AKB48’s official website announced on Saturday that members Hirajima Natsumi (19) and Yonezawa Rumi (20) have resigned from the group. Although the official announcement did not touch on the reason for their sudden departure, it was clearly caused by the leak of photos of the two with their boyfriends.
On Friday, multiple photos of Hirajima and Yonezawa quickly spread online, showing them with their boyfriends. The photos depicted them eating together, and one even showed them together at a house in their pajamas. Online users also discovered a personal Twitter account that appears to belong to Yonezawa.
Due to the idol culture in Japan, members of idol groups have generally been prohibited from having boyfriends, and an exposed relationship usually leads to being swiftly removed from the group.
Hirajima joined AKB48 as part of its 1st generation in 2005. She was part of Team B and also served as the leader of the sub-unit Watarirouka Hashiritai, which is fronted by Watanabe Mayu. In AKB48’s general election last year, she ranked 26th in terms of popularity, for the third time in a row.
Yonezawa was a 3rd generation Team K member who joined in 2006. She ranked 22nd in the 1st general election in 2009, but dropped to 34th in 2010. Last year, she failed to rank within the top 40.
AKB48 management will announce further details later on regarding their scheduled events. It has already been announced that Hirajima will not participate in Watarirouka Hashiritai 7’s handshake events this weekend.
Both Hirajima and Yonezawa plan to continue their show business careers outside of AKB48.