A long time ago, a TV variety show introduced a questionnaire asking “Who do you think of when you hear the word “diva”? Those in their twenties were Kana Nishino and Ayumi. Those in their thirties thought of Ayumi Hamasaki, MISIA, and Hikaru Utada. For those in their forties and fifties or older, the list included Seiko Matsuda, Momoe Yamaguchi, Hiroko Yakushimaru, and Miki Imai.
What was unnatural was that Akina Nakamori’s name was not included in the list.
Of course, I think both Yamaguchi Momoe and Matsuda Seiko are wonderful singers, but it feels strange to call them “divas. They are divas only if they live in the world of singing, and neither Momoe Yamaguchi nor Seiko Matsuda seems to live only in the world of singing. Momoe Yamaguchi is not even a singer now. In this sense, Akina Nakamori is the one who deserves to be called a “diva. She has a series of cover albums of the same name. I’m sure she is aware of it.
It was 27 years ago, on December 1, 1994, that Akina Nakamori held a revival concert at the Shibuya Parco Theater, a relatively compact venue for concerts. At the concert, Akina referred to herself as “Yoshimoto Kogyo” and gave a tongue-in-cheek ramble about “don’t buy CDs from record companies with ‘wa’ in their name,” “award shows are all lies,” and “wide shows are not good enough.
What did she want to do at that time? What was her situation? I would like to look back on her life to date and try to discover the true nature of Akina Nakamori.
The kidnapping and murder of Yoshinobu-chan (March 31, 1963) has been called “the biggest kidnapping case in the postwar era. Two years after the incident, the murderer, Tamotsu Obara, was arrested. On July 13, 1965, nine days after the news reached the public, Akina Nakamori was born in Ota Ward, Tokyo as the fifth of six children. Influenced by her mother’s desire to become a singer, Akina Nakamori learned piano and classical ballet as a young girl, and gradually began to dream of becoming a singer in the future.
It wasn’t until she was 16 that she took concrete action. Like many aspiring singers, she sent a postcard to the old audition program “Star Birth” (Nippon Television Network Corporation). It may seem surprising, but Akina Nakamori applied seven times, including failing to qualify, and participated three times. It took her three years to pass the competition.
Her first entry was in 1979. She sang “Natsu ni Dakarete” (Embraced in Summer) by Hiromi Iwasaki in both the preliminary and final rounds. It is not unusual for applicants to choose a song by someone from the Star Festival. It is not uncommon for applicants to choose a song by someone from STAMBIRTH, in order to impress the judges, especially Hiromi Iwasaki, the treasured son of the judge, Toshie Matsuda. Compared to the dour Aku Yu and the demanding Shunichi Tokura, Toshie Matsuda, the only female judge, was seen by some applicants as someone who would give them a high score if she liked them. Akina Nakamori, in her amateur days, must have expected this.
However, her expectations were not met. No matter who she was, she was subjected to harsh words from Matsuda Toshie herself.
You have no youthfulness in your expression. This song is a light-hearted song, so you need to be young.
The following year, Akina Nakamori sent out another postcard to apply for the contest. Again, she passed the qualifying round and made it to the finals. When she was not selected, he told her, “She will come back next year. I’d like to see how she’ll turn out after a year,” said a program staff member who had her in mind.
At that time, she sang Seiko Matsuda’s “Blue Coral Reef” in both the preliminary and final rounds. Seiko Matsuda is not a singer from Star Birth. The failure of the previous year must have crossed Akina’s mind. No matter how much she tried to flatter him, it would be meaningless if Toshie Matsuda herself did not like it. In fact, her flirtatious attitude would probably have a negative effect.
Instead, she may have wanted to emphasize her freshness by singing a song by Seiko Matsuda, who was close to her in age and had been very active as a new idol. As pointed out, she may have wanted to appeal to the youthfulness of her facial expressions.
Nevertheless, Toshie Matsuda was scornful.
