The Singers 2
The Singers 2.doc
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by Alex Jordan
In Japan's music galaxy there are stars - Fumiya Fuji and Glay - and there are
legends like Misora Hibari and Kayama Yuzo. And then there are legends in
the making like Hideki Saijo, who is considered to be one of the greatest pop
singers ever in Japan.
While Saijo has seen his share of career ups and downs since debuting at 17,
now in his 45th year he's definitely back on top. With the release last April of
his 81st(!) single, "Love Torture," an album of remixes Bailamos 2000, and a
jam-packed schedule of concerts, dinner shows, live events, a regular TV
music program, and commercials, Saijo is back to the intense pace he
maintained in the early days of his career.
Born Kimoto Tatsuo April 13, 1945 in Hiroshima City, Saijo's passion for
Courtesy of Wowow
music was apparent from the time he took up the drums in elementary school.
In fifth grade, he formed an amateur jazz band with his elder brother, and by the time he was in high school they
were playing small venues around Hiroshima. Performing at one such gig, Saijo was spotted by a talent scout.
Against his parents' wishes and without their blessings, he left for Tokyo in pursuit of his dreams of becoming a
singer and musician. From his arrival in the big city, Saijo maintained a rigorous schedule of singing, acting and
dancing lessons. The discipline and dedication he developed formed the foundation of his relentless work ethic.
Saijo debuted in March 25, 1972 with "Ai Suru Kisetsu." Although the song was an instant hit, he didn't break
into the Top Ten until "Jyonetsu no Arashi," almost one year and 5 singles later. His next single "Chigereta Ai,"
brought both financial and critical acclaim, and earned him the first of many Nihon Record Taisho awards. His
long hair in the style of David Cassidy, and natural good looks were a deadly combination and it wasn't long
before the film and TV offers began to roll in. Over the course of his prolific career, Saijo has appeared in six
feature films, four plays, seven musicals, and an astounding 23 TV dramas, including three different seasons of
the classic TV drama "Terauchi Kantaro."
As far back as 1975, Hideki found he needed further challenges and made his first Budokan recital, a concert he
held annually for ten years. In a similar vein, he took up scuba diving and now holds a PADI Advanced Open
Water License - when not working he's usually found in tropical waters somewhere. As an avid golfer, he's also
seen regularly on the celebrity circuit, and relaxes on the links. But his main passion, and his life's work,
remains his music - he has even given his name and teaching time to a performing arts school in China.
Yet for all the million-sellers, hit TV dramas, sold-out concerts and financial success that comes with it, nothing
comes close to the pivotal role he has played in the AIDS awareness and education movement - he was the first
major Japanese star to put his influence and connections to work against AIDS in Japan. Thanks to his lead,
many other major stars came on board for the annual STOP AIDS concert and fundraiser. Acting as both
producer and performer, Saijo draws the crowds and the names; Dionne Warwick has even flown in from the
US for the event.
While Saijo's not shy - he recently stripped for a weekly magazine - for the most part he keeps his private life
just that - private. And while fans clamor for any hint that this confirmed bachelor is showing signs of
weakening, there's been little gossip since Aug '99, when rumors were circulating that Kano Mika was
introduced to Hideki on a golf course through mutual acquaintances and had the man on his knees and begging
within minutes. And if this former Miss Japan, with her famed 100cm bust, can't shake his resolve, who can?
The Singers 2.doc
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Kiyoshi Hikawa - Enka for the New Generation
Animefringe, May 2003 / feature
By Ridwan Khan
Before we look at Kiyoshi Hikawa's work, something ought to be said for
his genre. At its core, enka is classical Japanese music in pop form. Much
like American country-western music, enka uses classical Japanese
instruments in short pop songs. Also like country-western, enka has been
mainly popular with Japanese adults; it has been uncool amongst
Japanese teenagers, until Hikawa came on the scene. One of the
youngest, most popular enka singers in the genre's history, Hikawa's
strong voice and good looks have popularized enka among Japanese
Kiyoshi Yamada was born September 6, 1977, and was latter dubbed Kiyoshi Hikawa by Kitano
Takeshi, who also played the teacher in Battle Royale. Kiyoshi's big break was in 1994, when he
sang "Kita no Hou" on "Star wa kimi da." In 1995, Kiyoshi really made it into the music scene
with "Otoko no Umi." His performance of the song attracted Hikawa to the attention of
composer Hideo Minamoro, who became the younger man's mentor. His 1996 performance on
"Ookawa Ongakusai (music festival)" won him the top prize in that competition. That same year,
Hikawa graduated from Hukuoka Daiichi commercial high school, the same school as the wellknown J-pop duo Chage and Aska.
