May 17, 2018
Tokyo- Japanese singer Hideki Saijo, who grabbed the hearts of young women and many other fans mainly in the 1970s with hit songs including "Kizudarake no Lola" (Scarred Lola), died of acute heart failure at a hospital in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, on Wednesday night. He was 63.
In 1972, Saijo, a native of the western Japan city of Hiroshima, whose real name was Tatsuo Kimoto, made his debut as a professional singer with "Koisuru Kisetsu" (Season for Falling in Love). In 1974, he released Kizudarake no Lola.
With his good looks, passionate singing voice and eye-catching performances, Saijo dominated Japanese show business with Hiromi Go and Goro Noguchi, who were together called "shin gosanke," or the new big three among male pop stars.
Saijo sang the Japanese version of U.S. disco group Village People's "Y.M.C.A.," released as "Young Man," which went on sale in 1979 and became a smash hit.
His performance of forming the letters Y, M, C and A with his arms as he sang the song became a boom and was imitated by people of all generations.
Other hit tunes of Saijo included "Jonetsu no Arashi" (Storm of Passion) and "Ai no Jujika" (Cross of Love), both released in 1973, and "Hageshii Koi" (Violent Love) and "Boomerang Street," which went on sale in 1974 and 1977, respectively.
He also had many fans in other parts of Asia.
Saijo also performed as an actor, appearing in the popular television drama "Terauchi Kantaro Ikka" (Kantaro Terauchi and His Family) and movie "Ai to Makoto" (Love and Truth).
He suffered a stroke in 2003. Making a comeback to show business three years later, however, Saijo, among other things, gave concerts and appeared regularly in "Shumi no Engei Yasai no Jikan," a TV program of public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp., or NHK, on teaching viewers how to grow vegetables as a hobby.
Saijo was hit by a stroke again, in 2011, and suffered aftereffects. Still, he continued his activities in the entertainment world while undergoing rehabilitation.
After performing in Tochigi Prefecture, eastern Japan, around the middle of last month, however, Saijo saw his health condition deteriorate, and he had been hospitalized since April 25.
"Hideki passed away before me, so I'm filled with sorrow," Go, 62, said.
"When I didn't know anything about show business just after I debuted in the entertainment world, Hideki told me, 'Hiromi, ask me if you have anything you don't know,'" Go recalled. "He took care of me kindly. I'll never forget that."
"I can find no words to say because the news came all of a sudden," Noguchi, 62, said. "Let me give some more time, until I sort out my feelings," he said.
Fans of Saijo paid tributes to him while being saddened by his death.
"He was tall and cool, and sang very well," Naomi Asai, a housewife in her 40s in Hiroshima, said. "I feel thankful for him because he gave me great memories."
Saijo was "a superstar from Hiroshima," a woman in her 50s said. She applauded Saijo as a "trailblazer," noting that he sang songs as an idol and at the same time appeared in TV variety shows.
In Tokyo's fashionable Ginza district, a couple in their 60s mourned Saijo, saying that he was too young to die. They said that they wanted him to continue performing for at least 20 more years.
A 66-year-old woman who works as a copywriter said: "He was like my younger brother as he was close in age with me. He was a cool Showa era guy."
"Saijo's too early death at the age of 63 was extremely sorrowful," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference on Thursday.
"Loved by a lot of people, Saijo was a star who shone in the late part of the Showa era," the top government spokesman said.
Noting that Saijo suffered a stroke twice, but made a comeback after tough rehabilitation, Suga said, "I believe he gave a lot of courage to people with similar diseases." Jiji Press
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