This year marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of Momoe Yamaguchi, 64, as a singer.
She made her debut on May 21, 1973 with “Toshikoro” and became a top idol with a string of hits including “Aoi Kajitsu” (Blue Fruits), “Hitonatsu no Keiken” (One Summer’s Experience), and “Yokosuka Story”. In March 1980, she announced her engagement and retirement from show business with actor Tomokazu Miura, with whom she had collaborated in many movies including “Izu no Odoriko” and the TBS drama “Akai Series” as the “Momo-Tomo duo. On October 5, 1980, she sang “Sayonara no Mukougawa” at her last concert and left the microphone on stage, becoming a “legendary diva.
The image of her placing the microphone on stage at the Nippon Budokan is used in the live karaoke version of “Sayonara no Mukougawa” and is still sung by her fans.
Incidentally, I once interviewed Momoe at Nikkatsu Studios in 1974, when she was starring in her first movie “Izu no Odoriko,” while “Hitonatsu no Keiken” was a hit.
The film was an adaptation of Yasunari Kawabata’s masterpiece about the pale love between Kaoru, a dancer in a troupe of traveling entertainers played by Momoe, and Kawashima, a student at an old first high school played by Tomokazu Miura. There was much talk about how Momoe would perform the highlight scene, in which Kaoru spots Kawashima from a public bath across the river and waves to him. When asked about this, Momoe replied
When asked about this, Momoe replied, “I would like to discuss it with the director and make a decision.
I was impressed by her firm response, which was hard to believe for a 15-year-old.
Every one of these responses ran the entertainment media and became a social phenomenon. Her retirement at the peak of her popularity at the age of 21 was particularly shocking.
On November 19, 1980, the media and her fans gathered at her wedding to Tomokazu Miura at Reinanzaka Church in Akasaka, Tokyo, and a TV announcer who was broadcasting live on the scene, while seeing shoes strewn all over the scene after the ceremony, asked her, “How did you get home?
“How did they get home?
I remember her saying, “I wonder how they went home. It was such a big fever and “a matter of national interest.
Forty-three years have passed since then.
I am again surprised that Momoe has kept her “retirement from show business,” which she had declared at the time. I do not think this is a bad thing, but there were singers who retired upon marriage, but returned to the music business after divorce.
Also, the staff of NHK’s Kohaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Singers’ Championship) tried several times to negotiate for Ms. Momoe to appear on the stage, as she was such a big name singer, but she would not budge. She had written lyrics for “La Saison” for Ann Lewis and published a quilt collection “A Bouquet of Time” under the name Momoe Miura, but she never took the microphone on stage as “Momoe Yamaguchi,” the singer. She continued her life as a wife and mother of two children.
In September 1980, just before her retirement, her book “Aoi Toki” (published by Shueisha), in which she candidly described her upbringing, her relationship with Tomokazu Miura, marriage, and retirement, caused a sensation and became a bestseller. At the time, the entertainment media paid a lot of attention to the chapter on her birth, in which she revealed that her father had a separate family and that she sometimes visited him at home with her mother and younger sister.
However, I picked up a copy of the same book that I had bought for an interview at the time and read it again, and while I think that is a possibility, I got the impression that it was a simpler and more definite “love for him” that transcended past conflicts of love and hate that made her decide to retire. Momoe described it as “intuition.
I knew I had to stop working…. It was a conclusion that suddenly came to my mind one day. It was nothing more than an intuition. (from “Blue Time”)
I wanted to be there for him. I wanted to be there for my husband as he walked out the door, to say, “Good-bye” and “Welcome home. I wanted to be the place where my beloved felt most at peace. (Ibid.)
If I hadn’t met him then, I think I would have married very late in life. (Ibid.)
(Ibid.) She also writes If that were the case, it would mean that she would not have retired from show business.
In any case, Momoe stuck to her decision when she married and retired 43 years ago. The “legend of Momoe” reminds us of the magnitude of Tomokazu Miura’s support for Momoe.
Text： Ryo Sakamoto (Writer)
Ryo Sakamoto is a former head of the Culture and Society Department of Tokyo Sports Newspaper. After retiring, he started the web magazine "PlusαToday" and writes articles on movies and Hollywood information. Member of the Japan Film Pen Club.
PHOTO： Kyodo News