After graduating, Hikawa traveled to Tokyo for three years to study under Minamoro. In 2000,
Hikawa Kiyoshi released his first single, "Hakone Hachiri no Hanjirou," which popularized the
phrase yadanettara yadane (from iya da ne, very roughly translated as "I'm saying no!"). In fact,
the phrase became so commonplace it won the Ryuukougo Taishou award. "Hakone" is an
extremely good example of Hikawa's talents. Both the instrumental composition and Hikawa's
strong voice are excellent on this track. He followed up "Hakone" with mini albums in June and
October 2000 and a second single, "Ooi Okkake Otojirou" on February 2001.
Hikawa's first album, "Hikawa Kiyoshi Enka Meikyoku Collection Ooi Okkake Otojirou
~Seishunhen~" (The Anthology of Hikawa Kiyoshi enka songs Ooi Okkake Otojirou ~Youthful
Days~) came out June 2001. Since then, he has released six more albums, three mini-albums,
nine videos, and one DVD.
Hikawa Kiyoshi has appealed to Japanese fans from many walks of his life, for many reasons.
His good looks have appealed to many fans, including middle aged Japanese women, who go to
see him in throngs. His strong, melodic voice has endeared him to traditional enka fans, while his
youth and his ability to go from enka to pop have enthralled Japanese youth. Hikawa's music is
something extremely Japanese, so thus far he's virtually unknown in the US.
I would strongly recommend Hikawa Kiyoshi to anyone interested in Japanese music. He is one
of the hottest singers of enka today, and his ability to create catchy, powerful songs makes him
an excellent introduction to Japanese enka.
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Any Japanese old enough to remember the late 1970s remembers Pink
Lady. From mid-1976 to the end of 1978, Mii-chan and Kei-chan
dominated the television airwaves (both programming and
commercials), the free time of young Japanese girls (who learned their
complex and athletic dance steps from detailed instructions in
magazines), and the bedroom walls of adolescent boys.
Shizuoka natives Mitsuyo Nemoto and Keiko Masuda met in 1973,
when both were 15, at an audition for Yamaha music school. In
February 1976, performing together in bib overalls, they charmed the
judges on the TV show Sutaa Tanjou! ("Birth of a Star!") and soon had
a record deal.
Six months later, they burst onto the TV music show circuit as Pink Lady, promoting their first single,
"Peppa Keibu" - not in overalls, but in sexier, skimpier costumes, and with peppy dance routines for
each and every song. This contrasted sharply with the girl-next-door types, swaying back and forth as
they sang, that Japanese TV viewers were used to. The nation soon became enthralled with Pink Lady;
"Peppa Keibu" hit number four, and their next nine singles went to number one.
These songs were quite different from the restrained pop ditty they had sung on Sutaa Tanjou. Their
new material was bouncier, almost disco-but cute disco, with titles like "Monster," "Chameleon Army"
and "UFO." Indeed, part of their appeal was that, although their clothes were sexy, the songs were
almost never suggestive, and thus their image remained wholesome, clean - safe.
The Pink Lady boom peaked in 1978, with several awards and a two-night gig at the Tropicana Hotel
in Las Vegas. All of this must have convinced the girls and their management that they could do no
wrong: they turned down an invitation to appear on NHK's ever-popular New Year's Eve music
extravaganza, Kohaku Uta Gassen, in favor of doing their own special on NTV, Pink Lady's 150
Minutes of Sweat and Tears on New Year's Eve. Naturally, Kohaku clobbered them in the ratings, but
worse yet, the special prompted controversy for their inviting blind children to make up the studio
audience. Though Mii and Kei appeared moved to tears as they shook hands with the children during
the show, they were criticized for appearing to use blind kids to draw attention to themselves.
In 1979, they began their downward slide; although their singles still made the top ten, they stopped
reaching number one. Attempts to replicate their success in the US (recording English songs, appearing
in their own TV show) were a mere flash in the pan; anyone who watched Pink Lady and Jeff in March
1980 remembers it only for how bad it was.
It soon became clear that the party was over, and Pink Lady gave a televised farewell concert on March
31, 1981, at Korakuen Stadium. Thirty thousand people turned out in the rain to see Mii and Kei
perform atop a mock steam locomotive as it chugged along the perimeter of the stadium. They
tearfully bid their fans goodbye, but continued to make occasional TV appearances individually. And
in 1988, they reunited for a New Year's Eve performance - on Kohaku Uta Gassen. More recently, they
have become something of a nostalgia item, as thirtysomethings relive the music of their youth.
