hitomi was born Hitomi Furuya (古谷仁美, Furuya Hitomi?) in Tochigi, Japan, but raised in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. Ironically, hitomi was unsuccessful in an effort to join her elementary school choir. She got her big break when she was noticed by eminent music producer Tetsuya Komuro while auditioning for a modelling assignment. In the following year, November of 1994, she made a CD single debut titled "Let's Play Winter" from avex trax, with Komuro deciding that she should use "hitomi" (all-lowercase) as her stage name. Since then, hitomi has written most of her own lyrics. She has also performed covers, an example being the Bananarama hit "Venus" that she performed an English-language cover of recently, recorded on her June 2005 single, Japanese girl.
Debut and success
While the first two singles, Let's Play Winter and WE ARE "LONELY GIRL" were considerable failures, her third single CANDY GIRL was used as the theme for a Kodak CM, and secured a Top 20 spot on the Japanese Oricon music chart. Subsequent singles "By Myself" and "Busy Now" established hitomi, barely out of her teens, as one to watch in Japanese entertainment.
Komuro and hitomi went their separate ways in 1999, by mutual consent. It is believed that hitomi was unhappy with being a marginalised figure in Komuro's stable of performers, as she was behind other Komuro-produced acts like Namie Amuro, globe, and Ami Suzuki at that time, and also wanted more creative control over her music and image. The split was apparently amicable, however, and in 2002, hitomi teamed up with Komuro once again for the SongNation project, a various-artists compilation intended to raise funds for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. hitomi contributed lyrics and vocals for the song "My Planet."
Many of her songs have been featured on a wide range of products. Examples include "I am," which served as an opening song for the popular anime InuYasha, "kimi no tonari," which was the theme song for a PlayStation video game Persona 2: Innocent Sin, and "IS IT YOU?" was used as a theme song for a popular FujiTV drama series "dekichatta kekkon". In addition, hitomi is a perennial favourite of clothes, cosmetics and accessories brands like Trussardi and Gillette for her modeling experience, photogenic features, and slender figure, despite being a married mother of two. Hitomi is currently the spokesperson for Gillette Venus shaver in Japan and has visited Hawaii to film the latest commercial on air in Japan.
Hitomi married an advertising executive in the autumn of 2002, shortly after wrapping up her Huma-Rhythm Live Tour 2002. hitomi had announced to her fans that she had tied the knot through her fan club, No!Cut. Hitomi admitted that she had had serious arguments with her husband in 2004, which nearly led to a trial separation, but they worked it out. Now, hitomi often calls her husband and her children her biggest fans.
Hitomi gave birth to mixed twins in May 2003; she did not release any details to the Japanese press, but disclosed to her fans (through her fan club, No!Cut) that their names were Sumire (her daughter) and Toru (her son), and that Sumire was the older of the two by 69 seconds. Both of her children are named after characters in Haruki Murakami novels (see Trivia); Toru is named after the protagonist of the acclaimed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Sumire is named after the heroine of Sputnik Sweetheart, which is not as well-regarded both in and outside of Japan.
Hitomi was largely out of the public eye from mid-2002 to early 2004. Besides enjoying her pregnancy and learning to play the guitar, she also spent her hiatus finishing the final year of a three-year course in health and nutrition sciences at the Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama (she had spent the first two years as a part-time student, which stretched the programme to some eighteen months).
In February 2004, hitomi found herself refuting allegations of a different nature. The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper quoted a 'childhood friend' of hitomi's saying that hitomi had been a poor student in high school who spent most of her time playing volleyball. Hitomi refuted the report, producing records that show that she had been a consistently above-average student who would have qualified to read business studies in a fairly prestigious university had she not chosen to sign a recording contract with Avex. (She did, however, later obtain a degree from the Kanto Gakuin University.) Also, her sport of choice in high school was soccer, until she injured her left hamstring, after which she switched to bowling. hitomi is also a baseball, soccer and chess enthusiast, and a self-confessed 'gym rat', but she has never played volleyball either recreationally or competitively; hitomi explained that while she has nothing against the sport or its devotees, she just isn't into it.
