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May 15, 1935 |
|Occupation||Singer, actor, stage actor, composer, author, theatre director|
Akihiro Maruyama (丸山 明宏 Maruyama Akihiro?, born Shingo Maruyama, May 15, 1935, in Nagasaki, Nagasaki), better known by his stage name Akihiro Miwa (美輪 明宏 Miwa Akihiro?), is an Japanese singer, actor, director, composer, and author. He writes most of his own music and has written over 20 books. Miwa is openly gay, and a drag queen who is known for having shoulder-length bright yellow hair.
Miwa was born to a family which ran a small cafe. After seeing the movie Boy Soprano at the age of 11, he claims to have had a dream in which he was standing on stage in a concert hall, singing. It was this which inspired his interest in music. He then attended the Kunitachi College of Music High School at the age of 15.
He started his career at 17 as a professional cabaret singer in the Ginza district in Chūō, Tokyo, when moving to Tokyo in 1952. He started working in various nightclubs singing his favourites from the French chansons such as those of Édith Piaf, Yvette Guilbert and Marie Dubas. His claim to fame came rather early in 1957, with a smash-hit called "Me Que Me Que", which included a string of profanities not used in media at the time. He was also renowned for his effeminate beauty, making him a hit with the media. He performed a monthly show at Shibuya Jean-Jean called "Akihiro Miwa no Sekai" (the world of Akihiro Miwa) from the 1970s until its closure in 2000, as well as touring Japan.
Miwa has written many books as well, and is known for his outspoken stances on social issues and war. This can be attributed to his having experienced the worst of it; he was in Nagasaki when it was destroyed by an atomic bomb, but he escaped relatively unhurt. He is highly critical of the government at all his concerts.
Song – "Yoitomake no Uta"
(see ヨイトマケの唄 for further details)
In 1964, Miwa first released the "Yoitomake no Uta" ("The Song of the Yoitomake") after giving a show at a small mining town, due to a mistake by a producer. While he was not entirely willing to perform at first, he was touched at the sight of workers who had come to see him, having bought their tickets with the little wages miners received then. Miwa was "ashamed and embarrassed of [himself], standing before them in [his] flamboyant clothes", and also that he did not have a song "for them". This experience inspired him to write "Yoitomake no Uta", as well as his rule to not crossdress or wear any of his usual extravagant clothing or make-up when he sang this song, wearing instead the shabby, dark clothes of a post-World War II child and dying his literally yellow hair to a more natural black. While the song was a big success – a working song which tells of a mother's love for her child as she works as a "yoitomake", and a child's determination to not let his mother's effort go to waste after being teased for being the child of a "yoitomake", based on a story of a childhood friend of Miwa – it was criticised by the then-NAB (National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan) for using several "discriminating" words, with Yoitomake being one of them. (Yoitomake is an old slang word for a job which consisted of several day labourers heaving on a rope attached to a heavy weight, to level the ground in a time when construction machinery was still not used). The song was eventually banned from commercial broadcasting, leading to an outcry among viewers and Miwa himself that it was being judged by one word from the title, and not the content. The incidents pertaining to this song lead Miwa to stop appearing on television to sing for many years later.
After numerous covers were made of the song by artists such as Kyu Sakamoto and Kuwata Keisuke, "Yoitomake no Uta" was broadcast nationwide in the 2012 63rd NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen. Miwa appeared in his old, plain showboy-like costume, singing in the dark with only faint pinspot light for the audience to barely distinguish his face, as his request. Surprisingly, the six-minute long song drew great attention from all ages in Japan, even to a generation which had never known that the song even existed.
Although Miwa is better known as a cabaret singer he has also appeared in a number of films, beginning as a laundry boy in Sennin Buraku in 1961 (under his real name). He also appeared in Shuji Terayama's Aomori-ken no Semushi Otoko in 1967. In 1968 he starred in and composed the theme song for Kinji Fukasaku's Black Lizard, based on Mishima's stage adaptation of the Edogawa Rampo novel; Mishima also had a cameo in the film as an embalmed corpse. The next year Miwa made another film with Fukasaku, Black Rose Mansion. In recent years he has voiced characters in Hayao Miyazaki's internationally successful anime films Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle, and appeared in Takeshi Kitano's 2005 film Takeshis'.
Miwa is also well known as a TV personality. Hugely popular among women of all age groups, he appears in up to six shows a week and is known for his outspoken, catty, and sometimes downright rude comments about politicians and others in public life.
- Ryall, Julian (September 6, 2006). "On Japanese Tv, The Lady Is A Man Cross-dressing 'onnagata' Are Popular For Being Outspoken". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2009-03-16.