Perhaps this staying power attests to the fact that, just as no one had seen anything like Pink Lady
before, nor have they seen anything like them since.
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Fifteen years ago, singer Masao Sen was a household name, and
immediately associated with three distinguishing features - his
enormous wealth, his blonde American wife, and the prominent mole
in the center of his forehead. Now, at 53, Sen is still well-known,
despite living most of the time in Hawaii, but his wealth, his wife
and his mole are gone.
Sen, born in Iwate Prefecture, made his debut as an enka (blues)
singer in 1960 after becoming a student of the composer Minoru
Endo. His most famous hit is "Kitaguni no Haru" (North Country
Spring) and throughout his career he has deliberately stressed his
poor, country origins by including workman's clothes and a shabby
raincoat among his costumes. This Columbo of enka appealed to the public for the same reasons the
American detective does - his scruffy stage appearance, down-to-earth approach and quick wits.
Thanks considerably to his former wife's financial advice, Sen became the most famous
multimillionaire entrepreneur in Japan's entertainment world. At the height of his wealth, he lived in
a luxurious, 13-room home used previously as an embassy. He owned vacation homes in Lake
Yamanaka, Izu, Hawaii and Spain and several cars including a Rolls Royce and Mercedes. He has a
pilot's license and kept his own plane, plus a house in Hokkaido with a landing strip. He invested
heavily in real estate and owned several hotels and buildings in Hawaii, Australia, Hong Kong and
Yet it was this extensive investing that caused his downfall, for when the bubble burst in the late '80s
Sen's finances spiraled down faster than a jet with engine failure. With debts of over JY1 billion, he
was forced to claim bankruptcy last year for his company, Abe Enterprises, and its 50 or so offices
worldwide. The interest on his loans alone are said to hover at around JY5 million a day, and have
forced him to resume the singing career that had become more of a hobby in richer times.
On Christmas Eve, when he should have been back at home in Honolulu with his second wife and
children, Sen was on the concert circuit, singing at Shinjuku's Koma Theater. He cracked jokes about
his money woes, but his disheveled stage clothes were gone. He no longer needs to pretend to be
poor. His Buddha-like facial mole was also conspicuously absent. Whether he can sing his way clear
of his debts is a moot point.
Sen is well-known for his preference for blondes, and in 1972 he married jazz singer Joan Shepherd.
The marriage ended 17 years later, and he moved in with a blonde British dancer named Amanda,
who has since borne him four children. Sadly, in addition to his financial troubles, he has had to face
problems with his children's health: His six-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia.
At the start of the new year there are some flickers of hope in this poor man-rich man-poor man story.
Sen will return to the Koma Theater to do a one-month show in September and at the time of writing,
his latest release, "Yume no Shizuku," is in the top ten on the cable radio charts. His luck may just be
Queens of Enka
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Queens of Enka
By Barbara Chambers
An Introduction I really had no idea that this
music still existed. You see, I was raised during
my teen years as a military dependant, and
during the 60's lived in Korea and the
Philippines. Some of the pop music of the time,
plus some of the oldies of the post-war years,
(eg. "Tokyo Shoe-shine Boy") played over and
over on the radio. But other than the bouncy
new Westernized music that everyone was
listening to, there was another type, one I usually
heard when eating in Korean and Japanese
restaurants. I took no notice of it at the time,
being a stupid teen-ager, but some of it stayed lodged in my subconcious. Then a few years ago,
having gone through a relatively short tour of fandom in the Japanese Pop (JPOP) genre, I was in
a music store and stumbled over a CD (Youko Nagayama: "Shiawase Ni Shite Ne") and thought
"Oh goody... some of that Japanese restaurant music I heard from when I was young." and I
bought it. On first listening, I was surprised how modernized some of the music sounded. After
hearing it four or five times, there were already several songs I was fond of. And so, I was now
reintroduced to Enka.
What is Enka?
Enka is a Japanese popular song,
in the "traditional" style. Enka
music is composed largely in the
Pentatonic scale, 5 notes per octave,
similar to the scale used in Greek,
Celtic, Gypsy, and some Eurasian
music, and some modern blues and
jazz music. Take a piano and play a
melody using only the white keys
which are immediately to the left of
a black key. There are 5 such keys
per octave, and this tuning is close
to one of the pentatonic scales.
