In Memory of Shoji Koganezawa: The Enka Singer with a Unique Dream | FRIDAY DIGITAL

In Memory of Shoji Koganezawa: The Enka Singer with a Unique Dream

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Shoji Koganezawa, who recreated the commercial (December 19, ’08 issue)

On January 11, enka singer Shoji Koganezawa (same as his real name) died of respiratory failure at a hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture at the age of 65, his record company announced.

He was 65 years old. “He was almost a nobody, but it was a commercial that aired from August 1992 that made his name a household name throughout Japan. In the commercial for the throat spray Finish Kowa, he was introduced as ‘Koganezawa-kun, the singer,’ which won the Silver Award for the most popular word of the year,” said a source at an entertainment agency.

Finish Kowa sold dozens of times more copies than before, and the CD “Only You,” released in May of the same year, became a big hit, selling over 300,000 copies. His life, which until then had consisted mainly of local sales, changed drastically: he appeared on three to four TV programs in one day and gave five to six interviews in between, leaving him no time to sleep.’ In an interview conducted by this magazine with him in December 2008, he recalled his life at that time as follows.

I was happy, but at the same time, I began to think that this was not the way to go. I used to wear denim or jeans most of the time, and I was often asked by program staff and interview partners, ‘Why don’t you wear a kimono? I felt that there was a strong prejudice against enka singers. Since then, I have continued to appear in my preferred attire in order to break this prejudice.

I have continued to perform in my own style in order to break this prejudice,

I want to give my own color to the enka world.

I want to give my own color to the enka world,” he said. It was in 2002, when he left the Kitajima Music Office and set up his own private office, that his career began to fade.

He borrowed money from several acquaintances to set up the office. He was a gambler and had accumulated debts since his younger days. He was also involved in a real estate scam involving several million yen, a failed cosmetics business, and other debts amounting to tens of millions of yen.

He steadily worked to repay his debts through local sales, but the COVID-19 crisis changed his life forever. Sales were almost completely suspended, and income was reduced by 80%. It seems that life was difficult for him to repay his debts,” said an acquaintance of Mr. Koganezawa.

Did he drink heavily to drown his debts and end up driving while still under the influence of alcohol? On November 28, 2008, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department arrested him on suspicion of violating the Road Traffic Law for driving a car while intoxicated and rear-ending a truck waiting at a traffic light (charges were later dropped).

After this time, he refrained from performing. He had not sung in public since then.

Mr. Koganezawa’s life of 65 years ended prematurely on the 35th anniversary of his career as a singer. We pray for his soul rest in peace.

Shoji Koganezawa walking with a beautiful woman in Kabukicho (September 15, ’06)
Shoji Koganezawa bowing to the media after being arrested for drunken driving and released (November ’20).
  • PHOTO Hiroyuki Komatsu, Junpei Kota, Shinji Hasuo

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