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Hello!Project Who is your favourite 15th gen. Momusu member?
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  The end of an era: Elder Club graduates [updated]  
  Hello!Project Written by SparklingMelrosePool & Kuno , updated: 4:12, 2-Feb 2009  

Graduation concert for Nacchi and 21 other Hello Project members - Tsuji Nozomi's comeback and a tearful final show

To commemorate the March 31st graduations of the "Hello Project" Elder Club (the older members), including former Morning Musume members and Matsuura Aya (22), a concert began on February 1 at Yokohama Arena, and nearly ten thousand fans showed up to watch their final show.

This concert also included the currently active members, and was the largest Hello Project concert, with 21 groups and 72 members. In the same place they sang their major debut song "Morning Coffee" at a handshake event on February 1, 1998, original Morning Musume members Nakazawa Yuko (35), Abe Natsumi (27), and Iida Kaori (27) sang it again with memories of those days. Both graduating and current members also sang "Love Machine" for the last time, "retiring" the song.

During the final ceremony, representatives of the current members Takahashi Ai (22) of Morning Musume, Yajima Maimi (16) of C-ute, and Shimizu Saki (17) of Berryz Koubou each read a farewell message through their tears. Morning Musume's 6th leader Takahashi declared, "Even when you've graduated, we all look up to you. And of course, please keep on supporting us as fans. And please become even better rivals for us than you already are. Hello Project will last forever."

In response, graduate representatives Nakazawa, Abe, Matsuura, and Melon Kinenbi's Saito Hitomi (27) read their formal reply, "Even outside of the Hello Project framework, each of us will continue to move forward in our individual ways, using all we've learnt in the past. We want to keep going on with everybody, always using our strongest weapon, 'smiles'." Nakazawa looked upward repeatedly to hold back her tears, while Abe wiped her tears away with her arm as they tried to muster their voices.

After a final choral performance of "All For One & One For All", with all members smiling, the 22 members lines up, joined hands, and gave an enthusiastic three cheers along with the fans. With so many feelings in their hearts, they left the stage.

With this, Hello Project shrinks from 78 down to 56 members, with the average age dropping from 18.0 to 15.1.

Former Morning Musume member Tsuji Nozomi (21), who married actor Sugiura Taiyo (27) in June 2007 and gave birth to daughter Noa (1) that November, also made her return to the stage this day. It had been one year and nine months since her last official event, debuting with "Gyaruru" that April. Her husband and daughter watched over her from the stands, as she sang six songs cheerfully. Tsuji boasted that, "I haven't danced in about two years, so when the music started playing at rehearsal, it was amazing. My body still remembered how. Even after 10 years (after graduating), I wonder if I'll still remember those songs."

Article source

Here's a short clip about the concert from this morning's news:

Here's what Tsuji said there: "I hadn't danced at all for the last two years. So without that dancing, I was thinking, "Oh no, oh no!" But when the music started, the dance just came back to me. My body remembered it. It's like, "You're amazing, aren't you?" I think I could still do the Janken Pyon dance now."

By the way, Tsuji now has her own blog, and H!O will be bringing you translations of that starting next week.

UPDATE: Another news clip:

Interviewer: Tsuji-chan has made her comeback?
Nakazawa: We're happy to see her.
Yaguchi: She's in good health! Tsuji-chan!
Interviewer: She hasn't changed?
Yaguchi: Not at all! She hasn't changed!
Satoda: It's like, "Where did her baby come from?"
Interviewer: Don't say that! They'll have to cut this whole part!

Interviewer: So who thinks, "I'll be the next one to get married!"?
Abe: Um... One of us has just turned her back.
Nakazawa: As far as that goes, I'll leave it up to everyone else.
Yaguchi: In the past, it was based on seniority. But Tsuji-chan wrecked that, so now it could be anybody!
Interviewer: You should let Nakazawa-san get married first...
Nakazawa: Please stop talking like that! We have to go on stage now.
Interviewer: If you lose that aggression a little, the men would be lining up for you! Even I'm backing away now... Was Matsuura Aya-san all right at today's show?
Abe: She was totally okay!
Interviewer: She was?
Nakazawa: Because she's so young. She gets over things quickly!
Interviewer: And what about you, Nakazawa-san?
Nakazawa: Huh!?
Interviewer: See, it's because you do things like that! That aggression!
Nakazawa: It's okay! I don't do that in front of men!

The three remaining 1st-gen members sing "Morning Coffee"

Iida Kaori and Yaguchi Mari give their last Tanpopo performance

The remaining Pucchi Moni members sing "Baby Koi ni KNOCK OUT"

Matsuura Aya's "Zubatto" from "Yeah Meccha Holiday"

Satoda Mai

Abe Natsumi with Tsuji Nozomi

Melon Kinenbi

Flowers sent to the graduating members from Goto Maki

1st gen member Ishiguro Aya was backstage at the show

The rarely-seen tears of Yoshizawa Hitomi

Nakazawa Yuko (35) passes leadership of Hello!Project to Takahashi Ai (22). Takahashi is now the oldest member of Hello!Project.

Lots more pictures at the following links:
Sponichi Annex
Sanspo (2)
Daily Sports Online

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