(Though it is "tempered" instead of
"just" on a Western piano. The scale was probably a "just" one, originally.) Japanese folk music
in the pentatonic scale is related to traditional Shinto and Buddhist music, with its Chinese roots,
though in fact its origins predate even the musical influx from the Chinese mainland. Despite the
Queens of Enka
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scale, the chords are ones typical of Western music. Enka singing style uses a wide range of
vocal styles. Long drawn-out notes, with a swelling vibrato ("delayed vibrato") to emphasize the
emotional content, are characteristic. These are accompanied by dramatic musical phrasing, with
wide dynamics which range from whisper-soft sibilants to spine-tingling crescendos. The
melody is often a simple one, but with colorations and ornamentation (melisma) that make the
melody line more elaborated and difficult to sing, but very beautiful as well. The effect is a bit
like the ornaments found in baroque harpsichord music, except that they are sung instead of
played. Rhythm is fairly conventional 4/4 in most cases, but there are a lot of exceptions,
including rhythms you wouldn't expect, such as reggae and cha-cha.
A friend of mine once remarked that these
were "Japanese torch singers" and that's a fairly
good description. Enka songs are 1 to 6 minutes
long, and are performed standing, usually
wearing formal attire. For men this can be
either Japanese or Western attire, for women it
is generally a kimono. (Korean and Chinese
women seem to usually sing Enka in glittering
gowns.) The song lyrics are tragic yet
philosophical, and sometimes even amusing.
Drinking songs are common, usually to help "drown my sorrows". Songs of love, separation,
death and suicide abound. The subject matter of the typical lyrics involve tragic love and sweet
resignation to the comfort of cherished memories of better times. Arrangements use a unique
mixture of Western and Japanese instruments, from the koto to the electric guitar. Violins are
common, but surprisingly, pianos are not.
We Western music lovers might imagine it this way... Team up a songwriter who writes oldfashioned Gypsy music with a romantic lyricist
of an American blues or country music
background. Then translate the lyrics into
poetic but old-fashioned Japanese and arrange
the music for a band made of half Japanese
musicians and half European classical
musicians, plus a harmonica and electric
guitar. Then find a Japanese woman to sing
the song in full kimono, but choreograph her
performance as if it were an operatic aria. That
would give you something close to Enka
Enka thrives in Japan with the older generation. Korea, however, sometimes claims to have
been the birthplace of modern Enka music. This is probably partly true. There may also have
been influences from China. Constant wars in the 20th century have spread cross-cultural
influences through the regions so often that one may never be certain of Enka's true roots.
However, history isn't the important thing. Enka is a living music, being composed and
performed right now. After all, we don't think of New Orleans when we hear modern Rock,
though its roots can be traced there. There are Korean songs which sound much like Japanese
Enka, but I'm uncertain whether the Japanese consider those songs to be Enka or not (probably
not) even if the Koreans do consider them to be Enka. Likewise, some songs from Hong Kong
Queens of Enka
Page 7 of 15
seem like Enka too. I don't like being too restrictive with the definition of Enka, myself, though
perhaps Japanese people might feel differently. Japan is proud of Enka, and rightly so, but
Korea and China are a part of the music's background from the 1930's on through to today.
Enka doesn't have a large fan base among the young in Japan. Many of them sincerely dislike
Enka. This may partly be due to the fact that their parents liked it so much they played it all the
time while the children were growing up. Does this mean that Enka will disappear with the older
generation? I don't think anyone knows. Like any music, it will continue to change, and chances
are that a new generation will "rediscover" a "modern" Enka some day. Music is made for
people who want to hear it, and if the tastes of the people change, the music will change too.
There are a few new young Enka singers, so it is hopeful. The new Enka singers are
experimenting with variations on the traditional style, keeping some elements, and discarding
others. This may be the only way Enka can continue to grow in the future. Nostalgia is a potent
thing in Japan, but it alone probably isn't enough to ensure that Enka continues; new listeners are
Toshimi Tagawa is blessed with such a lovely voice!
However, those new to Enka might not like the strong vibrato
she sometimes uses, particularly evident in her earlier songs.
Heavy vibrato is usually part of Enka, but Tagawa-san combines
it with change-of-voice in a way that in a few cases might sound
"overwrought" to Western ears, but which might sound
"heartfelt" to Japanese ears. But these are really great songs. In
this and the album below, she sings a lot of songs made famous
by other performers, though I assume "Shakunage no Ame"
("Rhododendron Rain") is one of her hits. I learned of her from
an appearence on "NHK Song Concert."
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BIG IN JAPAN
Saburo Kitajima is one of the most enduring and popular enka (Japanese
blues) singers in Japan. His masculine voice coupled with lyrics about the
hardships of men's lives, especially those doing manual work and fishing,
make him especially popular with blue collar workers.
