Nagayama Yoko is currently a traditional Japanese ballad "enka" singer. She converted to enka in 1993, eleven years after her original debut as a Japanese POP star.
As a child, Yoko specialized in the Minyo (a specific style of enka) style of singing, under the supervision and encouragement of her father. When she was in 4th grade, Yoko won the Victor Young Minyo Performers' award. As a present for her success, Yoko received a Tsugaru Shamisen (Japanese guitar) from her father, quickly becoming her prized possession. This achievement led the way to Yoko's next stage in her singing career.
Originally, Yoko planned to make her debut as an enka singer. Although her parents was against the idea of becoming a professional singer, they approved her idea of choosing enka as her debut singing style. However, tradition doesn't favor Yoko well, as the Japanese enka fans prefer their singers to be much older. So, against her parents' wishes, she debuted as a JPOP singer on April 1, 1984 just so that she could get her foot in the door.
During Yoko's JPOP years, her most popular hit was a re-make of Shocking Blue's 1969 song Venus (Sun Music, 1986). In the late 1980's, Yoko appeared in several period dramas, movies, and on-stage. In her on-stage appearances, she had very little stage time, sharing the venue with about a dozen other JPOP stars.
In 1993, a Japanese enka opportunity popped up for Yoko, and she took it, recording her first enka hit Higurashi (JVC Music, 1993). At the 44th Kouhaku Uta-Gassen, Yoko made her first appearance. To date, she has appeared on the annual New Year's Eve event twelve times, eleven of those appearances back-to-back. --groink (updated 2005-Jun-28)
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