In May 2004, hitomi released a new studio album, TRAVELER. The concert tour she subsequently embarked upon was a huge success, and she played to packed arenas at almost every stop. hitomi's popularity came as a big surprise, considering that she is one of the oldest performers in Japanese pop, had spent more than a year out of the limelight, and was married, which would tend to hurt any Japanese pop entertainer's career, but was thought to be especially damaging to one built on sex appeal, like hitomi's. hitomi's success is often credited as the catalyst for a rethink on how the Japanese pop audience had 'matured' and 'evolved' since the 1990s, during which hitomi had herself debuted, when teenybopper pop was prevalent and style generally took precedence over substance.
The cover of hitomi's 2004 album, 'Traveler'
The cover of hitomi's 2004 album, 'Traveler'
hitomi's 2004 "Traveler Live Tour" was one of the most successful concert tour undertaken in Japan that year, and the Excite search portal dedicated a special blog site to her. This site ran for seventeen months from October 2004 to March 2006. hitomi's new niche as a married mother in Japanese pop has won her many new fans from married women in their late 20s and early 30s in Japan, for whom she has almost become an unofficial representative.
In November 2004, a year and a half after delivering her children, hitomi received her Bachelor's of Science degree in Health And Environmental Science.
hitomi caused consternation among fans in August 2005 when she apparently hinted in an interview given to An An magazine that she was planning to retire. However, she quickly moved to dispel their fears. hitomi did not deny saying any of the quotes attributed to her, including a remark that went, "I would be very surprised to see myself where I presently am this time next year", but claimed that they were taken out of context. She proceeded to assert, in her own fan club publication, that she would not quit music as long as the American performer Madonna (her own idol) was still recording, although she also conceded that the odds are against her, as female Japanese pop singers rarely carry on their careers past thirty years of age. However, some commentators have said that though hitomi is no longer (or, for some, has never been) one of the most dominant figures in the industry, she does have a fairly large and very loyal fanbase built up over the last twelve years (at least a third of which are thought to be outside Japan, even though she has never performed overseas), and can conceivably go on performing and recording until she is 34 or 35 years old, which represents rare longevity for a female performer in Japanese pop.
As a 10th anniversary gift, Avex gave her her own record label, LOVE LIFE Records, which functions as a subdivision of Avex. At present, hitomi holds the appointment of Chairwoman of the company's board.
In October 2005, it was announced that hitomi would feature at the annual NHK Red And White Song Festival on December 31, as a member of the Red (females') team. However, hitomi ended up not performing, because of a minor throat infection, and on December 21 it was announced that her place would be taken by Suzuki Ami.
A proud owner of three dogs, hitomi has also been honorary chairwoman of the Kawasaki City SPCA since 2002. She has put in (incognito) volunteer work and made substantial donations to the city's SPCA since 2001, and was responsible for most of the funding for the organisation's relocation to better facilities in 2003. In addition, hitomi has used her celebrity status to heighten awareness of animal abuse in Japan, going as far as to make a case for tightening restrictions on whaling. In February 2005, hitomi was awarded Kanagawa Prefecture's Hirada Shuichi Public Service Award (under her married name Mrs. Eguchi Hitomi) for services rendered to the community.
hitomi released her 31st single, GO MY WAY, on May 10, 2006. The single reached the 22nd place on the Oricon chart in its first week beating her two last singles, Love Angel (#34) and CRA"G"Y☆MAMA (#46). It has sold 8,105 copies in its first week and 11,715 copies so far.
LOVE CONCENT was released on September 27, 2006 and sold only 15,000 copies in its first week, however it debuted at #13 on Oricon.
hitomi was recently in the 2007 Japanese film Nightmare Detective ( 悪夢探偵, Akumu Tantei?). The film was directed by the horror film director, Shinya Tsukamoto, and stars Ryuhei Matsuda, as the lead role, while hitomi co-stars as a police officer named Keiko Kirishima.
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