Name: メロン記念日 (Melon Kinenbi or Melon Kinen-bi)
Date of group’s formation: August 10th, 1999
Date of group’s debut: February, 2000
Record label: zetima
Disbanded: May 3rd, 2010
Melon Kinenbi was a Japanese pop group, active from 2000 to 2010.
On May 3rd, 2010, following the final live performance at Nakano Sunplaza, the unit was disbanded.
During their 10 year run, no members left the group and no new members joined the group, which is unique for any group in H!P up to this date (2016).
In May of 1999, application details were included with Morning Musume’s 5th single «Manatsu no Kousen» for the 2nd Morning Musume & Heike Michiyo Protegee Audition.
The second interviews were held in June, and 3.687 people had sent in their applications. In August, four people were selected as winners, and they were Hitomi Saito, Megumi Murata, Masae Ohtani and Ayumi Shibata.
Saito was labeled as the sexy one, Murata as the cute/dreamy one, Ohtani as the tomboy and Shibata as the natural beauty. The caracteristics of the group was that each girl possesses a very unique character, as evidenced in one of the remarks made by all the members: “If it weren’t for this unit, we wouldn’t have interacted with each other (because we are so different)”. The combination of different personalities created a very interesting dynamic, and that made the unit so interesting.
In december the unit’s name was decided as “Melon Kinenbi”, and in February the unit made their debut as a part of Tsunku’s productions (later known as Hello! Project) with the single «Amai Anata no Aji».
At the time of its debut, the unit wasn’t popular at all. Since each member’s distinct characteristics hadn’t been assigned in those days, the unit was lacking with its distinct style. The record sales struggled as well, so rumours of disbandment was starting to go around. However, thanks to the success of the single “This is Unmei”, the rumor was lifted and the unit regained its energy. The number of fans increased, but it wasn’t quite enough to hold solo concerts yet, so the unit was appearing as guest for other Hello! Project’s concerts. When Aya Matsuura appeared on NHK’s “Kohaku Utagassen”, the unit appeared as her background dancers.
In 2007, the unit started doing the countdown shows on New Year’s Eve.
In 2008, except for the month of solo live shows, the unit started having a monthly talk and live show called “MELON GREETING”. Many guests appeared on the show.
Because of the unit’s long history, including the survival of an unpopular phase, the fans tend to be older and more dedicated to the unit. Members are aware of this fact, and nowadays those fans are sometimes referred to as “(w)otomodachi”(in katakana) on their blog posts, which has no negative connotation at all.
Originally, Megumi Murata was a leader of the unit because she was the oldest. But after some talks among the members, in October 2002, with the release of “Kousui”, Hitomi Saito took over the position of the leader. The official announcement of this change was made during the event of its CD release.
Aside from its singing career, some other projects flourished: the comedy drama “Cyborg Shibata” was so popular that it went on for three series. The members did some musicals as well, both as the main and guest performers. They also held unique regular events called “MELON LOUNGE” at small venues, where each member would take turns becoming a DJ by selecting their own music and playing for the crowd. Some of the guest musicians who appeared on “MELON LOUNGE” included famous rock bands such as Dohatsuten and Beat Crusaders.
As for the positions on stage, around the beginning, Ayumi Shibata and Masae Ohtani stood at the front. As for “Kousui” and some other songs, Shibata took the center stage and sang the main part, while the rest of the members sang the chorus part. However, around the end, each member was given an equal part and the unit was well-balanced.
One of the changes related to the unit’s history is Tsunku’s involvement as a producer. The last song Tsunku produced was “Nikutai wa Shoujiki na Eros” (single #14 out of 21). Around the end, different artists such as SharamQ (Taisei) and Something Else produced the songs for the unit. All the other well-known songs were produced by Atsushi Shindo. As you can see, Tsunku’s involvement of the unit was relatively small.
The unit was created as the “Imoutobun (small-sisters)” of Morning Musume. However, because of the changes happening within Morning Musume over the years, when Mari Yaguchi left the unit in April 2005, all members of Melon Kinenbi became older than the members of Morning Musume. (The youngest member of Melon Kinenbi is Ayumi Shibata, born in February of 1984. As of July 2010, the oldest member of Morning Musume is Ai Takahashi, born in September 1986). Considering the length of its career and the similarity in age, the phrase “imoutobun” was becoming awkward. Makoto Ogawa used to call the members of Melon Kinenbi as “Melon No Onesan (older sister(s) of Melon)”
As for the common question of “Which day is ‘Melon Kinenbi’ (‘Melon Anniversary’)?”, the members usually answer, “February 19th (the date for the release of their debut single). There were occasions where the answer used to be, “Everyday is Melon Kinenbi.”
On March 31st, 2009 the unit left Hello!Project due to the mass graduation of the elder club. Starting the following day, the fan club also no longer belonged to “Hello!Project” and became independently operated by changing its name to “Melon Kinenbu” («Club for Melon Kinenbi»).
During the 10th Anniversary Live, “Seitan 3654 Nichi Kanshasai” («Anniversary and Fan Appreciation Festival: 3654 days since the debut»), they made the announcement about their upcoming disbandment after the tour in April of the same year.
On May 3rd, 2010, the final stage “Melon’s Not Dead” was held and on June 30th, 2010 was the last day of Fan Club’s operation.
After the break-up, Megumi Murata remained as part of Upfront Agency (UFA), but left the industry on March 31st, 2011, due to a huge earthwuake ruining her hometown. Ayumi Shibata changed agencies and became a solo artist. Masae Ohtani also continued working as a singer, and is now a solo artist in the indies scene. Hitomi Saito left the industry immediately after the breakup and got married in 2010, then divoreced in 2011, and is now working as a talento and radio host.
On April 16th, 2011, all 4 members got together and held a charity event for Japan’s Earthquake (Higashi Nihon Daishinsai) called “Makerumonoka!! Ganbare Touhoku!!!” («Let’s not give up! Hang in there, Touhoku!») at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. This was the first unofficial reunion after the disbandment.
In 2013, Hello! Project held a concert called Hello! Project Countdown 2013 ~Hello & Good Bye~, Melon Kinenbi was one of the acts performing on stage along with several other graduated members.