'Japan's Beethoven' apologises, insists he used to be deaf

TOKYO (AFP) - A man dubbed "Japan's Beethoven", who admitted someone else wrote his music and came under fire when his ghost composer claimed he could hear perfectly well, apologised on Wednesday, but insisted he used to be deaf.

Mamoru Samuragochi said his impairment had improved in recent times but that when he had first paid part-time music school teacher Takashi Niigaki to pen works in his name, he had been unable to hear.

"I feel deeply ashamed of myself for living a false life," Samuragochi said in a statement.

"I also apologise to Mr Niigaki, whose life went wrong because of complying with my demands for 18 years.

"In recent years I have started to be able to hear a little bit more than before... since about three years ago I can hear words if people speak clearly and slowly into my ears.

"It is true that I received a certificate proving I had a hearing disorder and that I couldn't hear anything up until three years ago," he said.

The scandal broke last week when Samuragochi, who is credited with being behind an anthemic tribute to the tenacity of Japan's tsunami survivors, admitted he had been paying someone else to write his music for nearly two decades.

A day later, Niigaki came forward to hold a lengthy press conference in which he revealed he had earned just 7 million yen (S$86,000) for writing more than 20 pieces and claimed Samuragochi's hearing disability was an act.

"I've never felt he was deaf ever since we met," Niigaki said last week.

"We carry on normal conversations. I don't think he is (handicapped).

Japan's often sentimental media had previously lapped up Samuragochi's story, feasting on the narrative of a tortured genius who had been robbed of the ability to hear the beautiful music he made.

Samuragochi's star burned all the brighter after a documentary entitled "Melody of the Soul", was shown on NHK last year.

Cameras followed Samuragochi, whose long, flowing hair and permanent sunglasses made him look the part, as he toured the tsunami-battered Tohoku region to meet survivors and those who lost relatives in the 2011 catastrophe.

The film showed Samuragochi playing with a small girl whose mother was killed in the disaster and apparently composing a requiem for her.

"I'm determined to quit telling lie after lie," his Wednesday statement said.

"I swear by heaven and earth that what I write here today is the truth." Meanwhile Japanese Winter Olympics medal hopeful, figure skater Daisuke Takahashi, said this week the revelation that "Sonatina for Violin" had not been composed by Samuragochi would have no bearing on his use of it during his short programme on Thursday in Sochi.

"I wasn't sure whether I could still use this music or not," he told reporters. "I didn't know the background when I chose it; I just liked the music.

"It wasn't something I was aware of. I hope this problem will be solved, but I am still happy to be able to use this music for skating."

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