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Japan mourns death of ex-pop star

TOKYO (AFP) ― Hundreds of middle-aged Japanese flocked to a cemetery in Tokyo on Monday to bid farewell to a popular actress amid national mourning for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Yoshiko Tanaka died at 55 last Thursday after a long battle with breast cancer, ending her showbusiness career which began with an all-girl pop group, named the Candies, who took Japan’s younger generation by storm in the 1970s.
Miki Fujimura (left), former member of pop group “Candies” reads her message of condolence at the funeral of Japanese actress and singer Yoshiko Tanaka (right), known as “Sue-chan” when she was in the group in the 1970s, in Tokyo on Monday. (AFP-Yonhap News)
Miki Fujimura (left), former member of pop group “Candies” reads her message of condolence at the funeral of Japanese actress and singer Yoshiko Tanaka (right), known as “Sue-chan” when she was in the group in the 1970s, in Tokyo on Monday. (AFP-Yonhap News)

Around 2,100 people, including celebrities and fans, gathered at the Aoyama Cemetery ceremony hall with some of them shouting her nickname “Sue-san” as her hearse left for a crematorium.

The trio disbanded in 1978 after hitting the charts for four and a half years although they never ventured abroad.

Young boys cried openly at the Candies’ farewell concert before a sell-out crowd of 55,000 at Tokyo’s Korakuen baseball stadium.

After launching a solo career in 1980, Tanaka became an actress and won the Japan Academy’s best actress award for her leading role in Shohei Imamura’s 1989 film “Kuroi Ame (Black Rain)” portraying victims of Hiroshima.

At the funeral, Ran Ito, the group eldest at 56, said tearfully before a portrait of Tanaka: “We’ll never forget your smiling face, which we love, your battle with the disease to the last, and your courage through it all.”

A tape-recorded message from Tanaka, whose battle with cancer started in 1992, was played at the service, showing her concern for the victims of last month’s disaster which left around 26,000 people dead or missing in Japan.

“Maybe I will lose this battle. In that case, I will definitely help the victims in heaven. I believe it is my duty.”
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