If you watched the last Kohaku Uta Gassen of 1999 - the famous and extravagant annual NHK
New Year's Eve TV music show - then you will have already seen Kitajima, because he filled the
most auspicious slot of the show, the otori final act. It was his 36th appearance on the show,
making him the most senior artist in the lineup. But probably the most famous and amusing
Kohaku incident involving Kitajima was in 1981. He was singing "Fusetsu Nagare Tabi" (a kind
of weather ballad) and paper snow was released from above the stage. As the snow got heavier
and heavier, flakes were sucked up into Kitajima's famously large nostrils and into his mouth as
he bravely struggled to finish the song. The scene, often replayed on year-end review programs,
Kitajima was born in 1936 in Hokkaido, the eldest of seven children. Until his grandfather's
time, the family had been fishermen. At high school he decided to become a singer, after
watching Hibari Misora (1937-1989), Japan's greatest postwar singer. At 17 he moved to Tokyo
and studied singing, supporting himself by working part-time as a nagashi, a guitarist who goes
from bar to bar singing customers' requests for a few coins. He continued for six years until one
day a customer introduced him to the famous composer Toru Funamura, and Kitajima became
his student. Two years later, in 1962, he made his debut and the next year won a new singer's
award with "Namida Bune" (Boat of Tears). The following year he also began appearing in
films, usually playing the role of a yakuza gangster.
Kitajima has spread his special enka magic abroad extensively, and was the first to give enka
concerts in the former Soviet Union. He is also a kind of "Godfather" to a whole bevy of younger
singers whom he has taken under his wing and trained, the most famous of whom is Joji
Aside from his career, his passion in life is horse racing and he owns several horses. He is
extravagant, both in his generosity to others and in his own spending. He loves all the trappings
of stardom, which include a 36-room house and expensive cars, and he used to dress in a very
flashy way, although in recent years his clothing has become quieter and more elegant.
He regularly appears at theatres in a play followed by a concert. The colorful and spectacular
finales are the best of any singer because he ends with his own composition "Matsuri" (Festival),
which he sings standing atop a huge portable shrine or festival float, with a cast of more than 130
people on stage who dance, shout, wave fans and beat drums. He performed this for the ending
of the 1999 Kohaku program, too. You will be able to catch it firsthand at the Koma Gekijo
theatre in Shinjuku, when Kitajima performs there for the month of June.
–– Jean Wilson
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Kobayashi Sachiko is synonymous with the most
extraordinary stage costumes worn by anyone in Japan. Every
New Year's Eve, on NHK TV's popular music program,
Kohaku Utagassen, Kobayashi can be seen wearing one of her
creations, which at least for tax purposes are classified as stage
properties rather than gowns. Each year the design and scale
become more outrageous and it is not uncommon for wings,
petals or other unfolding sections of the dress to stretch from
one side of the stage to the other, while the bodice and
headdress are lit up like Omotesando on Christmas Eve as she
rises on a podium or is suspended on wires above the stage. It
is a credit to her exceptional singing that with so much going
on visually, she still keeps attention on her voice.
Courtesy of Koma Gekijo
Kobayashi's motto is "Hade ni..." (flashy/glitzy), and her
concerts always feature flamboyant costumes and a carnival atmosphere. Kobayashi is an
aficionado of both Takarazuka, the all-female review troupe, and Kabuki, and their influence is
clearly seen in her shows, which include quick costume changes and chunori flying stunts. She
wears every conceivable kind of clothing from skintight Peter Pan outfits to gorgeous traditional
kimono, and men's tuxedos to frilly flamenco frocks.
Usually billed as an enka singer, she is in fact much more. Not only can she sing pop and jazz
with equal verve, but she is one of the best stage actresses around, capable of handling both male
and female roles. She has appeared as a geisha, samurai, ninja spy, female thief, princess and
Kabuki actor who specializes in female roles, but is especially good as a wandering gangster, for
which she deepens her voice and skillfully wields a sword.
Kobayashi (46) made her debut at the age of nine and was predicted to be the next Misora
Hibari, the child star who became Japan's greatest postwar singer. However, Kobayashi's second
record was a flop and at fifteen her father's meat shop was forced to close down. With the
responsibility for paying her father's debts, Kobayashi began singing in cabaret nightclubs, lying
about her age in order to be hired..
It wasn't until 1979 that Yusen Hoso cable radio spotlighted "Omoide Zake," the B side of her
release at the time, and it took off, becoming her first million seller. Since then, Kobayashi has
had numerous hits and won umpteen of Japan's music awards. In the past five years she has also
branched out and tackled TV dramas and films. In 1995 she was the female lead in the 47th and
penultimate Tora-san movie. She has also sung the soundtracks for a Tom and Jerry cartoon and
Pikachu Pocket Monster video.
