Idol Ririka Sutō to Graduate NMB48 After Announcing Marriage Plans
posted on by Jennifer Sherman
The 20-year-old announced in Tokyo on Wednesday that she will graduate from NMB48. A timeframe for her graduation is undecided. Sutō apologized for causing trouble for her fellow idols by announcing her marriage plans at the 9th annual AKB48 Senbatsu Election on Saturday. At first, some of the idol group members thought Sutō was joking. She said, "I was worried, but I definitely wanted to say it to the fans with my own mouth." She wants to speak more with fans at a handshake event that is scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday.
Sutō said that her romantic partner and first love is an ordinary person that she met as her mother's friend. Sutō met him at her mother's birthday party in November 2015. The pair began a relationship at the end of last year. This year, he proposed to her, and she decided to graduate from NMB48. Sutō said that they have not set a marriage date, and she confirmed that she is not pregnant.
Regarding criticism over her decision to announce her marriage plans at the AKB48 event, Sutō said, "I wanted to say it from my own mouth. Both my feelings of love and activities with the group were serious." AKB48 producer Yasushi Akimoto reportedly tried to dissuade the singer from graduating, but she had begun to think about graduation when she fell in love.
The newspaper also published a hand-written letter to fans and people involved with AKB48 that Sutō wrote on Wednesday. In the letter, Sutō apologized for causing concern. She said that she learned a lot through joining NMB48, and she "also didn't know the feeling of falling in love when [she] joined the group." The performer said she feels conflicted because she also values her feelings related to the idol group and does not want to disregard either of her feelings. She decided to announce her marriage plans on Saturday because she wanted to make the announcement directly to everyone who has supported her.
She reiterated her apology and thanked her supporters. Sutō ended the letter by saying, "After this, I will continue to be myself, and I will never give up on my dreams that all my fans chased together with me. While living as much as possible, I want to continue realizing them in a form everyone can see."
Sutō's unprecedented announcement is causing a stir in Japan because idols are generally prohibited from dating or marrying. Mayu Watanabe also announced at the AKB48 Senbatsu Election on Saturday that she is graduating from the group. AKB48 sister group HKT48 member Rino Sashihara ranked #1 for the third consecutive year in the annual election.
Second image via Twitter user @nngi7