You’re a good singer, but your face is so childish that I think you should sing children’s songs.
After the war, she became popular as a “singing aunt” and was honored with the Medal with Purple Ribbon as well as vice president of Ueda Women’s Junior College. She was also the vice president of Ueda Women’s Junior College and was honored with the Medal with Purple Ribbon.
To begin with, it was nothing more than a logical fallacy to dismiss her as “lacking youthfulness in her facial expressions” and then, a year later, to criticize her for having a “childish face. All I can say is that I was physiologically unsuited.
An ordinary applicant would have been too disappointed to respond, or would have burst into tears, or would have slumped his shoulders in silence and walked away, or all of the above. However, in the case of Akina Nakamori, who has a natural talent, this is not the case.
But, Matsuda-sensei, they don’t accept nursery rhymes at Star Festival, do they?
Although I was not at the venue at the time, nor do I remember watching the broadcast on TV, I can imagine how the people involved in the program must have been frozen by the right answer. This is because it is unheard of for an amateur aspiring singer to talk back to the judges, who hold a great deal of authority in this kind of audition program, which could affect her future. In today’s world, this would have caused a firestorm on social media. No, before that, the director would have cut out the part in question.
Naturally, Toshie Matsuda gave it only a low score. As a result, Akina Nakamori failed the test again, but it must have had a big impact on both the judges and the people involved. In fact, her words and actions were well-received by some viewers. Now, she might have become a star at that point, and at the same time, Matsuda Toshie’s life as a critic might have been cut short.
Although Kyoko Koizumi and Akina Nakamori were the proud recipients of “Birth of a Star,” they never looked like graduates or students.
Even though they were girls, they were somehow independent and, to put it another way, they even seemed to reject the wisdom of others.
（I feel that both Kyoko Koizumi and Akina Nakamori were somewhat fluttering and waving their hands in rejection of the adult professionals.
Akina Nakamori applied again the following year, this time for the preliminary contest with “September” by Mariya Takeuchi, and for the final contest with “Yume Saki Shingujin” by Momoe Yamaguchi. Toshie Matsuda gave her an even lower score than the previous two times, but it did not affect her decision.
The rest of Akina Nakamori’s history needs no further mention.
In May 1982, she made her debut with “Slow Motion,” written by Etsuko Kurusei and composed by Takao Kurusei. In July of the same year, “Shojo A” was released and became a huge hit, making her one of the most popular idols of all time. The song was released in November and became the first No. 1 hit on the charts, selling 700,000 copies. The song ranked No. 1 on the popular TV programs “The Best Ten” and “The Top Ten.
The momentum was unstoppable. The following year, in 1983, all three songs they released, “1/2 Myth,” “Twilight – Yugure Yuubiori,” and “Forbidden Zone,” reached No. 1 on the aforementioned programs, and two of them reached No. 1 on the charts, winning all the song awards. At the same time, she participated in the NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen for the first time. In the three years since her debut, she has become one of the top two female idols along with Seiko Matsuda. The first three years after her debut marked the starting point of her career as a “diva” and formed the basis for her subsequent success.
In 1985 and 1986, “Mi Amore” and “Desire -Jonetsu” both became big hits. She also became the first female singer to win the Record Award two years in a row.
In 1987, something like this also happened. A musician, Tokiko Kato, asked her to sing a song she had created. It is not uncommon to ask a creator to cover a favorite song, but it is unusual for a creator to ask to use the song. Akina responded to her senior’s request by sending a bouquet of flowers. That was “Shipwreck,” which reached No. 6 in the 1987 annual charts. It is one of Akina Nakamori’s most popular songs and has been loved by many people for a long time.
Akina Nakamori’s success as a “divine diva,” however, her weakness lies in her private life. Her tragic love affair with Masahiko Kondo is well known. He committed suicide in his home, and the entertainment industry was in an uproar. I was a high school student at the time, and I watched the daily broadcasts, thinking, “Something terrible has happened.
