Japanese Enka Ballad Singer Aki Yashiro Dies at Age 73; Known for Hit Songs ‘Funauta,’ ‘Ame no Bojo’ (Update 1)

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Aki Yashiro photographed in Tokyo February, 2023

Japanese enka ballad singer Aki Yashiro known for such hit songs as “Funauta” and “Ame no Bojo,” died on Dec. 30. She was 73.

She had been recuperating from rapid progressive interstitial pneumonia since autumn.

Born in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture, she took her stage name from her hometown. After graduating from junior high school, she took a job as a bus tour guide but quit to fulfill her dream of becoming a singer. She worked her way up through the ranks singing at local cabarets and nightclubs in Tokyo’s Ginza district.

Yashiro made her debut in 1971 at the age of 21. “Namida Goi” became her first big hit in 1973. Her trademark husky voice expressed a woman’s sadness and sentiments of tragic love.

“Funauta” in 1979 became popular, and “Ame no Bojo” won the Japan Record Award in 1980.

In recent years, she had dabbled in jazz and blues and sang at rock festival, attracting younger audience.

Yashiro was also known for her skill in oil painting and was chosen to feature her works at Le Salon art exhibition in France for five consecutive years from 1998.

She also devoted herself to charity work. In the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, she visited the afflicted areas to deliver tatami mats — a specialty of her hometown — to evacuation centers. She also visited evacuation centers at the time of the Kumamoto Earthquake in 2016.