Ever since their conception 14 years ago, Japanese idol girl group AKB48 has continued to grow in both popularity and number of sister groups. They’ve visited and performed in various countries, but they have yet to do so in Malaysia – until recently.

Megu Taniguchi, Rin Okabe, Yui Oguri, Mion Mukaichi, Nana Okada and Nagisa Sakaguchi greeted their fans enthusiastically at their first ever performance in the country during the recently-held Japan Expo Malaysia 2019.
Prior to their live performance at Pavilion KL’s centre stage, where fans had been waiting for them patiently for hours, the girls first met with the media at the adjacent hotel.
Dressed in schoolgirl-like uniforms, the girls answered each of the question with ease, with the lively Mion doing the most talking while the others chipped in from time to time. The girls stated that they were happy to finally be able to come to Malaysia, adding, “If everyone can come, it will be the best!”
This was referring to the fact that only the six of them were present, out of the current more than a hundred members of the large group.
While everyone wanted to come to Malaysia, regrettably they don’t get to decide this on their own, since the performing members are usually picked based on their popularity in the country they’re visiting.
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A giant billboard welcome the girls to Bukit Bintang (Photo source: Japan Expo Malaysia 2019).

Known to be an idol group that uses the rare concept of graduation, that is new members will step in so their number will never dwindle despite older members graduating from time to time, the girls said that they will continue to build on the foundation that their seniors have established over the years.

However, they added that at the same time, they want to challenge themselves with something new so that they can give off a fresher image and will be able to pass down their seniors’ legacy as well as theirs to the upcoming newer generations. 
When asked if they remain close with the seniors who have graduated, they named the likes of Yui Yokoyama and Yuki Kashiwagi among those they keep in touch with and turn to for advice on how to carry out their duties as singers, emcees, actors and more.
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AKB48 performing in the midst of the crowd as they descended
the stairs to the main stage (Photo source: Japan Expo Malaysia 2019).

As the girls were in Malaysia for an event that focuses on fostering the love for all things Japanese, they also expressed that they were happy to see people outside of their country loving Japan as much as they do.

During the interview, the girls mentioned that overseas fans’ reactions during their performances vary from those of Japanese fans’. While Japanese fans will chant and scream back certain phrases (an act referred to as ‘mix’), overseas fans tend to sing along with them instead. They said that since this was their first time performing in Malaysia, they were looking forward to what the local fans would do.
Look at the sea of fans – and their phones.

Well, it was a combination of both ‘mix’ and singing along (fanboys could be seen enthusiastically dancing along, too) but largely, the fans were more interested in capturing the moment on camera, as the packed crowd had their phones raised high the entire performance to record and take photos of the girls. 

With the warm welcome AKB48 received in Malaysia, fans can hope for more members of the group to visit and for them to even possibly hold their own concert in the country!