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(1999 – present)

Country Musume was formed in 1999 and was billed as “Country Girls from Hokkaidō”. The initial group consisted of members and Hokkaidō natives Rinne Toda, Azusa Kobayashi, and Hiromi Yanagihara.

Shortly before release of their first single in July 1999, Yanagihara was killed in a car accident. After the tragedy, Kobayashi departed from the group and Toda carried on as a soloist, releasing 2 singles under the “Country Musume” name by herself. In summer of 2000, Asami Kimura was added to the group and the duo released one more single.

Their popularity rose when Morning Musume’s Rika Ishikawa—who is from Kanagawa and not Hokkaidō—was lent into the group in April 2001; the Country Musume had their first charting single in Japan with the release of “Hajimete no Happy Birthday.” The trio under the name “Country Musume ni Rika Ishikawa” released two singles and an album. Early in 2002, Mai Satoda was recruited into the group although she initially auditioned to be a Morning Musume member.

The quartet released one single before Toda (the remaining original member) bid farewell at the end of 2002. Afterwards, Kimura, Ishikawa, and Satoda released one more single.

In mid-2003, Country Musume had a major shift in its roster. Miuna Saito, who is from Shizuoka, was recruited into the group. Instead of Rika Ishikawa, the group featured Asami Konno and Miki Fujimoto, both from Morning Musume and are Hokkaidō natives.

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