Entertainment News

Pop star Namie Amuro bows out with final performance in Okinawa

Kyodo

Pop star Namie Amuro delivered her final stage performance Sunday as fans from Japan and elsewhere in Asia flocked to Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to bid her farewell.

Amuro — who has achieved milestones in Japan’s pop music scene since the 1990s as a singer, dancer and fashion icon — chose her home prefecture for the farewell performance ahead of her retirement Sunday.

“To everyone who came to the venue, thank you very, very much,” the 40-year-old diva told fans at the end of the eight-song show.

Wearing her signature boots, Amuro, who has a broad fan base across Asia, performed with singer Ken Hirai and other artists. The lineup for the show included Okinawan bands Begin and Mongol800, and Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai, with whom Amuro has collaborated.

In Naha, the prefectural capital, banners and posters showing photos of Amuro and expressing gratitude to the star were put up at City Hall, banks and newspaper offices. Fans from across the country posed in front of a big vertical poster that read “Okinawa (heart mark) Amuro.”

Junichi Shiba, 27, a resident of Joso, Ibaraki Prefecture, said, “I wanted to be as close as possible” to where Amuro is. “When I was sick and having a tough time, I was uplifted by her songs,” he added.

Jasmine Chin, 40, came all the way from Taipei for the show. She said that while she did not have a ticket, she would hang out near the concert venue.

Beforehand, more than 1,000 people gathered at a park next to it, hoping to hear Amuro’s voice.

From Noda, Chiba Prefecture, 15-year-old Minami Tanaka and her mother Hiroko, 45, arrived in Okinawa a day beforehand to find the best spot. “I would be able to come to terms (with her retirement) if I could hear her even for a little while,” Tanaka said.

Amuro surprised fans last September when she announced she would quit showbiz. The announcement on her website came just days after she marked her 25th anniversary as a performer.

“I could not have lasted 25 years without your support, for which I am eternally grateful,” she wrote last year on Sept. 20, her birthday.

Debuting on Sept. 16, 1992, as a member of the all-girls group Super Monkey’s, Amuro later turned solo and became one of the nation’s leading singers. She has dominated the charts with a string of mega-hits, including “Can You Celebrate?” “Chase the Chance” and “Sweet 19 Blues.”

She also won the prestigious Japan Record Award for two years in a row.

Amuro sang “Never End” at a reception to welcome the leaders of the then-Group of Eight nations at their 2000 summit in Okinawa, and her song “Hero” was the NHK theme song for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Amuro created the Amuraa phenomenon in the mid-1990s that saw young girls and women copy her signature look: miniskirt and high-heeled platform boots with dyed brown hair, thin-arched eyebrows and a deep tan.

At age 20 — the peak of her career — Amuro made surprised fans by announcing her pregnancy and marriage. In 1997 she married a member of pop group TRF and gave birth to a son in May the following year. She made a comeback on NHK’s year-end music show in December that year after taking maternity leave.