R.I.P. Japanese singer Izumi Sakai, aka Zard (1967-2007)

Japanese pop singer Izumi Sakai aka Zard

Just found out that Japanese singer-songwriter Izumi Sakai has passed away last month following a mishap at a hospital where she’s being treated for cancer. She fell from a staircase and hit her head badly after a morning walk.

Not sure if it had anything to do with her illness. Reports seemed to suggest that it’s purely accidental, it’s mentioned that the stairs were very slippery due to rain.

The legendary Zard

Sakai’s real name was Sachiko Kamachi. She worked in real estate before starting her showbiz career as a model in late 80’s. She started singing as the lead vocalist of ZARD in 1991, and she also started using her adopted name Izumi Sakai.

All other initial members of Zard left the band in 1993. New members joined and left regularly and Sakai was the only one who stayed on, thus Zard became synonymous with Sakai herself. Most if not all of her songs are released under Zard.

Zard produced 42 singles as well as 11 albums and 5 compilations in her lifetime. She also wrote the lyrics for all but two of the songs.

She was the best-selling female recording artist of the 1990’s and has sold over 30 million copies of sales, making her one of the best-selling music artists in Japan of all time. Her popular songs include Makenaide, Yureru Omoi and My Friend etc.

Her sales in the 90’s were ahead of Namie Amuro, the de facto pop queen in that era. Amuro was more famous though especially outside of Japan, one of the reasons was probably Sakai’s low profile. Not taking away anything from Amuro… she’s also known for her dances and fashion etc., a complete pop culture icon.

The mysterious Zard

As said, Sakai was also famously known for being mysterious. She rarely appeared on TV, and her company released very few information about the artist. Back in the days without internet it’s a lot easier to keep things secret. There were even speculations that the girl in Zard’s album covers were not the singer =)

After writing the last paragraph I suddenly realised there’s probably never a band to begin with… Zard was Izumi Sakai, and just Sakai. Perhaps all that was just a brilliant marketing ploy. Regardless, you will be missed Sakai-san, rest in peace.

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