The big celebrity news of 2017 and 2018 in Japan is the retirement of Amuro Namie (安室奈美恵), Japan's reigning Queen of Pop. Unfortunately, the bigger news might end up being the crappy treatment her loved ones and colleagues are getting from the press as D-Day draws closer.
Born in Naha, Okinawa in 1977, Amuro got her start back in middle school, when she was recruited to be part of the female group SUPER MONKEY's. The group, originally intended to accompany programming as part of the Ryuukyuu Broadcasting Corporation on the island of Okinawa, caught the attention of a producer in Tokyo, and quickly went national. Amuro's profile rose rapidly, and in 1994, the group's name was officially changed to "Amuro Namie with SUPER MONKEY's".
In 1995, Amuro went single, and for the next 20-plus years, cranked out hit after hit, including ridiculously catchy songs like 1997's "A Walk in the Park" (below), 2007's "Baby Don't Cry", and 2016's "Hero", the official theme song of the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Summer Olympics. Her work has made her one of most of Japan's beloved artists; in informal polling, between 80% and 90% of men and women said they could understand or agree with the statement that Amuro is a "first-class artist".
Last year, on September 20th - days after the 25th anniversary of her professional debut - Amuro announced to a disappointed (but, one hopes, generally understanding) world public that the following year would be her last. She set September 16th, 2018 as her official retirement date, which will see her current tour culminate with a final performance in Okinawa.
Tributes are pouring in from all over and in all forms. Amuro's announcement came before NHK's year-end singing extravanganza, known by its short-hand name of kouhaku (紅白), or the Red and White Singing Competition. To commemorate Amuro, NHK built a breathtaking, illuminated walkway, which she traversed while singing her anthemic hit "Hero".
Meanwhile, fans are wishing her off via the #AllFor916 project, which is seeking to collect hearts containing thoughts and thanks for Amuro from all over Japan.
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Today the ALLFOR 916 ♡CARAVAN Project was chillin' at Yamaguchi and Kagoshima Prefectures!!! Yamaguchi: Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Central Park Kagoshima: Kagoshima City, Dolphin Fin Parking Lot Thank you so much for coming down and showing your love and support!!! Our next stop will be Ginowan Seaside Park in Ginowan City, Okinawa on September 12th (Wed)!!! This will be the ♡CARAVAN Project's LAST STOP which kicked off on August 20th! We look forward to seeing you there between the hours of 16:00-18:00!!! Click on the link below for more details!!! http://namieamuroallfor916.jp/ 「#ALLFOR916」 ♡CARAVAN！本日は、山口、鹿児島で開催いたしました☆ 山口：山口市 山口市中央公園 鹿児島：鹿児島市 ドルフィンポート駐車場 お越し頂いた皆様ありがとうございます！！ 8月20日から始まった「♡CARAVAN」もついにラスト！ 9月12日（水）16:00～18:00沖縄県宜野湾市「宜野湾海浜公園」へレッツゴー！！ お会いできるのを楽しみにお待ちしております！ ＃ALLFOR916 プロジェクトはコチラから http://namieamuroallfor916.jp/
Sadly, the overwhelming attention on Amuro is spilling over onto her family and her staff - sometimes in ways that border on violent. The attention on not just Amuro's family, but on the people she works with, has gotten so bad that Amuro felt the need to make a statement on her official Facebook page.
Part of the message follows. It's written in formal, polite Japanese, as one would expect from a star formally addressing the press (i.e., even when she's pissed, Amuro keeps it classy).
皆様にお願いがあり、ここに書かせて頂きます。 16日の引退の日が近づくにつれ、 家族や関係スタッフの方々に連日取材が続いております。
沖縄の家族の自宅に押しかけたり、 姪っ子に関しましては待ち伏せされ取材をされたり、 とても怖い思いをさせてしまっています。
To the media:
Thank you as always for your support.
Let me write a request I have. As the date of my retirement on the 16th approaches, my family and production staff, among others, are constantly being interviewed.
Incidents such as forcing one's way into my family's house in Okinawa, and laying in wait to interview my niece, have my family living in fear.
Our production staff also continue to receive interview requests daily through their cell phones and at their workplace.
I don't want my family to live in fear any longer, or cause trouble for our staff...
The Japanese public is blasting the press as a result, with the fiercest voices coming from Japanese female fans. While I'd like to say that this behavior surprises or shocks me, it doesn't. "The press" in Japan is much like "the press" in the US - a complicated hodge-podge of publications from the researched and reputable down to publications whose ballsiness would make the National Enquirer blush. Gossiping is as popular a past-time in Japan as in America, with publications such as Shuukan Bunshun (週刊文春) latching onto even the whiff of scandal.
Here's hoping that Amuro's family and staff receives some peace after her polite tongue-lashing. Sadly, I doubt she'll get her wish.
(JP) Link: Amuro Namie, Frightened by Press's Extreme Interviewing; "That's Too Much", People Say of the Terrible Contents
I'm the publisher of Unseen Japan. I hold an N1 Certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and am married to a wonderful woman from Tokyo.
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