J-pop queen Namie Amuro retires after 26 years in showbiz

Queen of J-pop Namie Amuro at a press conference in Singapore on July 7, 2012. PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC

Queen of J-pop Namie Amuro has officially retired from showbiz. The superstar, who will soon turn 41, performed for the last time on Saturday (Sept 15) in her hometown of Okinawa and officially updated her website on Sunday with news of her retirement.

Amuro, who debuted on Sept 16, 1992, shocked fans when she announced last year that she will retire on the 26th anniversary of her debut.

On Sunday, she bowed out officially with a message to fans on her website.

The pop icon said: "I know all my fans have different feelings about my choice to retire. Even so, at the end, they chose to send me off with their smiles. I am grateful for their kindness.

"Once again, I thank all my fans with all my heart, for cheering me on and supporting me through such a fruitful 25 years."

Amuro has been running a year's worth of farewell activities ever since her retirement announcement - fans clamoured to catch her perform before she said goodbye to the stage for good.

Her last greatest hits album titled Finally sold 2.3 million copies and her final tour in Japan and Asia, which ran for five months through June, attracted 800,000 concertgoers for 23 performances, according to a report by Japanese media outlet Asahi Shimbun.

The article added that following news of her retirement, Amuro made history as the first Japanese female singer to grace Vogue Japan's cover.

For her last performance held at the Okinawa Convention Centre, she sang eight songs in a 30-minute set to an audience of 3,500. Thousands more showed up outside the venue, hoping to hear her sing from outside. Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai, who had once collaborated with Amuro, was also invited to be in Amuro's line-up.

Although fans chanted her name "Namie, Namie" as she left the stage, she did not return for an encore.

The diva, who was first a member of all-girl group Super Monkey's, went solo shortly after and quickly became a regional sensation and an icon of 1990s and early 2000s J-pop with hits like Can You Celebrate and Chase The Chance.

She also single-handedly inspired legions of girls to follow the Amuraa style - a combination of tanned skin, mini-skirts and high-heeled platform boots - Amuro's trademark look.

At the peak of her career in 1997, Amuro announced her pregnancy and marriage to TRF band member Masaharu "Sam" Maruyama. The two divorced in 2002.

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