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Emiko Shiratori

Izumi Masuda Date of Birth: March 16, 1950
Education: Graduated from University with English Diploma
Active From: 1969
Group Involvement: Part of 'Toi et Moi' Duet
Related Projects: Final Fantasy IX, Ocarina of Time


Note: This biography was written exclusively for Square Enix Music Online by Chris. The act of copying it without advance written permission is regarded as a copyright infringement. It was last updated on June 4, 2006. Many thanks to this superb French site for providing much of the information.

Born on March 16, 1950, from a young age Emiko Shiratori (née Yamamuro) was pushed into a life of song. She sung for the first time at the age of six with her mother, a vocalist who sung for various shows during the war, and, after years of training, developed into a competent vocalist. She did not intend to persue a singing career, however, and entered university to study an English diploma with the aim of being a professor there. During her studies, she occasionally performed with certain symphony orchestras and at some local pubs, largely as a hobby, where she became very popular. Toshiba EMI records noted her talent in 1969 and, with the intention of creating pop stars, formed the duet 'Toi et Moi' featuring Emiko Yamamuro and Sumio Akutagawa. They were an overnight success with their first two albums, 1969's Aru hi Totsuzen and Anata to Watashi, and, during the period of 1969 to 1973, released a total of eight studio albums, fourteen singles, and several 'best of' and live albums while making numerous live performances. The other albums in their discography were Sora yo, Toi et Moi in the USA, Utopia, Utopia II, Anata no Melody, and Hajime ni ame ga atta. The majority of their albums and singles hit the Number One spot and they were easily the most popular mainstream artists in the early seventies. However, due to the speed of their advancement, they were never allowed to evolve as a duet, limited only to performing romantic songs. The duet announced their break up in 1973 and bowed out with the 'Toi et Moi Farewell Concert'. Emiko, the member the producers preferred, went on to launch a successful solo career while Sumio was hired by the publishing company Fun House as a producer, where he remains today.

Emiko Shiratori's solo career has been characterised by momentous highlights, lengthy hiatuses, and several disappointments. Having attained the tremendous honour of being chosen to perform the opening composition of Sapparo's Olympic Games in 1972, Shiratori had a brief taste of worldwide success by performing "Niko to Ame No Ballade". Soon after, she released her first album, the self-titled and massively successful Emiko Yamamuro, though this would be her last for a whole nine years. After meeting Sumio Shiratori in 1975, she married him soon after and gave birth to her child, Maika, the following year. With the help of her husband, Emiko Shiratori finally released her second album, 1982's Lady and its successor, 1993's Tobiiro no Machi, under the ARO record label. She released her most critically acclaimed album to date, House of Record's Amazing Grace, in 1985, notable for its instrumental performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. At the end of the 1980's, she reached the height of her popularity with Blue Danube, Brand New World, and the Christmas mini-album Winter Wonderland, culminating in a tour alongside various orchestras across Asia. Her success continued through 1990 when she performed vocal themes for the popular dramas Hotel and Tanoshii Mumin Ikka, released the bold symphonic and Celtic fusion album Voice of Mine, and created her first 'best of' collection, Heart Side. Unfortunately, her popularity rapidly declined after this with 1991's Hello, a fairly average album of English themes, 1992's Irodori, which featured poor synthesizer operating and weak compositions, and 1993's Arcadian, a self-produced album of mediocre arrangements with very poor sound quality. Her sales figures had significantly dropped by 1994, only exacerbated by the financial crisis of her label King Records.

Emiko Shiratori bounced back in 1995 with two remix CDs, one based on combining traditional melodies with soothing vocals, the other a tribute album to The Beatles. After resigning from King Records, she joined Fun Covers, inspired by the prospect of collaborating with her former partner Akutagawa. With two successful singles, the album Grace, and the 'best of' Collections II, she attained a level of popularity that made her next move — reuniting 'Toi et Moi' in 1995 — a pleasant surprise across Japan. With a hit arrangement of a previous theme, "Niji to Yuki No", the duo released entirely new work with Harvest and temporarily parted ways with a 'best of' in 1999 celebrating their 30 years of work together. In December 1999, Shiratori did a minor work on behalf of the gaming industry by singing "Epona's Song" for Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time Re-Arranged Album. This attracted attention from Nobuo Uematsu who chose Shiratori to sing the main theme for 2000's Final Fantasy IX, "Melodies of Life," an elegant work orchestrated by Shiro Hamaguchi that was more classically-oriented than its predecessor, Faye Wong's "Eyes on Me". Released in single form with "Galway" and interpreted in both Japanese and English, the theme was a massive success, having amazingly featured in ten albums altogether, including Shiratori's own album Cross My Heart. Emiko Shiratori went on to perform the theme live on three occasions at February 2002's 20020220 - Music from Final Fantasy in Tokyo, May 2005's More Friends - Music from Final Fantasy in Los Angeles, and, most recently, 2006's special vocal concert VOICES - Music for Final Fantasy, all of which were massive successes. The interpretations were preceded by the instrumental composition "The Place I'll Return to Someday," though otherwise stayed true to their original.

Over the last five years, Shiratori has extensively revisited the past while making several unique contributions to Japanese vocal music. In 2001, she released two noteworthy singles, the album Big Yellow Moon, and yet another 'best of' collection, Re-Voice, featuring a number of unreleased recordings, in 2001. After that, she joined the massive record label Universal and created arguably her best album since Amazing Grace with I'm Here, noteworthy for its extreme diversity and high-quality production. After that, 'Toi et Moi' reunited for their second time, to release Kaze No Ribbon with Universal, performed solely by violin and piano, featuring arrangements of previous hits and some new compositions from Shiratori herself. After these highlights, another momentous fall occurred with the terribly received Celebration, which featured low-quality recordings and uninspired compositions. This resulted in a two year break before a small return that involved the release of two singles, one a collaboration with violinist Ikuko Kawai, the other an image album for an anime series produced by Toshiyuki Watanabe. Though 2006 has not been a significant year for her, VOICES - Music from Final Fantasy the only highlight, Shiratori continues to be one of the leading female artists in Japan. With a career stretching nearly four decades, incorporating endless live performances, a long-term collaboration with Sumio Akutagawa, numerous solo albums, several instrumental projects, an Olympic Games performance, and the performance of one of video game music's best-loved themes, Shiratori may have made a few poor releases since the '90s, but has constantly rejuvenated herself with refreshing new projects and nostalgic wanderings back into the past.

List of Songs for Related Projects

Song Title Game Featured In
Melodies of Life Final Fantasy IX
Galway Final Fantasy IX (Single)
Pure Heart (Lyrics) Adapts Final Fantasy VII's "Aerith's Theme"
Epona's Song The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

List of Covered Albums

Album Title Catalog No.
Emiko Shiratori - Cross My Heart SQEX-10030/1
Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack SQEX-10009/12
Final Fantasy IX Original Soundtrack Plus SQEX-10035
Final Fantasy IX: Melodies of Life - Emiko Shiratori KICS-811
Final Fantasy IX Uematsu's Best Selection TPCD 0201-2
Final Fantasy X: Suteki da ne - Rikki KICS-811
Final Fantasy, 20020220 - Music from SQEX-10030/1
Final Fantasy ~Los Angeles Live 2005~, More Friends - Music from SQEX-10065
Final Fantasy S Generation Official Best Collection TPCD 0213-2
Square Vocal Collection SSCX-10052
VOICES - Music from Final Fantasy DVD SQEX-20003
Zelda Ocarina of Time Re-Arranged Album, The Legend of TKCA-71824