You can also catch this exuberant performer at the Koma Theatre in Shinjuku for the month of
January, acting the role of Izumo no Okuni, the dancer who was responsible for starting Kabuki,
and in the concert section of the show you can see firsthand her latest spectacular Kohaku...
costume, about which she quips, "It takes a year's salary to make, six months to plan for and
three minutes to watch!"
-- Jean Wilson
Page 10 of 15
BIG IN JAPAN
This year enka singer Hiroshi Itsuki celebrates 35 years in
show business. Enka? You mean that sobbing kind of music
that wafts out from pachinko parlors and izakaya eateries?
Well, yes, but to classify Itsuki as just an enka singer is
misleading, for this multi-talented artist can sing various
genres of music, play fifteen instruments, and is an
accomplished dancer and actor. In fact, Itsuki is one of Japan's
biggest theatre box office draws, especially when he plays the
wandering, sword-wielding hero in samurai dramas, and
theatres regularly have to fill the aisles with extra folding
seats when he appears.
It has become commonplace for singers to pack large sports venues, but Itsuki was the first in the
country to hold a solo concert at the Budokan. He was also the first popular Japanese star to appear
in Las Vegas; likewise at the Sydney Opera House and New York's Lincoln Center.
His is a genuine rags to riches story. Itsuki was born in 1948 in rural Fukui Prefecture. After his
father walked out, Itsuki spent his remaining school days living alone with his mother, who eked out
a living for them both. He was motivated to become a singer by his determination to ease her burden.
His first debut came at seventeen. His record sold well, but after his teacher died, he was out in the
cold again. A second debut ended bitterly when he was forced to change his singing voice - painful
to sing and painful to listen to, he remarks dryly. In desperation for food he once upturned his tatami
mats to see if any coins had fallen between them. Finding only one TV station meal ticket, he walked
across town, downed a bowl of ramen, and walked all the way home, hungry again.
This hand-to-mouth existence continued until his third debut, but fame eluded him and he took a job
as a club singer in Ginza. There he learned the invaluable skill of developing a stage presence strong
enough to persuade drunk and troublesome customers to be quiet and listen to him. His luck finally
turned when he won the prize of a recording contract in a ten-week TV contest. He changed his
name to Hiroshi Itsuki and debuted with "Yokohama Tasogare" in 1971.
Since then, Itsuki has won every major music award, some several times over. But to everyone's
surprise, in 1989 he withdrew from Rekodo Taisho contests (Japan's equivalent of the Grammy's),
saying that if the prize were decided on talent alone, he would continue to enter indefinitely. What
he left unsaid revealed an industry secret in those days - that money and perks (overseas trips, golf
club memberships, etc.) liberally greased the path to a prize.
Even without official competitions, Itsuki pushes himself to the limit, for he is his own harshest
competitor. "Hiroshi Itsuki without a challenge is like a kimono without an obi!" he claims. His
effort has paid off, for Itsuki is now recognized as one of Japan's few all-round entertainers. See him
displaying his talents in his "Kabuso Special" (song, dance and musical instruments) shows at the
Meijiza Theater in April.
–– Jean Wilson
The Singers 2.doc
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Tuesday, September 3, 2001
Korean singer BoA tops Japan album charts
Tuesday, March 19, 2002 at 19:00 JST
TOKYO — South Korean singer BoA, who has become popular in
Japan since her debut here last year, has topped Japan's album charts
based on figures compiled by Oricon Co to be released next
Monday. It is the first time a South Korean artist has topped the album charts in Japan with her
first album, "Listen To My Heart."
The 15-year-old singer, who can speak Japanese, Korean and English, made her debut in Japan
last May. Her fourth single "Listen To My Heart" released in January became a big hit. (Kyodo
16-Year-Old Rules Asian Pop Market
By Lee Yong-sung
Korean teenybopper sensation BoA (Kwon Bo-a) has
caused waves in Japan, the second-largest music
market in the world, with her new single ``Shine We
Are°Ø°Ø topping the Japanese Oricon singles chart
It is the first time the 16-year-old pop idol topped the Japanese version of the Billboard singles
chart, although she already conquered the album chart with ``Listen to My Heart°Ø°Ø in March
2002 and ``VALENTI°Ø°Ø in January this year. She was the first singer from outside Japan to
reach number one on the album chart.
``Did you see me on TV last night? My mom and brother kept talking about it,°Ø°Ø BoA said.
When BoA talked about a performance she had given the night before her interview with The
Korea Times, she seemed like any other schoolgirl. There was little about her that hinted at
stardom, with the exception of the presence of her bodyguard throughout the interview.
