Chiyoko Shimakura, famously known as one of Japan’s most enduring post-war singers and purveyor of modern “enka” music, died of liver cancer at a Tokyo hospital Friday, as announced by her record label. She was 75. “Enka” is a popular Japanese music genre resembling traditional Japanese music, but using a relatively modern musical form and expressions. Shimakura was one of the genre’s premier artists with a career spanning 58 years and numerous hits, including “Jinsei Iroiro” (“Such is Life”) and “Tokyo Dayo Okkasan” (“It’s Tokyo, Mother”).
Shimakura, who was from Tokyo, debuted in 1955 with the song, “Kono Yono Hana” (“A Flower of this World”), this after winning a singing contest as a high school student. Shimakura then won a national singing contest organized by major record label Nippon Columbia Co. in 1954, and eventually released in “Tokyo Dayo Okkasan” in 1957. The song was a smash hit, with sales of more than 1 million copies, cementing her place in the entertainment world. She also played the lead role in a movie based on the song. She continued to produce hit songs and appeared in the annual year-end music show of NHK a total of 35 times.
Shimakura married once and divorced in 1968. But also in that year, she scored a megahit that marked a turning point in her entertainment career, with the song “Ai no Sazanami” (Ripples of love). Shimakura won the Japan Record Special Award for the first time with this song, and as such had a very sentimental value for her. Later in her career, she was known to be battling with breast cancer and heavy financial issues. Aside from her singing career, Shimakura also appeared in television variety shows and also displayed her acting talent on the theater stage, as well as in TV dramas and movies.
[via Japan Times]