The following year, in 1990, she returned to the entertainment industry, and her 24th single, “Dear Friend,” ranked No. 1 on the Oricon and No. 6 for the year. In 1992, her role as Kanna Tsukishima in the Fuji TV drama “Sutto Anata ga Suki Desu” (I’ve Always Loved You), in which she starred alongside Narumi Yasuda, was well received and became a big hit drama of the year along with “TBS” (TBS). For me, the role of Chinami Koishikawa, the murderer in the first episode of the first series of “Tozaburo Furuhata” (“Message from the Dead” aired on April 13, 1994), is still fresh in my memory.
Although Akina Nakamori’s entertainment career seemed to have recovered its high stability, the reality seems to have been otherwise. Money problems, scandals involving men and women, an exposé book by her former manager, conflicts over management, and countless other troubles came one after the other. She once skipped a live radio appearance, saying, “The media is waiting for me. The personality had no choice but to say, “Akina-san is not feeling well, so she had to rush to ……,” which naturally limited the range of her activities. The concert at the Shibuya Parco Theater took place right in the middle of all this.
On the night of the 1st, Akina Nakamori’s first concert in three years and five months was held at the Shibuya Parco Theater in Tokyo, and on the 2nd, the concert was held at the same time (9 p.m.). Akina turned the stage into a place to vent her frustrations with her former record company and wide show programs, complaining about her daily life in a comic manner to 400 fans. She complained to 400 fans in a comic manner, saying, “Everyone is bullying me,” and they called for her to hang in there.
The phrase “dissatisfaction with her former record company” in the text refers to the incident with Warner Pioneer (now Warner Music Japan).
Warner Pioneer (now Warner Music Japan), which holds the copyrights to songs from before July 1989, the month of the suicide attempt incident, was releasing “Akina Nakamori’s Best Album,” which consisted of many of her past hits. I understand that it was a legitimate right, but I can easily imagine that it was unbearable for her.
What was the actual concert like? According to Nikkan Sports, which reported on the concert, “I couldn’t speak at all until yesterday. I’m relieved to be able to speak today. How was everyone? The fans were in tears and said, “It was good! The article sarcastically sums up the event as “a strange scene unfolded, with the whole venue rejoicing that Akina was able to speak.
Akina Nakamori somehow made it through the 1990s, but as her troubles became more and more common, she was no longer a topic of conversation. The public no longer paid much attention to her behavior.
In 2010, she announced her indefinite hiatus, suddenly appearing on the NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen live from New York, where she currently lives, and releasing a series of singles and cover albums early the following year. In 2014, she suddenly performed live from New York, where she currently resides, at the NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen, and early the following year, she released a series of singles and cover albums, which seemed to indicate a full recovery.
However, as of 2021, Akina Nakamori is practically on hiatus. Some say, “I want to see her like that again,” while others say, “I want to hear her sing live. There were also posts on social networking sites such as “Akina Nakamori is not enough for this generation. I have no objection to these voices. I don’t disagree with them, but I do feel that if the world of the diva is a “world of songs,” she may not need to be forced to show up. That’s what I think.
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Text： Masashi Hosoda
Nonfiction writer, born in Okayama City in 1971. Born in Okayama City in 1971 and raised in Tottori City. After working as an anchor for Samurai TV, he became a broadcast writer. While working on TV and radio, he also contributes to magazines and websites. Author of "Sakamoto Ryoma wa Itachi" (Saizusha) and "Why Musicians Abandon Their Kasukan-no-Wives" (East Shinsho). His most recent book, "The Man Who Made Tadashi Sawamura Fly a Vacuum / A Critical Biography of Showa Promoter Osamu Noguchi" (Shinchosha) won the 43rd Kodansha Yasuharu Honda Nonfiction Award. He currently broadcasts an Internet radio program "Masashi Hosoda's Space-Time Travel Radio" (Audee) twice a month.
Photo： Kyodo Photo