‘Enka’ icon Shimakura dies at 75

Kyodo, JIJI

Chiyoko Shimakura, known as one of Japan’s most enduring postwar singers, died of liver cancer at a Tokyo hospital Friday, her record label said. She was 75.

The singer of popular songs and “enka” ballads had numerous hits in her career spanning 58 years, including “Jinsei Iroiro” (“Such is Life”) and “Tokyo Dayo Okkasan” (“It’s Tokyo, Mother”).

Shimakura, who was born in Tokyo, debuted in 1955 with the song “Kono Yono Hana” (“A Flower of this World”) after winning a contest as a high school student. Over the years, she received several awards.

Shimakura won a national singing contest organized by major record label Nippon Columbia Co. in 1954.

Released in 1957, “Tokyo Dayo Okkasan” was a smash hit, with sales of more than 1 million copies, cementing her place in the entertainment world. She played the lead role in a movie based on the song. She continued to produce hit songs and appeared in the annual yearend music show on NHK a total of 35 times, including 30 consecutive years.

In 1987, at age 49, she released “Jinsei Iroiro,” which sold 1.3 million copies. The tune earned her the best singer’s prize in the prestigious Japan Record Award.

Alongside her singing career, Shimakura appeared in TV variety shows and also displayed her acting talent in the theater as well as in TV dramas and movies.

In 1999, she received the Medal with Purple Ribbon. In her private life, Shimakura also made headlines for her battle with breast cancer and large debts.