Singer Hideki Saijo dies of heart failure

Japanese singer Hideki Saijo in a 1991 photo.
Japanese singer Hideki Saijo in a 1991 photo.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

TOKYO • He suffered a stroke in 2011 but 40 days later, boosted by rehabilitation work, Japanese singer Hideki Saijo was back performing on stage at a charity event, seated in a chair.

The professional that he was, he kept the 1,200-strong audience enthralled with 12 songs.

Buoyed by their loud applause, he gathered all his strength to stand up and sing the last number.

On Wednesday, Saijo, who said he did not quit show business because he wanted to stay positive and inspire others dealing with health issues, died at age 63.

His agency said he died of heart failure in a hospital in Yokohama, NHK World reported.

Saijo, who was born in Hiroshima city and made his debut at 17, caught the eye of many fans, especially in the 1970s, with his energetic performances.

His track record included hits such as Kizudarake No Laura (Laura With A Thousand Cuts) and Young Man.

He made his mark in other Asian countries, including performing in 1998 at the Great Wall to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-China peace and friendship treaty.

He performed at a concert held just before the 1988 Seoul Olympics, becoming the first Japanese to sing in Japanese at a public venue in South Korea after World War II ended.

Other career highlights straddled the worlds of TV and movies.

Saijo made appearances in the TV comedy series Terauchi Kantaro Ikka, that showcased a traditional Japanese family, while his film, Ai To Makoto (Love And Sincerity), was a box-office hit.

NHK World also said that his death was a big blow to many fans in China, with tributes already popping up on websites popular with youth.

One commentator said Saijo will never really "die", as fans can still keep the faith by listening to his songs over and over again.

And they will take courage from what Saijo said in his comeback after the stroke: "I'm not what I used to be, but my fans listened to my songs with an open heart.

"At any rate, I stood on the stage at the concert.

"By setting a goal, I felt like I was able to advance - even if it was just a step at a time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2018, with the headline 'Singer Hideki Saijo dies of heart failure'. Print Edition | Subscribe