SHIZUOKA/TOKYO – Singer Mariko Miyagi, who founded Nemunoki Gakuen, a welfare facility for children with physical disabilities, died of malignant lymphoma at a Tokyo hospital Saturday. She was 93.
Originally from Ota Ward in Tokyo, Miyagi sang hit songs such as “Gado-shita no Kutsumigaki” (“Shoeshiner under the Girder Bridge”), which was released in 1955.
Miyagi, whose real name is Mariko Honme, also performed as an actress.
Her experience of playing the role of a child with cerebral palsy on the stage led Miyagi to establish and become head of Nemunoki Gakuen in the town of Hamaoka, now the city of Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, in 1968.
In 1979, Miyagi founded a special needs school called Nemunoki Yogo Gakko. She introduced a style of education that focuses heavily on the development of artistic sensitivity in painting, dancing and other fields for students at elementary school through to high school.
After being moved to the city of Kakegawa, also in Shizuoka Prefecture, in 1997, the facilities became known collectively as Nemunoki Mura.
Nemunoki Gakuen was visited by then-Emperor Akihito and then-Empress Michiko in 2018. A 1974 film recording the lives of children at the welfare facility won many awards.
Deceased author Junnosuke Yoshiyuki, Miyagi’s partner for many years, helped her run the facility.
Miyagi was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette, in 2012.