Yamaguchi Momoe was born in Shibuya, Tokyo, on January 17th, 1959. Shortly after her birth, Yamaguchi was left in the care of her maternal grandparents until she was four years old. During this time, the artist maintains that she holds some of her fondest memories from this period of her life. At the age of four, Yamaguchi returned to live with her parents and younger sister, Toshie, in Yokohama. However, shortly after this reunion, her parents separated and the family relocated to Yokosuka.
Yokosuka would remain the family’s home until Yamaguchi achieved outstanding popularity in the entertainment industry. The city was also the focus of one of her more popular songs, I CAME FROM Yokosuka. Life for Yamaguchi passed without incident after the dissolution of her parents' marriage until the age of 13, when she appeared on the idol talent television program, Star Tanjou.
Singing Kaiten mokuba, Yamaguchi came in at second place in the competition. Despite this minor setback, she received eleven offers from various contract companies and settled for a partnership with CBS Sony. At the tender age of 13, Yamaguchi released her first EP, Toshigoro, as well as making her debut in the movie of the same name. For having achieved such a notable position at the Star Tanjou, it came as a disappointment to many that her debut peaked at number 37 on the Oricon.
Notable success came to Yamaguchi with her following single Aoi kajitsu, which was released when the starlet was still a mere 13 years of age. It peaked at number 9 on the Oricon, and several people have suggested that the song’s suggestive lyrics are a strong contributor to its success.
With her following single continuing along the same suggestive route, it is small wonder that Yamaguchi‘s success escalated to what it is today. Hito natsu keiken was her first truly successful single, peaking at number 3 on the Oricon. Once again, the lyrical content featured within the song is possibly what led to its considerable success. However, as Yamaguchi grew older, she gained a stronger hold over her career and strove to perform songs which portrayed women as independent.
1974 also saw Yamaguchi returning to the big screen for a performance in her second film, “Izu no odoriko,” which was based on the short novel written by Nobel Prize winner Kawabata Yasunari in 1926. The role within the film introduced Yamaguchi to actor Miura Tomokazu, who, at the time, was 22 years old, compared to Yamaguchi, who was only 14. Despite this age discrepancy, the pair were noted within the Japanese media as the “golden combination” due to their onscreen chemistry.
From her performance on the big screen, Yamaguchi was then involved in appearing in the highly popular “Akai Series,” which was a drama that ran from 1974 until 1980. Yamaguchi starred in several episodes of the mini-series, which achieved high ratings due to her up-and-coming idol status.
Yamaguchi’s thirteenth single, Yokosuka Story, which was released in 1976, became her second single to achieve the number 1 position on the Oricon. Despite Yamaguchi’s hometown actually being Tokyo, she has always stressed that Yokosuka is where she considers her true home.
At the 29th Kouhaku Uta Gassen in 1978, Yamaguchi and Sawada Kenji (also known as the vocalist for rock band The Tigers) replaced the traditional enka performances as the final songs of the year.
On October 20th, 1979, Yamaguchi abruptly announced at a live performance in Osaka that she was in a relationship with Miura Tomokazu. This announcement followed intense press coverage covering the couple’s budding closeness. On March 7th, 1980, Yamaguchi announced that she and Miura were engaged and that she would be retiring from the music industry, much to the shock of her fans. The idea of her retirement is thought to have stemmed from the dissolution of popular idol group, Candies, in 1978, who had expressed their desire of returning their lives to a state of normalcy. In the face of her impending retirement, plans were made for several new releases.
On October 5th, 1980, Yamaguchi held her farewell concert at the Nippon Budokan.
The following night, the a special segment was aired on Fuji TV’s “Yoru no Hit Studio” commemorating Yamaguchi‘s career. There were several guest appearances from notable faces in the music industry including Wada Akiko (who Yamaguchi regarded as her teacher), Oota Hiromi, Ann Lewis, Iwasaki Hiromi, Takada Mizue, Pink Ladies, Koyanagi Rumiko, Mori Masako, Sakurada Junko, and many others.
Yamaguchi‘s final live television broadcast was held on October 13th, with Nihon TV airing “Yamaguchi Momoe Special: The Last Song.” On October 15th, Yamaguchi officially retired from Horipro, Inc. Yamaguchi retired from show business at the age of 22: only seven years after her career was first launched.
On November 19th, Yamaguchi Momoe and Miura Tomokazu were married at the Reinanzaka Church in Tokyo. Later that year, Yamaguchi released her biography, which contained a detailed explanation of her childhood, her life as a celebrity, and her experiences in love. The book became a bestseller, selling around 200 million copies by December.
Despite continued press attention, Yamaguchi has managed to distance herself from the spotlight and has become idolized as the “perfect housewife.” There has been constant speculation regarding a comeback for the idol, who cut her career short at the height of popularity. Regardless of this, Yamaguchi has become one of the true celebrities of that era and remains as popular today as she was in her teens and early twenties.