TOKYO (TR) – Mayu Watanabe, a former member of all-girl idol group AKB48, has retired from the entertainment industry over concerns about her health, her agency said on Monday.
Production Ogi said that Watanabe, 26, quit the agency at the end of last month. “Mayu Watanabe came to us to say, ‘It is difficult to continue working as an entertainer due to health concerns,'” the agency said in a statement.
The request was a not a surprise to the agency: “She hadn’t been feeling well for several years, and we had been discussing the matter until now. Since it was health-related, we decided to give top priority to her body, respect her will and terminate the contract, putting an end to her entertainment activities.”
In 2007, Watanabe joined AKB48’s Team B. Her first appearance was on the single “Bingo!” Her popularity then steadily rose.
Along with Atsuko Maeda, Yuko Oshima, Mariko Shinoda, Minami Takahashi, Haruna Kojima and Tomomi Itano, Watanabe — known to fans as “Mayuyu” — was one of the group’s so-called “7 Goddesses.”
Watanabe reached her peak in 2014, when she was voted to the top of the group at the General Election. However, it was at the same event three years later that she announced her departure from the group.
Since leaving she has appeared in a number of television dramas. In 2018, she was named the ambassador of the JAL Honolulu Marathon.
Production Ogi requested that fans do not post speculation about Watanabe on social media. “We are prioritizing her health such that her mind and body can recover and she can return to a normal life,” the statement said.