By MARTIN FACKLER FEB. 6, 2014
TOKYO — He was celebrated as a prolific musical genius whose compositions appeared in popular video games and the competition routine of a top figure skater in the coming Sochi Olympics. His deafness won him praise as Japan’s modern-day Beethoven.
It turns out his magnum opus was his own masquerade.
On Thursday, Japan learned that one of its most popular musical figures, Mamoru Samuragochi, 50, had staged an elaborate hoax in which someone else had secretly written his most famous compositions, and he had perhaps even faked his hearing disability.
Across a nation long captivated by Western classical music, people reacted with remorse, outrage and even the rare threat of a lawsuit after Mr. Samuragochi’s revelations that he had hired a ghostwriter since the 1990s to compose most of his music. The anger turned to disbelief when the ghostwriter himself came forward to accuse Mr. Samuragochi of faking his deafness, apparently to win public sympathy and shape the Beethoven persona.
The scandal began on Wednesday, when Mr. Samuragochi publicly confessed that someone else had written his most famous works. These include Symphony No. 1 “Hiroshima,” about the 1945 atomic bombing of his home city, which became a classical music hit in Japan; the theme music for the video games Resident Evil and Onimusha; and Sonatina for Violin, which the Japanese Olympic figure skater Daisuke Takahashi is scheduled to use in his short program performance at the Winter Games in Sochi.
The timing could hardly have been worse for Mr. Takahashi, a potential medalist who won the bronze in the Vancouver Olympics four years ago. He said in a statement that he would continue to skate to the musical piece — he really had little choice with scant time left before the competition — and hoped the revelations would not overshadow his performance.
... The reason for this sudden repentance became clear on Thursday when the ghostwriter revealed himself to be Takashi Niigaki, 43, a hitherto largely unknown part-time lecturer at a prestigious music college in Tokyo. Mr. Niigaki said he had written more than 20 songs for Mr. Samuragochi since 1996, for which he received the equivalent of about $70,000.
He said he felt so guilty about the deception that he had threatened to go public in the past, but Mr. Samuragochi had begged him not to. He said he finally could not take it anymore when he learned one of his songs would be used by the Olympic skater. He told his story to a weekly tabloid, which went on sale Thursday.
“He told me that if I didn’t write songs for him, he’d commit suicide,” Mr. Niigaki told a crowded news conference. “But I could not bear the thought of skater Takahashi being seen by the world as a co-conspirator in our crime.”
Perhaps just as shocking was Mr. Niigaki’s assertion that Mr. Samuragochi was never deaf. Mr. Niigaki said that he had regular conversations with Mr. Samuragochi, who listened to and commented on his compositions. Mr. Niigaki said the deafness was just “an act that he was performing to the outside world.”