Renowned Japanese Musician Shinji Tanimura Passes Away at 74

Musician's bond transcends national borders and history

by Nouman Rasool
Renowned Japanese Musician Shinji Tanimura Passes Away at 74
© Koji Watanabe/GettyImages

Celebrated Japanese singer-songwriter Shinji Tanimura, best remembered for his iconic track "Subaru" (Star), which resonated deeply with audiences in China, sadly passed away on October 8th, as confirmed by his music agency this Monday.

A distinguished figure in the world of Japanese folk music, Tanimura was a pivotal member of the beloved trio, Alice, founded back in 1971. Earlier this year, he faced a major health setback, undergoing surgery for acute enteritis in March.

Though he was under continual care, his condition unfortunately deteriorated. Beyond his remarkable contributions with Alice, Tanimura’s solo career was equally storied. His 1980’s magnum opus, "Subaru", painted a vivid picture of a traveler wishing upon a starlit sky.

This song’s significance was further underscored when Tanimura was chosen to perform it at the opening ceremony of the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.

Tanimura's Deep China Connection

Dedicated to fostering Japan-China ties, despite the nations' historically strained relationship, Tanimura held numerous concerts in China.

His passion even led him to an academic role as a professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Recalling his deep emotional connection with China, Tanimura once fondly remarked that he might've been "Chinese in a previous life," resonating with his countless fans across borders.

This bond was evident in 1981 when Alice received an invitation to perform in Beijing, an event graced by then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. News of Tanimura's passing sent shockwaves through the global music community. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning conveyed her condolences, and fans across the world mourned, with tributes flooding platforms like Weibo.

One user lamented, "74 is not old...what a loss," emphasizing Tanimura’s mesmerizing artistry. Despite tensions between nations, many acknowledged Tanimura's unparalleled impact. "Regardless of China-Japan conflicts, this man deserves immense respect," shared another Weibo enthusiast.

Alice, which made a comeback in the 2000s, intended to embark on a Japan-wide tour this year. However, the plans were halted due to Tanimura's health. The trio, alongside Tanimura, included Takao Horiuchi and Toru Yazawa, gifted the world with hits like "Champion" and "Fuyuno Inazuma" (Thunderbolt in Winter).

In addition to his own classics, Tanimura penned "Iihi Tabidachi" for the '70s sensation Momoe Yamaguchi. His invaluable contributions to music and culture were recognized with a Medal with Purple Ribbon by the Japanese government, honoring his lasting artistic legacy.