Morning Musume Sakura Gumi (モーニング娘｡ さくら組) was one of the subgroups that divided the Japanese pop group Morning Musume when the group split in 2003 to enable the towns with smaller venues a chance to see the idols perform. The groups counterpart was Morning Musume Otome Gumi. Sakura Gumi remained active from 2003 to 2004 before the separate groups merged once more to form the full Morning Musume line-up. There hasn't been a split like this since.
The words sakura (さくら) and gumi (組) means "cherry blossom" and "group," respectively. If translated to English, the group's name will be "Morning Musume, the Cherry Blossom Group."
The sole purpose of Morning Musume Sakura Gumi — as well as its counterpart — was to perform in small towns that couldn't hold concerts for large groups. Aside from separate tours, the group released two singles that represented the traditional Japanese woman, before they became inactive on spring of 2004.
- Abe Natsumi (安倍なつみ)
- Yaguchi Mari (矢口真里; Pink)
- Yoshizawa Hitomi (吉澤 ひとみ; Purple)
- Kago Ai (加護亜依; Red)
- Takahashi Ai (高橋愛; Light Blue)
- Konno Asami (紺野あさ美; Light Purple)
- Niigaki Risa (新垣里沙; Yellow)
- Kamei Eri (亀井絵里; Yellow-Green)
The news of Morning Musume's planned split into two separate halves was announced in 2003 and was met with dismay by fans of the group. It hadn't been made clear at first that the group was not to splitting for good and as a result much confusion arose concerning Morning Musume's future.
On September 18, the group's debut single was released, titled "Hare Ame Nochi Suki♥." The single contained a slow paced title track that was supposed to represent the traditional Japanese woman. Their counterparts sang fast paced songs about the modern Japanese woman and the groups competed for sales with Sakura Gumi beating Otome Gumi in regards to sales by a large margin (their debut single selling 6,495 copies more than Otome Gumi's). They also had a number one hit on Oricon.
On January 25, the group's leader, Abe Natsumi, graduated from Morning Musume and as such left Sakura Gumi and handed leadership over to Yaguchi Mari. This was the second and final year of Sakura Gumi's existence as a separate group and they soon joined back into Morning Musume. However, they released one more single before the merge, once again competing for sales with Otome Gumi. "Sakura Mankai" was released on February 25, and beat Otome Gumi's single once more by 8,598 copies, reaching number one once again.
After nearly 3 years of being merged into one group, both Sakura Gumi and Otome Gumi performed once again in Hello! Project 2007 Winter ~Shuuketsu! 10th Anniversary~. During this period, Kago Ai's activities were on hold due to a scandal and Konno Asami left Hello! Project. Sakura Preformed Hare Ame Nochi Suki♥ with only 6 members.
- [2004.03.24] Sakura Mankai/Yuujou ~Kokoro no Busu ni wa Naranee!~ (さくら満開/友情～心のブスにはならねぇ～) (Collaboration with Morning Musume Otome Gumi)
- [2003.11.06] Alo-Hello! Morning Musume Sakura Gumi & Otome Gumi DVD (アロハロ!モーニング娘。さくら組&おとめ組DVD) (Collaboration with Morning Musume Otome Gumi)
- [2004.06.09] Morning Musume Sakura Gumi Hatsu Koen ~Sakura Saku~ (モーニング娘。さくら組初公演 ~さくら咲く~)
- [2003.10.27] Alo-Hello! Morning Musume Sakura Gumi & Otome Gumi
- [2004.02.10] Adventure Morning Musume Sakura Gumi & Otome Gumi
- Morning Musume Sakura Gumi always ended up outselling their counterpart, Morning Musume Otome Gumi.
- Sakura Gumi had one member more than Otome Gumi until Abe Natsumi graduated.
- When Abe Natsumi graduated from Morning Musume, Yaguchi Mari took the role as the group's leader.
- Abe Natsumi is the only Sakura Gumi member that was never assigned a member color.