However, this teenager has already been widely recognized as an Asian superstar, having outsold
Mariah Carey in album sales in Japan, the world°Øs second largest pop market, for the past two
years. She also joined Westlife in a duet for the Asian release of their album ``Unbreakable _ the
Greatest Hits,°Ø°Ø released in November 2002. Most recently, BoA became a new Sketchers
sneaker model, replacing Britney Spears for the Asian market.
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BoA was called a “Korean Britney” when she first debuted. There also was talk that her early
stage concepts were similar to those used by Spears. At 16, still younger than Spears was when
she made her debut, she seems to have established her own identity as singer.
``I like Britney, though I like Janet Jackson the most.
But I don°Øt want to get stuck with one genre of
music or stage concept. I°Øm just focusing on what I
can do to best satisfy my fans with music,°Ø°Ø BoA
BoA has earned over $1 billion in Japan so far
through her 15 releases, two regular albums, nine
singles and three special albums _ a figure that can be
compared to the annual sales output of a decent
The two regular albums sold 1.3 million copies,
giving BoA the Japanese Golden Disk Award this
March and making her the biggest domestic pop icon
ever in a foreign entertainment market.
Having debuted in August 2000 at the age of just 14,
she has been more popular in Japan than Korea, but
her success in that market was not due to luck _ she
had been prepping herself for her debut for years.
``I followed my brother to his audition when I was a sixth-grade kid. There I happened to sing
SES°Øs `Perfect Reason°Ø standing beside my brother,°Ø°Ø BoA said. Surprisingly enough,
she and not her brother passed the audition.
For the next five years or so, BoA was thoroughly prepared for the Japanese market by SM
entertainment, which, partially due to her success, is now one of the country°Øs best-known
management companies. After graduating from middle school, she advanced to Korea Kent
Foreign School in Seoul, where she gained an advanced level of English and Japanese with her
future career in mind.
``Japanese fans are rather calm and quite. But I have never had any unpleasant situations in
Japan. They are all nice and cool,°Ø°Ø BoA said. Her enormous success in the two countries
even appealed the Western media, with her story introduced in Le Monde and BBC.
Recently, BoA featured on a special program aired on the American Public Broadcasting Service
(PBS). She was selected from 15 leading figures from Korea as being the only one representative
of the nation°Øs entertainment industry. ``I was quite surprised at her fluent English and cool
sense of humor. It was the best interview I have ever had,°Ø°Ø Dennis Wholey, host of PBS°Øs
``This Is America with Dennis Wholey°Ø°Ø and author of ``The Courage to Change°Ø°Ø said
after interviewing BoA for the program.
Prime Minister Goh Kun and Kim Myong-gon, president of the National Theater of Korea,
joined BoA on the program, which commemorates the centennial of Korean immigrants in the
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Page 13 of 15
United States. Her appearance was broadcast last Saturday. ``I got a little nervous at first upon
hearing it was U.S. public TV, but it was funny. Mr. Wholey was very nice and kind,°Ø°Ø the
youngest K-pop star said.
In a move to enter another part of the entertainment industry, BoA will appear in a Hong Kong
action film that will begin production in January next year. ``My role is a singer, and I°Øm glad
it°Øs not a major character,°Ø°Ø BoA said, smiling.
Yesterday, she came back to the local stage with her new Korean album ``Atlantis Princess.°Ø°Ø
``I owe so much to local fans for my success, yet there seem to be no other way to repay them
but through music,°Ø°Ø BoA said.
She has already accomplished much for her age, but still wants more. Her ambition, zeal and
talent may be what is needed to take the currently depressed domestic pop market to the next
------------------------------04.27.03 - BOA'S JAPAN CONCERT ENDS IN SUCCESS
jusunlee: boa's last in a series of concerts in japan ended on april
5th in tokyo. with 15,000 audiences filling up the yoyoki stadium,
boa performed 18 songs throughout the concert which lasted for
100 minutes. the concert started with "listen to my heart," a number
one hit in year 2002 and reached its peak when she sang her other
number one hit song "valenti." boa's japan tour concert began on
march 27th in osaka and which went on to nagoya on the 30th and
31th and ended in a grand finale in tokyo on the 5th and 6th. boa
said that she was very happy to have ended her first japan concert
successfully and that she plans to hold one in seoul this coming fall.
Japan Today Discussion
Told Ya So
Hikozaemon (Mar 19 2002 - 19:13)
To be honest, I have been a fan of BoA since I saw her videos in Hangul on the K-Pop show they
have on the Satellite TV - which I could get in my old apt building. Her videos, music,
everything I was sure would sell in Japan, and it looks like somebody at Avex agrees.
