‘Japan’s Beethoven’ faces music, claims hearing improved years ago

Kyodo

The high-profile composer who stirred controversy by admitting his works had been penned by a ghostwriter — and whose purported deafness has since come into question — said Wednesday that he regained some of his hearing about three years ago.

In a handwritten apology sent to media organizations through his attorney, Mamoru Samuragochi, 50, dubbed “Japan’s Beethoven,” also said he plans to apologize in public soon.

Commenting on composer Takashi Niigaki’s ghostwriting of his major works, he said: “It was a secret between us. I did not talk about it even to my wife as I was afraid that the revelation of the lie would ruin my life.”

On the subject of his hearing, he said, “Since about three years ago, it has recovered to an extent where I could sometimes grasp words when someone speaks clearly and slowly close to my ears, though it sounds muffled and skewed.” He added that he is not able to hear when in poor physical condition.

The document was peppered with words of contrition, including statements such as “I am deeply ashamed of living a . . . lie” and “I can’t excuse myself if people think I did it for a publicity stunt.”

Niigaki, 43, cast doubt over Samuragochi’s earlier claim of deafness at a news conference on Feb. 6. “Since we first met, I have never felt that he was deaf,” he said, adding he had written music for Samuragochi for 18 years.

Samuragochi said it is true that he had been deaf, repudiating Niigaki’s claim.

The apology was written on eight sheets of paper. In it, Samuragochi stated that he is willing to receive an expert examination on his hearing, adding that he is willing to give up his grade 2 physical disability certificate issued by the government should the test find him ineligible for it.

Grade 2 is the most serious disability category for hearing problems and is given to people who can only hear a sound of 100 decibels or more — equal to what one may experience under an overpass when a train runs over.

Grade 2 holders are eligible for income tax deductions as well as other benefits such as reduced train fares. Cheating is punishable with up to six months in prison or a ¥200,000 fine.

Yokohama, which issued the certificate, said Wednesday that it will investigate the case and ask Samuragochi to return the certificate if he is judged ineligible to receive it.

According to a municipal official, the certificate, once issued, does not need to be renewed except when a person’s hearing disability worsens, when a grade identifying the extent of the problem needs to be raised. The official added that there were no cases of certificates being returned, as most people with hearing difficulties do not recover.

Samuragochi also extended his apologies to the victims of the March 2011 disaster, for whom his pieces were performed, and Japanese figure skater Daisuke Takahashi, who was expected to perform to a purported Samuragochi composition at the Sochi Olympics.