'Japan's Beethoven' says sorry but claims deafness no act
Mamoru Samuragochi, dubbed "Japan's Beethoven", makes an apology at a press conference room in Tokyo on March 7, 2014 - by Toru Yamanaka
Ditching his trademark long hair and sunglasses, a clean-cut Mamoru Samuragochi repeatedly bowed in shame before a packed press conference in a Tokyo hotel, where some dubious reporters dragged along hearing-impairment experts to assess the mock maestro.
"Sounds get distorted, so I hardly recognise words. It's no lie that I still need a sign-language interpreter," he said, with an interpreter by his side.
The carnival-like atmosphere also saw some journalists demand that the disgraced composer prove his sign-language abilities.
Japan's often sentimental media once lapped up Samuragochi's story, feasting on the narrative of a tortured genius robbed of the ability to hear the beautiful music he made.
The scandal broke last month when Samuragochi, who is credited with composing an anthemic tribute to the tenacity of Japan's tsunami survivors, admitted he had been paying someone else to write his music for nearly two decades.
His ghost writer, a music school teacher named Takashi Niigaki, also claimed his boss was not deaf and couldn't even write sheet music.
On Friday, the 50-year-old Samuragochi insisted that he remains hearing impaired, but his problem has improved over the years.
He handed out copies of a recent hearing diagnosis, while some reporters demanded he write phrases on a piece of paper to see if his handwriting matched instructional notes that supposedly proved his musical abilities.
The hearing checkup revealed that his problems would not merit him the disability certificate that he has been forced to return to officials in the nearby city of Yokohama.
"I am very sorry for causing all this trouble," he meekly told the hundreds of assembled journalists.
"I apologise for those who bought my CDs, listened to the music and came to my concerts."
- Legal threat -
The disjointed press conference, which dragged on for nearly three hours, also saw the disgraced composer go on the offensive, threatening to sue his accomplice for defamation, despite previously apologising to him.
"(The ghost writer) said he had suggested that we stop this many times, but it's a complete lie," Samuragochi said, adding that "whenever I came up with a new concept for a piece of music, he would come to meet me with no problem".
The ghost writer would always insist on a bigger cheque for his work, he added.
"That is the reality of the 18 years," Samuragochi said.
The fallen composer's star burned all the brighter after a documentary entitled "Melody of the Soul", was shown on public broadcaster NHK last year.
Cameras followed him as he toured the tsunami-battered Tohoku region to meet survivors and those who lost relatives in the 2011 catastrophe.
The film showed the musical genius playing with a small girl whose mother was killed in the disaster and apparently composing a requiem for the dead woman.
"I was constantly scared that some day the truth would be revealed," he said Friday.
"I was going to put an end to this after 10 years."
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