major - deceased (1991 - 2007)
ZARD, despite the secrecy surrounding them, has established themselves as one of the most popular acts that Japan has ever produced. Perhaps this popularity can be attributed to the lack of publicity surrounding the group, whom, in their sixteen years have only ever held two national tours and performed seven times on various music programs. Perhaps, most astonishingly however, is the realization that ZARD was in fact greatly dependent on its creator, Izumi Sakai, for material. In the sixteen years that ZARD dominated the Oricon with every release, Izumi Sakai penned over one hundred and fifty individual lyrics for songs.

ZARD's popularity can be attributed to their lyrics and, of course, Izumi's vocals. A vast majority of her material was aimed at encouraging others and, with the aid of her soulful voice, the song Makenaide became known as the song of Japan's "lost decade". With the release of Heart ni hi wo tsukete, ZARD's last single was written to herself, in order to encourage her to overcome her illness.
author: Cage (2008-01-21)
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Izumi Sakai, was born as Sachiko Kamachi, in the Fukuoka Prefecture 1967, although she was raised in the Kanagawa Prefecture along with her two siblings. Izumi began her legacy in music as a child, beginning to learn piano at the age of four, and she aspired to be a musician from this young age. Izumi graduated from Shoin Women's College in Kanagawa before landing herself a position in a real estate company for two years before she was scouted by Stardust Promotion.

For the first two years after her discovery by Stardust, Izumi was exposed to the public as a Toei "karaoke queen" and promotional model, starring in commercials for Japan Air System. It was in 1990 that music producer Taiko Nagato of Being Corporation noticed Izumi's talents as a singer and songwriter.

It was then that Sachiko Kamachi adopted the pseudonym that would bring her so much fame, although Izumi also changed the year of her birth to 1969 due to the release of her first photo book and video. These two particular releases displayed the young woman in provocative poses, media that Izumi felt haunted by.

In 1991 Izumi joined ZARD as vocalist and although the band name did not hold any particular relevance, Izumi felt that the name hinted towards a rock group. Although ZARD was a group, the name became synonymous with Izumi as she contributed most of the lyrics to the band's works over the years.

The compositions of the early ZARD releases were written by Oda Tetsuo and Kuribayashi Seiichirou, both notable composers in the industry. A veteran recording producer described that while most artists communicate through the transparent glass of the recording studio, Izumi preferred to have a curtain drawn across.

The band’s first single, Good-bye My Loneliness, peaked at number nine on the Oricon Chart, a notable debut chart position. Unfortunately, their following two releases failed to create such an impact although they both charted in the Top 40. By 1992, ZARD released their fourth single, Nemurenai yoru wo daite, and watched it peak at number eight, a noticeable increase on their previous releases in both the single and album department.

The year 1993 signaled one of great fortune in ZARD's history. Towards the end of January, Makenaide was released to the public and, thankfully, it appealed immensely. Released at a period that is now recognized as a "slump" in Japan's history, the song became the theme of the country's "lost decade". Izumi, during an interview on Music Station, commented that the song was in fact to encourage men in college and taking company employment examinations; many people stated after her death that the song helped them to cope with difficult social issues e.g. school bullying.

Makenaide sold 1,645,010 copies and is ZARD's highest selling record in their sixteen year history. More notably however, was the band’s first number one single and in late 1993 Izumi was ranked as the top artist in CD sales and second as a lyricist.

Izumi went on to produce forty-two singles, eleven albums and five compilations in her lifetime. In addition to Makenaide, both Yureru omoi and MY FRIEND sold over 1,000,000 copies. Perhaps most stunningly, six of her albums went on to achieve the same success, making Izumi one of the most successful Japanese singers ever.

In 1993 Izumi worked on her first collaboration with musical greats ZYYG, REV, WANDS and former baseball player Nagashima Shigeo. Unsurprisingly, with the single displaying such popular talents of the decade, it was no wonder that Hateshinai yume wo sold an impressive 730,000 units, achieving the number two spot on the Oricon.

ZARD's subsequent album release of 1994, OH MY LOVE, proved that the band had founded themselves as a force to be reckoned with, as the album shot to number one, selling over 2,000,000 copies and charting for a total of seventy-five weeks.

In 1996, Izumi penned the title track for Field of View's hit single Dan dan kokoro hikareteku, which was used as the opening theme for Dragonball GT. The year also signified the release of ZARD's seventh album and their fourth number one place on the album chart. Unlike its predecessor only two years before, the album charted for a total period of forty weeks.

ZARD released no original studio albums in 1997 and 1998, instead settling for their first selection album, ZARD BLEND ~SUN & STONE~. Despite being a best-of, the album went on to sell a staggering 2,002,670 copies and charted for fifty-four weeks. In the Spring of 1998, Izumi penned WANDS's title track, Brand New Love, the single peaking at seventeen on the Oricon Single Chart.

Most remarkably in their career, ZARD held their first mass live performance since 1993 on the 31st of August 1999. The concert, Cruising & Live at the PACIFIC VENUS, was performed on the aforementioned cruise ship to a select 600 who were chosen from 2,000,000 applicants.

For those unfortunate fans who were not selected in the random vote, the concert was released as a limited edition CD+CD-ROM of only 300,000 copies. That year also saw the artist releasing four score books, compiling the songs released on their selection and best of albums.

