some cases, graduated members are still obligated to attend handshake events after their final performance at the theater. This most often occurs when the tickets were sold before the member announced her graduation.

Graduated members can sometimes be invited to perform in commemorative concerts or special theater shows, even after their graduation.

3. Withdrawal (「辞退」・「活動辞退」)

This term can be used for members who chose to leave the group without a graduation ceremony. This most often occurs when a scandal involving the member surfaces, such as in the cases of Yonezawa Rumi, Hirajima Natsumi, Masuda Yuka, Harada Mayu, Tsuji Nozomi, and Yokono Sumire. It can also be used for kenkyuusei scheduled for promotion but want to leave the group anyway, such as Mitsumune Kaoru and Fujimoto Mitsuki. However, the term can still be used as a neutral way to announce leaving the group, such as with Hirate Yurina.

4. Dismissal (「解雇」・「契約解除」)

(See Also List of Members who were Punished for Violating Rules)

This term is used for members who are forced to leave the group after breaking a group or contract rule. This rare occurrence has happened in 41 cases.

Return

A graduated member can return to the group she graduated from or to a sister or rival group. However, this is usually limited due to the age limit of auditions. Currently, a total of 16 members returned to AKB48 Group or Sakamichi Series after their graduation:

Graduated and Graduating Members in 2021

Many members have graduated from the 48 Group since its formation. A full list of members who have graduated can be found here
Below is a list of members who graduated or announced their graduation in 2021 (some cases in 2019 and 2020) specifically.
Bolded names denote members who have yet to graduate since their announcement.

AKB48

SKE48

NMB48

HKT48

NGT48

STU48

Nogizaka46

Sakurazaka46

Yoshimotozaka46

JKT48

BNK48

MNL48

SGO48

AKB48 Team TP

SNH48

BEJ48

GNZ48

CKG48

Trivia

  • The first member to graduate from the AKB48 group is Team A's Usami Yuki who graduated on March 31, 2006.
  • The biggest mass graduation was by SDN48, where all members from the group graduated together on March 31, 2012.
  • The year 2020 had the largest number of graduating and graduated members.
    • 49 members from the Japanese AKB48 group.
    • 14 members from the Sakamichi Series.
    • 85 from the overseas groups.
    • 63 from the SNH48 Group.
    • A total of 211 members from the combined numbers of AKB48 Group, Sakamichi Series, and SNH48 Group have either announced graduation or graduated.