Hiragana Keyaki Changes Name to Hinatazaka46, Debut Single Due in March

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Courtesy of BIllboard Japan
Hinatazaka46

Hiragana Keyaki -- the sub-group of the popular Japanese girl group Keyakizaka46 with the same name written in a different way -- will now be called Hinatazaka46.

Members Memi Kakizaki, Shiho Kato, Kyoko Saito, Kumi Sasaki, Mirei Sasaki, and Nao Kosaka were informed of this news Monday (Feb. 11) during a livestream hosted by the streaming platform SHOWROOM that connects girl groups with their fans.

The girls initially appeared on the segment to announce Hiragana Keyaki's first single as an individual group and the accompanying two-day "debut countdown" concert at the Yokohama Arena, their biggest show yet.

When the the girls were told without prior notice around the end of the livestream that their current group with 21 members will undergo a name change, they burst into tears of joy. Saito in particular seemed elated to hear the news, admitting that a name change had been a longtime dream and expressing her approval of the new moniker, which means "sunny slope" in Japanese.

Kumi Sasaki, the girl group's captain, later commented to reporters on behalf of the group: "I got a warm impression from the name 'Hinatazaka46' when I first heard it. It's a very cute name, and our group color will be sky blue, which comes from the hope that we'll take off high in the sky. We'll do our best to become a group deserving of this name, while remembering to be thankful to the people who came up with it."

Hinatazaka46's debut countdown arena concerts will take place March 5 and 6, and the group will release its debut single March 27.