The following years held a fairly familiar pattern in ZARD's career. Izumi continued to release both singles and albums to relative success and it was in 2003 when activity finally seemed to pick up once again for the band.

ZARD celebrated their 10th anniversary with the opening of, a homepage which was rumored to have been online since January, but was kept closed to the public until February, the band’s actual formation date. March 27th saw ZARD‘s first live performance since 1999 at Hills pan koujou SATURDAY LIVE R&B NIGHT. In the same month, Izumi startled fans by appearing on the cover of magazine Music Freaks. This signaled ZARD's largest ever media appearance with a fourteen page interview. In August, Izumi featured on TAK MATSUMOTO's single, Ihoujin, which achieved the number three spot on the Oricon. The song was originally sung by 70s singer Kubota Saki.

The year 2004 saw ZARD releasing their first original studio album since 2001. Tomatteita tokei ga imaugokidashita peaked at number two, selling 212,494 copies and charting for fourteen weeks. Most excitingly for fans however, was that ZARD announced their first full-length tour. Starting in March at Osaka, the tour ended on July 23rd at Nippon Budokan, well known for its back catalog of famous performers.

Izumi, who had penned material for Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng, sang a tribute to the young woman in the form of her last Japanese single in 2005. Anata to tomo ni ikite yuku featured Mandarin dialog and music performed by the Erhu in memory of the 10th anniversary of Teng's death.

In June 2006, it was announced that Izumi had been diagnosed with cervical cancer, the artist immediately undergoing treatment for her condition. Understandably, releases for the year were nowhere near as intensive, with two singles in the Spring and ZARD's Golden Best ~15th Anniversary~ released in October. The album sold 470,000 copies and reached the number one position on the Oricon, a testament to her popularity.

Sadly, despite her condition appearing to have subsided, the cancer spread to Izumi's lungs, indicating a Stage 5 cancer. In April 2007, Izumi continued her course of treatment at Keio University Hospital. However tragic the circumstances may have been, Izumi continued to convey a positive attitude. Her mother claimed that her daughter continued to greet visitors cheerfully and displayed no outward signs of her illness. A fellow patient also revealed that Izumi would take walks with her and would later sing Makenaide to her when she was no longer able to walk. Perhaps most touching however, was Izumi's anxious e-mail to her staff, claiming that she desired to return to producing music and was even planning a concert for late 2007.

Tragically, Izumi passed away on the 27th of May 2007. Police investigating the case judged her death as "accidental", the result of a fall from an emergency exit slope at the University Hospital where she was undergoing treatment. According to the police, the accident took place during a walk on the morning of May 26th, from a height of around three meters. Izumi was later discovered by a passer-by at around 5:40A.M. and was transported to the hospital's emergency room where she later passed away as result of injuries sustained to her head.

Due to the unusual circumstances surrounding her death, police originally suspected suicide, but later concluded that the incident had been the result of an unfortunate accident. The sudden announcement of Izumi's death roused deep sympathy from those in the music industry and the media, the news dominating headlines and Music Station holding a four minute tribute to Izumi on June 1st, which was repeated a week later due to public demand.

A private memorial service was held for Izumi on the 26th of June at Aoyama, Tokyo for members of the music industry. Among those in attendance were fellow "phantom singer" Ohguro Maki, TAK MATSUMOTO, Koshi Inaba, Kuraki Mai and Shigeo Nagashima. Utada Hikaru and Nanase Aikawa, despite having never met or collaborated with Izumi, left moving tributes to the artist on their official websites.

A public memorial service was held the following day and was attended by around 40,000 people from all over Japan. South Korean singer Ryu also attended the event, claiming that Japan had lost one of the true greats of their nation.

A series of memorial concerts were held in Izumi's memory at the Osaka Festival on September 6th and 7th, as well as September 14th at the Nippon Budokan. Tickets sold out immediately and 15,000 gathered for the concert held in Tokyo. Izumi's favorite microphone took center stage and nine screens displayed previously unreleased off-screen footage of Izumi, discovered by her staff after her death. A portion of the proceeds from the concert were donated to cervical cancer research.

Most astonishingly for ZARD's fans however, was the discovery that Izumi had been in the process of recording a new song, Glorious Mind. The artist had been able to record the chorus in December 2006 despite undergoing treatment at the time and, in a three minute report on ZARD in November 2007, it was also reported that Izumi's physical weakness had allowed her to sing only a handful of times.

On December 12th 2007, Glorious Mind was released to the public and, according to the Oricon, was the best selling single of the day on the first six days of its release, falling to third on the seventh.

Izumi's office has announced that there will be a 2008 nationwide tour consisting of fifteen concerts at thirteen locations in early 2008. The first concert will be held at Kobe International Forum on January 19th and the concluding event will be performed at the Tokyo Gymnasium on May 27th, a year after her death.

Despite Izumi's passing, it is unquestionable that her legacy will continue to thrive within Japan and internationally for years to come. ZARD is a testament to the fact that you do not necessarily have to be in the public eye to achieve overwhelming popularity and sales. Whether you know ZARD or not, after such an extraordinary career, one can only feel proud for what this young woman achieved.
author: Cage (2008-01-21)

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