Japanese singer-songwriter Shinji Tanimura, who was known for hit songs such as "Subaru" (Star), which also made him popular in China, died at a hospital on Oct. 8, his music agency said Monday. He was 74.
Tanimura, leader of Japanese folk group Alice formed in 1971, underwent surgery for acute enteritis in March this year, and was receiving ongoing treatment at the time of his death.
Aside from popular songs produced by the trio, Tanimura was known for his 1980 solo signature piece "Subaru," depicting a person on a journey who wishes upon a constellation of stars. He performed the song at the opening ceremony of the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.
Through his music, Tanimura keenly promoted friendly relations between Japan and China, which have been strained over history and territorial disputes, holding several concerts in China.
He had also taught at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music as professor.
Back in 1981, Alice was invited to perform at a summer pop concert in Beijing that was attended by then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who advanced the policy of reform and opening-up.
Tanimura, a native of Osaka Prefecture, had expressed his fondness to China, recalling that he felt so nostalgic about the scenery when he first visited the country that he thought he was "probably Chinese in a previous life."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning expressed her condolences upon hearing of Tanimura's death. Many took to blogs and other social media to express grief and disbelief, with the news trending on Weibo.
"My god, I'm shocked! 74 years old is not considered old...what a pity," one person said on Weibo, adding that Tanimura's songs were "wonderful" and Subaru was a favorite.
"Putting aside the conflicts between China and Japan, this man is so respectable," another Weibo user posted.
Alice, which reformed in the 2000s after splitting up in 1981, was planning a nationwide tour in Japan this year, but it was postponed due to Tanimura's poor health.
The group, consisting of Tanimura, Takao Horiuchi and Toru Yazawa, had hit songs such as "Champion" and "Fuyuno Inazuma" (Thunderbolt in Winter).
Tanimura also composed and wrote the lyrics for "Iihi Tabidachi" (Leaving on a Good Day), a hit song for 1970s star Momoe Yamaguchi.
He received from the Japanese government a Medal with Purple Ribbon, an honor bestowed on those who have made academic or artistic contributions to society.