Like most new entrants in the music scene here, I still think that she is too young - and that the
fame she has now is probably going to hurt her in the future - but this girl dances like a pro, sings
well, looks great, and sings in pretty damn perfect Japanese and speaks excellent Japanese (at
least compared to that geek Chu-yan who she was on a show with the other week - he has
improved but still sux).
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Congrats BoA! And how appropriate in the year of the Korea/ Japan world cup also. Love to see
some of her fellow popular in Japan artists be allowed to repeat the feat by having their music
sold in Korea without having to be covered by groups like SES.
Originally from : soompi.com
The Birth of BoA
SM’s idea three years ago was to begin to make a huge star
who would represent Asia. Their plan was to make a star
who would use the Korean music industry as a stepping stone
into Asia, and then into the world, in order to spread Korea’s
prestige abroad. At that time, the mainstream of the
entertainment world was taken over by 13~16 year old
female idol stars. The Japanese representative of an idol
group, SPEED, was also composed of girls around 15 years
of age. With that point given, it was obvious that it would be
most favorable for our country to put out a [young] girl who
would go abroad. Also, [SM] figured that ‘they needed at
least 2~3 years in order to completely finish the casting and
training of this future star’, so they concentrated first on
Date of Birth :
Place of Birth :
Interests & other
cross stitching, watching movies,
reading magazines, dancing,
5th November 1986
Japanese, doing imitations
Kyung Gi do
Ideal Guy :
A hip-hop boy that is cute, tall,
skinny, has a fair face, and has
Most precious : Sara (her cat)
R&B and Dance
Fav. Singer :
They asked all of the candidates they met at national contests and talent shows, and even those
who came to the studio to audition, if they had a younger sibling. And if they did, they went as
far as to call those siblings in for auditioning. Through this never-ending effort to find their
future star, the jewel that they found was BoA. At that time, BoA’s older brother had come to the
studio for an audition. The answer to the question “Do you have a younger sibling” was the one
and only 5th grader named BoA. At the time, she was 11 years old. BoA has trained ever since
that young age for this day. The fact that she sang at the audition that she had through her older
brother was what guided her into becoming a future star. The dancing and singing that the young
elementary student did at the audition showed plenty of potential to be a star.
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BoA’s talent and passion, and her skills, although not yet fine tuned, were extraordinary in spite
of her young age. The company did however worry about how well she could do at such a young
age, but they couldn’t just let this opportunity pass them by. As soon as SM found BoA, they
quickly met with her parents to persuade them into permitting her training. BoA also showed her
parents her strong interest in making her dream of becoming a singer come true. But in the
beginning, her parents strongly opposed. Her brothers understood why their parents opposed this
decision so strongly; BoA was bringing home very high grades, and they just wanted her to keep
studying, not become a singer. But the company who had already found BoA’s talents could not
let go of her so easily. In the end, SM was able to persuade her parents with the certainty of her
success, and BoA gained the opportunity of a lifetime to live out her dreams.
The road to making a world star...
As soon as the permission of the parents were received, the company immediately began a very
focused training period to making a world star. The first thing that BoA needed to learn was
neither dancing or singing, but foreign languages. She was given a private tutor who taught her
both English and Japanese. This was something that BoA absolutely needed to learn in order to
go abroad with her future music. BoA was even sent to Japan during her vacations in order to
receive extra focused lessons. It may have been because of her young age, but her ability to learn
these new languages was extraordinary. Also, after her graduation from elementary school, her
start in the International middle school was delayed for six months in order to go to Tokyo, Japan
once again. This time, not only did she learn Japanese, but she also received vocal and dance
lessons. On top of that, she was only allowed to speak Japanese during her stay there. In order to
pick up fine tuned pronunciations, she stayed with and was taught by NHK’s GuMiKo. This
intense training has given BoA the ability to speak Japanese almost perfectly, and also
understand and converse in English.
When (who manages one of Japan’s top entertainers, Yungsung Akanemi) saw BoA, they took
upon themselves the responsibility of her dance and vocal training. As a result, they introduced
one of the top instructors to BoA. Sakuma, who had been recognized as Japan’s best dancer,
gave BoA dance lessons, and Japan’s top hip hop dancer Kazeu personally came to Korea to
choreograph BoA’s debut album. Sakuma even praised BoA saying “When compared to the
Japanese dancers who do nothing but dance, her skills are right up at that level. And among the
female singers who do both singing and dancing, there is no one who has the skills that BoA has.
There has been no one this young who can dance so well.”