Amuro Fever Spreads in Japan
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Amuro Fever Spreads in Japan

    NHK World
    Correspondent
    With less than 2 weeks to go until Japanese pop diva Namie Amuro retires, Amuro fever is sweeping the country. The singer announced last year that she will end her 26-year career on September 16th.

    Music video becomes million seller

    Footage of Amuro's last concert tour went on sale on August 29th. Music industry information firm Oricon says that in the first 3 days, more than a million copies of DVDs and Blu-ray discs were sold. That has made it Japan's top-selling music video, and the first million seller.

    Amuro fans flocked to a music shop in Tokyo's Shibuya district to buy the product. The store set up a special section where fans can leave their messages to the singer.

    A woman said she wrote that she loved Amuro since her debut and always will. Another wrote that when she was going through tough times, she would go to Amuro's concerts, where she was always cheered up and encouraged.

    Some people appear to have bought multiple copies of the concert video. The music industry has seen its sales plummet as people turn to the online stores and video-sharing websites to enjoy music.

    But for Amuro's video, pre-orders alone topped the one-million mark. Fans posted their feelings of appreciation on social-networking websites.

    One wrote, "I ordered 2 Blu-rays. I'll watch them until my 5-copy set exclusively for fan club members arrives."

    Another says: "I pre-ordered 5 Blu-ray copies. It's her last tour, so this is my congratulatory gift for her. I hope this will help make it the first million-selling music DVD in Japan's history."

    Music critic Issei Tomisawa says, "Nobody had expected Amuro to suddenly retire at her prime...The DVDs and Blu-ray discs have captured her last concert at the Tokyo Dome in June, as well as other events. Fans can keep them on hand and watch them whenever they want. Videos may be available online as well, but having a tangible copy carries far more value for the fans."

    By comparison, when the all-male pop group SMAP disbanded in 2016, the initial shipment of their last album totaled 800,000 copies.

    Train stations play Amuro's music

    Amuro has given rise to various social phenomena. She influenced many teenage girls across Japan to dress like her and dye their hair brown in a similar style. In 1996, "Amurer," which referred to such fans, was chosen as the year's buzz word.

    Many of my high school classmates were Amurers. We sang Amuro's hit songs countless times during our karaoke sessions.

    Amuro fever is spreading as her retirement day approaches. Her music can be heard at some train stations. The melody of her 2016 hit, "Hero," is played at Shibuya Station on the Tokyu-Toyoko Line in Tokyo, and at Fukuoka Station of Nishi-Nippon Railroad, or Nishitetsu, in western Japan, to signal the departure of trains. This began in mid-August and will continue until the day she retires. It's part of a project which includes an exhibition chronicling Amuro's path that's being held in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and Okinawa.

    We asked some passengers whether they noticed the melody. A 41-year-old man who uses the Tokyu-Toyoko Line a couple of times a month for business says, "I heard the melody a short while ago. It was different from usual, and I recognized that it was Amuro's right away. I've been listening to her songs since my childhood. It's a pity that she's retiring."

    A 33-year-old woman says she heard it a few days ago when she used the Tokyu-Toyoko Line. She says, "I noticed it immediately. I'm so happy that her music is being played even at the station."

    "Hero" was aired on NHK repeatedly in 2016 as it was the theme song for the TV station's special broadcasts on the Rio de Janeiro Olympic and Paralympic Games.

    The railroad companies chose this song as a departure melody based on Amuro's recommendation.

    Fans look to Okinawa

    Amuro's final stage performance is scheduled on September 15th, a day before her retirement, in Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture.

    Japan's leading tour company, JTB, said that almost all hotels are fully booked in the city and in nearby Naha City as well.

    An employee of a local tour company, Okinawa Tourist, said, "We started hearing a rumor right after her retirement was announced last year that fans have already started reserving hotel rooms in Okinawa, predicting that her final concert will be in her hometown."

    Meanwhile, Okinawa Prefecture has begun a campaign in mid-August featuring Amuro to boost tourism.

    It shows her photo on its website. The photo, which is also being used in a poster, was taken at Araha Beach in Chatan Town, Okinawa Prefecture. It shows Amuro posing in a white dress on a beach in Okinawa.

    The website also shows footage of a woman who visits Okinawa for the first time. She is deeply touched by its beautiful nature, unique culture and friendly people. Amuro's song "Tempest" plays in the background.

    Both the photo and the footage are available on the official homepage of Okinawa Prefecture until the day Amuro retires.

    Okinawa government officials say that Amuro took part in the campaign voluntarily to show her appreciation for her hometown and contribute to it.

    Japanese fans aren't the only ones saddened by Amuro's retirement. Bookstores and other places have set up special sections dedicated to her. In Taiwan, for example, the magazine "Elle Taiwan" features Amuro on the front page of its September edition.

    As the final day of her 26-year career nears, her immense popularity is apparent.

    People have posted many messages on the Internet regretting her retirement. One of them reads, "I wish Amuro could continue to sing forever." All eyes are on how diva Namie Amuro will close her final concert and end her musical career.