Embracing Transformation Through Love and Loss, From High-Cut Swimsuits to Insect Fascination | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Embracing Transformation Through Love and Loss, From High-Cut Swimsuits to Insect Fascination

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“Dancing Hero” becomes a big hit. Among classmates are Kumiko Takeda, Miyuki Imori, and others.

In April 2024, Yoko Oginome celebrates her 40th anniversary since her debut as a singer. Once known as Oginome-chan, she rose to fame in the 80s. In recent years, she has once again gained prominence after the dance team of Tomioka High School, known for their Bubble Dance, used her song “Dancing Hero – Eat You Up” as their routine.

Oginome was born on December 10, 1968, in Chiba Prefecture. When she was in the fourth grade, she began her career by participating in the program “Chibikko Uta Mane Best Ten” on Tokyo 12 Channel, as a member of the idol group Milk.

“It’s often thought that I entered the entertainment industry because of my sister (actress Keiko Oginome), but that’s not true. I’ve loved singing since I was young and always wanted to become a singer. So, in terms of simply debuting, I debuted much earlier than my sister,” she stated in a May 16, 1987 issue of Bisho magazine with a smile.

In her private life, Yoko Oginome married tennis player Ryuzo Tsujino, who was her classmate at Horikoshi Gakuen High School, in 2001. (PHOTO: Kyodo News)

About a year later, the group disbanded, and afterward, she auditioned for the voice acting role in the anime “Miyuki” and made her voice acting debut.

Yoko Oginome began her full-fledged entertainment career in her second year of junior high school. She joined Rising Production, which later produced talents like Arisa Mizuki, Namie Amuro, MAX, and SPEED. She attended Horikoshi Gakuen High School in Tokyo, where her classmates included Kumiko Takeda, Miyuki Imori, and Hiroko Morikuchi.

At the age of 15, on April 3, 1984, she made her solo debut with the single “Mirai Koukai -Sailing-.” Although the sales of this debut song reached a decent 70,000 copies, it did not enter the top 10, and she did not achieve significant hits thereafter.

In 1985, her seventh single, “Dancing Hero – Eat You Up,” became a massive hit. “There was a time when I stopped all the traffic on Fifth Avenue in New York and sang ‘Dancing Hero’ on top of a car. I wonder how much it cost… (laughs),” she said in an interview with “an・an” magazine in March 2018. This song became a symbol of the bubble era’s momentum.


The death of his best friend, Yukiko Okada. Even now, he never misses a visit to the grave.

Afterwards, she continued to release songs one after another, such as “Flamingo in Paradise,” “Dance Beat wa Yoake Made,” and “Roppongi Junjouha,” steadily rising to stardom as an idol singer. However, during the same period, Yoko Oginome also experienced a painful event that she could never forget to this day. In 1986, her close friend Yukiko Okada, who was one year older but attended the same school and debuted in the same year, tragically took her own life. They often appeared together on programs and shared the journey of their debuts.


It’s not hard to imagine that Yoko Oginome, who was only 17 at the time, was deeply shocked by this event. Even a year after Okada’s death, in an interview, she said, “Please don’t ask about that anymore. I still haven’t been able to sort out my feelings about Yukiko-chan’s death. I don’t understand it yet,” as reported in the May 16, 1987 issue of ‘Bisho’ magazine. Furthermore, she continues to visit Okada’s grave regularly in Aichi Prefecture.

In her private life, Yoko Oginome married Ryuzo Tsujino, a tennis player who was her classmate at Horikoshi Gakuen High School, in 2001. They had dated during high school, and when they reunited after 16 years, they found that they still got along well. They got married about seven months after their reunion, as reported in the November 8, 2001 issue of ‘Josei Seven’ magazine. They later had three daughters.


Revival and Insect Love

After marriage, Yoko Oginome focused on raising her children while saving her work commitments. However, around the time of her marriage, a movement had begun in the Tokai region, where “Dancing Hero” was being used in Bon Odori festivals without her knowledge.


“I found out about it in 2001. I received a letter from the Gifu Chamber of Commerce saying, ‘It’s always a big hit every year. Could you please come and see it for yourself and maybe perform live?'” she mentioned in an interview published in the February 2018 issue of “Bungeishunju.” Oginome participated in the festival, performing “Dancing Hero” as the finale and even responded to an encore.


Subsequently, with influences from comedian Noraneko Hirano’s Bubble-era jokes and Tomioka High School’s dance team, Oginome and “Dancing Hero” once again received significant attention. As the Tomioka High School Dance Team became a sensation, requests for collaborations flooded in, putting Oginome back into the spotlight with “Dancing Hero.”


With increased exposure, Oginome returned to the stage in mini-skirts, and the enduring appeal of her once-famous legs in high-cut swimsuits became a topic of discussion, much to the delight of her longtime fans.


In recent years, Oginome has gained even more attention with her show “Yoko Oginome’s Insect Friends,” which debuted in September 2022 on J:COM. Despite being associated with dance beats, Roppongi, and the Bubble era, Oginome has had a passion for insects since childhood. After giving birth, her daughters reignited her passion for insects while living in Yamanashi.


“I really want to see the Morpho butterflies that live in South America someday,” she expressed, along with her excitement at seeing a live caterpillar for the first time, in the September 15, 2022 issue of ‘Josei Seven.’ In her show, she can be seen wearing coveralls and enthusiastically capturing insects. Prior to this, in 2020, she released “The Murmurs of Insects,” a song she wrote and composed herself, on NHK’s “Minna no Uta,” showing her growing passion for insects.


Through the revival of “Dancing Hero,” Yoko Oginome has become a leading figure in the entertainment industry’s insect field, which was once dominated by “Professor Kamakiri,” also known as Teruyuki Kagawa.

  • Interview and text by Diesuke Takahashi

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