Through a statement made this morning on the Hello! Project Official Website, it was revealed that UP-FRONT Agency terminated the contract of Kobushi Factory founding member and sub-leader Fujii Rio (18). Effectively immediately, Rio is no longer a member of neither Kobushi Factory nor Hello! Project.
The statement made by Representative Director Nishiguchi Takeshi offered “rule violations” as the explanation for Fujii Rio’s departure. As yet, neither Nishiguchi nor any other Hello! Project member has expanded on this explanation. Online speculations range from the (typical) boyfriend explanation to unauthorized negotiations with other agencies to poor work ethics to illicit behavior (tobacco and alcohol). As should go without saying, none of these speculations are substantiated.
As reported on this website on May 12, 2017, Fujii Rio announced her graduation from Kobushi Factory and Hello! Project and planned to conclude her activities following the Hello! Project Summer Concert Tour’s final date on September 2, 2017. With the sudden termination of her contract, fans will not get a chance to bid Rio farewell.
Fujii Rio originally took part in both the S/mileage second generation auditions, where she progressed to the final round and the Morning Musume 10ki Member “Genki Jirushi” Audition, where she progressed to the third round but retired to focus on the S/mileage audition. Rio’s mother is reportedly a fan of Tsunku and Sharam Q, which sparked young Rio’s interest in Hello! Project. In May 2013, the future Kobushi Factory member was introduced onstage as a member of the 19th generation of H!P Kenshuusei alongside notables Inaba Manaka (ex-Country Girls), Tanaka Karen (ex-Ru:Run / Zenryoku Shoujo R), and Inoue Hikaru (current leader of H!P Kenshuusei).
In 2015, Fujii Rio was introduced as a founding member and sub-leader of a new Hello! Project unit, Kobushi Factory, with groupmates Hirose Ayaka, Nomura Minami, Ogawa Rena, Hamaura Ayano, Taguchi Natsumi, Wada Sakurako, and Inoue Rei. With the new group, Riorio released one indie single, four major singles, one studio album, and one soundtrack album.
Hello! Project official statement [Jap]
Translation courtesy of Blog! Project