The fraudulent composer dubbed “Japan’s Beethoven” said yesterday he was “deeply ashamed” about his nearly two decades of deception, but insisted that he did used to be deaf.
Mamoru Samuragochi said his impairment had improved in recent times, but when he first paid part-time music school teacher Takashi Niigaki to pen works in his name, he had been unable to hear.
“I feel deeply ashamed of myself for living a false life,” Samuragochi said in a hand-written statement. “I also apologize to Mr Niigaki, whose life went wrong because of complying with my demands for 18 years. In recent years I have started to be able to hear a little bit more than before... since about three years ago I can hear words if people speak clearly and slowly into my ears. It is true that I received a certificate proving I had a hearing disorder and that I couldn’t hear anything up until three years ago.”
The scandal broke last week when Samuragochi, who is credited with being behind an anthemic tribute to the tenacity of Japan’s tsunami survivors, admitted he had been paying someone else to write his music for nearly two decades.
A day later, Niigaki came forward to hold a lengthy press conference in which he revealed he had earned just ￥7 million (US$70,000) for writing more than 20 pieces and claimed Samuragochi’s hearing disability was an act.
“I’ve never felt he was deaf ever since we met,” Niigaki said last week. “We carry on normal conversations. I don’t think he is [handicapped].”
Samuragochi’s lawyers said they had also been duped by his pretense.
“We had explained to journalists that he was mostly likely deaf, because he had an official certificate showing he was hearing-impaired,” the lawyers said in a statement. “In addition to that, we had taken on board what a sign language interpreter had said and what our own impressions were. As a result we were wrong.”
Japan’s often sentimental media had previously lapped up Samuragochi’s story, feasting on the narrative of a tortured genius robbed of the ability to hear the beautiful music he made.
Samuragochi’s star burned all the brighter after a documentary entitled Melody of the Soul was shown on NHK last year.
Cameras followed Samuragochi, whose long hair and permanent sunglasses made him look the part, as he toured tsunami-battered Tohoku region to meet survivors and those who lost relatives in the 2011 catastrophe.
The film showed Samuragochi playing with a small girl whose mother was killed in the disaster and apparently composing a requiem for her.
“I’m determined to quit telling lie after lie,” his statement said. “I swear by heaven and earth that what I write here today is the truth.”
In a move that will have set pulses racing in newsrooms across Japan, he pledged to appear in public to offer contrition.
“I feel I am finally ready, so I promise I will make my direct apology publicly sometime soon,” he said.
The public apology is an important ritual in Japan for those who have fallen from grace, attracting photographers eager for a shot of the requisite deep bow.