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Olympic marathon champion Naoko Takahashi has made her debut on the list of Japan’s top taxpayer athletes, coming in fourth.

According to the National Tax Agency’s list of the nation’s top taxpayers in 2001, released Thursday, Takahashi paid 141.47 million yen in income tax.

The Olympic gold medalist is now in the same bracket as the nation’s top baseball players, who regularly dominate the list.

“I can’t imagine this is real,” said Takahashi, who turned professional in the wake of her victory in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and now has product-promotion contracts with seven firms.

She expressed hope that her achievements would encourage at least one child to become a runner some day.

Although baseball superstar Ichiro Suzuki had topped the athletes’ list in the previous four years, he now plays for the Seattle Mariners and pays taxes in the United States. Ichiro paid taxes of around 190 million yen in Japan in 2000.

This year’s athletes’ list is topped by another baseball star — Yomiuri Giants outfielder Hideki Matsui — who paid taxes of 238 million yen.

Following a stay in the U.S., composer and music producer Tetsuya Komuro appears on the entertainment list for the first time in four years, having paid 183.93 million yen.

Also in the entertainment category, Takaaki Ishibashi, part of the comic duo Tunnels, held pole position for the fifth straight year, having forked out 194.16 million yen.

Masahiro Nakai and Takuya Kimura, two members of the boy band Smap, also appear on the list, with Kimura having paid 143.78 million yen and Nakai 90.16 million yen.

Nine of the 13 members of the all-girl group Morning Musume paid a combined 144 million yen in tax, at an average of 16 million yen.

Singer-songwriter Ayumi Hamasaki, who paid 426 million yen and ranks 39th on the tax agency’s overall list, tops the singers’ category.

Another female singer-songwriter, Hikaru Utada, paid 318 million yen in income tax and placed 76th overall.

Author Kyotaro Nishimura tops the literary section for the fourth straight year, having paid 159.86 million yen. Fellow author Jiro Akagawa paid 86.48 million yen.

House of Representatives lawmaker Takashi Sasagawa tops the list of politicians. Sasagawa, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, paid about 206 million yen.

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