Momoe Yamaguchi (born January 17, 1959) (山口百恵 Yamaguchi Momoe), is a Japanese singer, actress, and idol whose career lasted from 1972 to 1980. In that time, she became one of the most notable singers in Japanese music, and an acclaimed actress. She withdrew from the entertainment business at the peak of her career to marry her frequent costar, fellow actor Tomokazu Miura (三浦友和, Miura Tomokazu). More than twenty years after her retirement, she still commands public interest with constant inquiries about her coming back.
Momoe appeared on the idol talent search television show "A Star is Born" (スター誕生, sutā tanjō) at the age of 13. She sung the children's song "Kaiten Mokuba" (回転木馬, meaning "Merry-go-round"). Though she only came in second place, she still received several deals, and chose a record contract releasing under CBS/Sony.
Her first single, titled "Toshigoro" (としごろ), coupled with her first movie of the same name, did not fare very well in the charts, peaking at a low 37 on the oricon. It wasn't until her second single "Aoi Kajitsu" (青い果実, which has been translated into either "unripe fruit", "blue fruit" or "green fruit") that she really became popular. That single broke the top 10 and peaked at number 9. Momoe fans and Japanese pop culture historians alike have accredited the suggestive lyrics of the song to its success. The chorus goes "You can do what ever you want with me, it's ok if rumors spread that I'm a bad girl" (Japanese: "あなたが望むなら、私何をされてもいいわ。いけない娘だと噂されてもいい" anata ga nozumu nara, watashi nani o sarete mo ii wa. ikenai musume da to uwasa sarete mo ii). All of this coming from a 13 year old Momoe.
This trend carried on in her career for quite a while. One of her biggest hits, and most memorable songs to this day, is her 5th single "Hito natsu no Keiken" (ひと夏の経験, "an experience one summer"), which includes lyrics like "I'll give you the most precious thing a girl has" (あなたに女の子の一番大切なものをあげるわ Anata ni onna no ko no ichiban taisetsu na mono wo ageru wa) and "Everyone experiences it at least once, The sweet trap of temptation" (誰でも一度だけ経験するのよ 誘惑の甘い罠, dare demo ichido dake keiken suru no yo/yūwaku no amai wana).
As time went on, Momoe gained more and more control over her career and strayed away from the songs with suggestive lyrics and went for songs more about a woman being strong and independent. These changes produced some of her most popular and memorable hits, such as "Cosmos" (秋桜, kosumosu, an autumn flower in Japan), "Ii Hi Tabidachi" (いい日旅立ち), and "Sayonara no Mukō Gawa" (さよならの向う側) all of which are covered frequently to this day. The most popular single she ever released was "Yokosuka STORY" (横須賀ストーリー) in 1976, which sold more than 600,000 copies and peaked at number one on the charts.
Her ever growing popularity in the music industry, was paralleled by rising success in film industry. Her second film, "Izu no Odoriko" (伊豆の踊子 "The Dancing Girl of Izu") based on the short story by Nobel Prize winning author Yasunari Kawabata, introduced her to actor Tomokazu Miura. Though Momoe at the time was just 14, and Tomokazu was 22, they hit it off and had great screen chemistry. They starred together in a total of 14 of her 17 movies , one every winter and summer. In 1980, their last cinematic outing brought them back to a work by Kawabata, Koto (古都 The Old Capital), based on the novel of the same title.
Near the end of her career Momoe became very sophisticated in her music. Much like the Beatles, who started out without much artistic experimentation, but ended with influential musical production, Momoe's later career possesses many changes which are not typical of pop idols. Because she wanted to make a rock song before she ended her career, "Rock 'n Roll Widow" was produced, which was included on the concept album Moebius's Game (メビウス・ゲーム). Her 21st album, "Phoenix Densetsu" (不死鳥伝説), was, in fact, written as a rock opera. Her 12th and 18th albums, "GOLDEN FLIGHT" and "L.A. Blue", which were both recorded overseas (in London and Los Angeles respectively) include heavy influences of the music of the country they were recorded in. Overall the sound of her later songs and albums have a much more mature and complex sound than her early songs.
Along with the constant on screen romance between Momoe and Tomokazu Miura, an off screen romance grew. During a trip to Hawaii in early 1979, Tomokazu proposed to Momoe. She accepted, and she also said that she would retire from the entertainment industry to do so. Momoe officially announced their relationship at a concert in October 1979, and the official announcement about their marriage date and her retirement was made in March 1980. Within eight months after the announcement, she gave her farewell concert at the famous Nippon Budokan on October 5 1980, released her last album "This is my trial" on October 21 1980, and released her last single "Ichi E" (一恵) on November 19 1980.
On October 15 1980, Momoe officially retired from show business, and on November 19 1980, Momoe and Tomokazu were married. Though rumors have been circulating since her retirement that she would come back, she has devoted herself to being a homemaker and mother to two sons ever since her retirement.
In 2002, during an interview, Momoe claimed herself to be a descendant of Yang Guifei. Yang Guifei (Concubine Yang Yuhuan) was one of the Four Beauties of Ancient China. After investigations, Momoe was found indeed to be from a Yang village in China. However, Yang Guifei was not known to have born any children. Thus, that was the closest Momoe could get to the famous beauty Yang Guifei.
Ireland / Irish singing sisters The Nolans released an album of songs entitled "The Nolans Sing Momoe" which was repackaged and re-issued in 2005.