Japan's star puts new meaning into girltalk

Local hero Namie Amuro
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Tokyo - Japanese, a language promiscuously open to neologisms, has recently added a new term to its lexicon: Amuraa, a proper noun describing a breed of young woman ubiquitous in the fashionable parts of Tokyo.

The typical Amuraa is 16 years old, and is identified by her uniform of black boxer boots, clinging mini-skirt, and navel-baringly short T- shirt. Her long black hair is dyed auburn, her eyebrows are crisply pencilled, and she wears metallic lipstick. By day, she endures the indignity of high school; her spare time, and her generous pocket money, are spent in record shops and boutiques, immersed in the music and fashion of her role model - Namie Amuro.

Having entered the language, Amuro is probably the most famous 18-year old in Japan, and surely one of the richest. Her face is everywhere - on magazines, television programmes, and advertisements for everything from diet snacks to cassettes. Within a fortnight of its release this summer, her latest pop album, Sweet 19 Blues, had become the best selling Japanese recording of all time and so far has sold more than 4 million copies. By the standards ofJapanese pop aidoru [idols], Amuro is a talented singer and dancer. But, along with a dozen of the country's most successful pop acts, she owes her stardom to Tetsuya Komuro: impresario, image maker, and the most powerful man in Japanese pop.

Japan is the second biggest consumer of recorded music in the world and, within this lucrative world, Komuro is a one-man industry. Apart from composing music, writing lyrics, programming synthesisers, and producing recordings, he is a tireless promoter of his various proteges, as a radio DJ and TV presenter. Last year the records he produced made 26.8bn yen (pounds 160m). This April five of the month's top-ten best-sellers were Komuro productions.

The only things Komuro cannot do are sing and dance, and to compensate for this he has developed a shrewd eye for the nymphets necessary for the propagation of his music. There is no shortage of eager young talent and, with admirable economy, Komuro has turned his talent-scouting activities into a New Faces-style television programme on which aspirant songstresses make their debut. The most successful contestants will be admitted to the so-called Komuro Family.

Persistent rumour has it that the family is not all it seems and that relations between the 37-year old Daddy and his teenage "daughters" are said to go beyond the professional. Komuro is often accused of having a Rori-Con [a Japanisation of Lolita complex]. A blistering unauthorised biography published last month (Tetsuya Komuro: The Glory and the Failure) painted a sordid picture of womanising, exploitation and drug abuse.

In fact, the source of many of the rumours may well be Komuro himself. His current lover is 22-year old Tomomi Kahala. ("Her voice stimulates the tear ducts," is how he explains the attraction) and he has spoken frankly of the commercial benefits of their union.

"When she is just becoming well known, she could say: `The man I'm singing about in my song is Japan's number one record producer'," he told an interviewer. "If it doesn't sell, it's meaningless. I think of myself as a Steven Spielberg. He has created a system that never loses money. Even if he failed he would still make some money out of it."