J-pop diva Namie Amuro plans to exit showbiz next September after 25-year career

Kyodo

Popular singer Namie Amuro, who has a strong fan base in Asia, said Wednesday she will quit show business next September.

“I, Namie Amuro, would like to take this opportunity to inform all of my fans of my decision to retire as of Sept. 16, 2018,” the 40-year-old singer said on her website.

The surprise announcement by Amuro — known for megahits such as “Can You Celebrate?” and seen as a fashion phenomenon in the 1990s — came after she marked the 25th anniversary of her music career on Saturday and performed a commemorative concert over the weekend in her home prefecture of Okinawa.

“I could not have gone 25 years without your support, for which I am eternally grateful,” she wrote on her birthday, vowing to make this year one “filled with wonderful memories for me and the fans together.”

“I plan to make the last year of my music career meaningful by focusing my full attention on creating a final album and performing at concerts,” she added.

Amuro made her professional debut in 1992 as part of the group Super Monkey’s, after which she became a solo singer in 1995.

Her performances as both a singer and dancer captivated fans in Japan and elsewhere in Asia and she eventually emerged as one of the major stars in Japan, churning out a string of hits, including “Chase the Chance,” “Body Feels Exit,” “Don’t Wanna Cry,” and “Sweet 19 Blues.”

Some of her biggest hits in the 1990s were composed by Tetsuya Komuro. “Can You Celebrate?” sold more than 2 million copies, while her first album, “Sweet 19 Blues,” sold 3 million copies.

She also won music awards, including the prestigious Japan Record Award for two years in a row, and marked several milestones as a singer, performing overseas, including in South Korea and Taiwan.

A native of Okinawa, Amuro sang “Never End” at a welcome reception for leaders of the Group of Eight nations at their summit in the prefecture in 2000.

Many young girls and women imitated Amuro’s iconic look; the miniskirt, thick-soled boots and brown dyed hair became a phenomenon known as “Amuraa.”

Her popularity also paved the way for other artists from Okinawa, including the all-girl pop group Speed.

Amuro married in 1997 at the peak of her career to Masaharu Maruyama, known as Sam, from Japanese pop group TRF. She made a comeback the next year and performed on NHK’s year-end music show.

The couple, who have a son, divorced in 2002.

Amuro went through a turbulent time and struggled with grief after her mother was murdered in 1999.

In recent years, she expanded her fan base to younger generations including teens. Her 2008 album “Best Fiction” was a huge hit — a testament to her enduring popularity.