• Kyodo

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Launching herself in a new career direction as an actress, Atsuko Maeda performed for the last time Monday as a member of the all-girl pop group AKB48.

“From now on, I will be on the cheering side and I am looking forward to seeing everybody is doing great,” Maeda said before the concert at AKB48 Theater in the Akihabara district in Tokyo that marked her “graduation.”

Maeda was an original member of the group created in 2005 and named after the electronics and subculture district in Tokyo. Fans picked her as their favorite in 2009 and 2011 polls.

One of the most popular “idol” groups in Japan, AKB48 has churned out consecutive million-seller singles. The group has been trying to boost its presence beyond Japan, with producer Yasushi Akimoto creating the Jakarta-based JKT48 in 2011 and planning to launch the Taipei-based TPE48 and the Shanghai-based SNH48 later this year.

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