Morning Musume (モーニング娘。, Mōningu Musume.) is a Japanese girl group, whose act generally revolves around singing and dancing to upbeat melodies. Sometimes referred to as Momusu (モー娘。, Mōmusu.?), they are the lead group of Hello! Project, which is masterminded by Naoki Yamazaki and managed by producer Tsunku, who composes nearly all the lyrics and melodies of their songs. Currently, they hold the record of having the highest overall single sales (of a female group) on the Oricon charts.
Musume (娘), in this context, means girl. The group is known for ever fluctuating line-up, with "graduations" and auditions held nearly every year. 2008 was the only year so far when no changes in the line-up occurred. Over the years, the group produced several splinter groups, and often worked with other Hello! Project acts, including Country Musume, Berryz Kobo, Melon Kinenbi, and v-u-den.
Since their expansion into the Chinese market in 2007, the group officially adopted the name Jou An Sao Nu Jou (Zǎo Ān Shǎo Nǚ Zǔ, Traditional Chinese:早安少女組, meaning, "good morning girl's group").
Japanese producer Tsunku started the group in 1997 through an audition for a female rock vocalist for his band Sharan Q. The audition was held on the Japanese TV show Asayan. The winner was Heike Michiyo, later to become a soloist under what would eventually become known as Hello! Project. Tsunku decided to form a girl group consisting of five of the runners-up: Yuko Nakazawa, Natsumi Abe, Kaori Iida, Asuka Fukuda, and Aya Ishiguro. They were issued a challenge to sell 50,000 copies of their demo single, "Ai no Tane," with just five days of promotion events. They managed the feat in four promotion days (spread out over November, 1997) in a very grassroots manner, and Tsunku began his mission to create the most famous all-girl group in Japan.