31 Aug - It was not a sombre sent-off for Maeda Atsuko, who graduated from AKB48 with her final performance on 27 August at the AKB48 Theatre.
According to Tokyo Hive, Maeda let the curtain fall on her last performance as a member of AKB48, which she joined seven years ago when she was 14, with a smile and saying her heartfelt goodbyes to her fellow members that performed and fans at her last concert.
"I know we all have been through some tough times over the past 7 years. There was a time when all of us talked about nothing but quitting, but the reason why we were able to overcome the hardships is that we had each other, and pursued one dream all together," she said to the 28 members of the group who performed at her last concert.
She then continued: "I love this theatre, and all of the members who danced together with me on this stage, and people who has supported me so much. I'm not sure if it was long or short this past 7 years was, but I can say that it was the best 7 years. Everybody, thank you very much. This is from AKB48 team A's Maeda Atsuko. Thank you very much."
After performing her last song "Sakura no Hanabira tachi", Maeda was left alone on stage to deliver her final greetings by thanking her fans and supporters.
"I'm happy to be able to come back here to you fans on the next day of the Tokyo Dome concert. This made me realized again that this is AKB48, and that I was able to stay in such a wonderful place.
"It was the happiness that was too good for me. I'm really happy that I was able to encounter the members, the staff members, and of course, all of you fans. Thank you so much everybody. Thanks to you guys, I was able to graduate without any trouble. I will try my best from here on. Thank you very much," she said before her last bow.
Although Maeda made her graduation speech on the last day of their concert at the Tokyo Dome to some 48,000 fans the day before, fans still came to see their idol for one last time at the theatre but many could not get a ticket to see her last performance.
Some 500 fans gathered outside the theatre throughout the performance, hoping to catch a glimpse of Maeda until she came out to greet them with a megaphone on a balcony 30 minutes after the concert.
Despite her urging them to disperse and go home safely, they refused and continued giving the security a hard time.