Thousands of fans have flocked to the offices of the late singer-songwriter Sakai Izumi to pay their respects and leave flowers. Sakai, who performed solo using the name of her former band Zard, died after a fall at the Keio University hospital at the weekend. Her body was taken yesterday to a funeral hall near her home in the western Tokyo suburb of Machida. Yesterday, more than 1,200 fans came and said their tearful farewells at the Roppongi office of Being, Sakai’s management agency, and hundreds more turned up at the Osaka office. They opened from 7:30am to allow office workers to pay their respects on their way to work. Sakai was the most successful female artist of the 1990s and her fans are mostly young adults. This week they cleaned record stores out of copies of the most recent Zard album, a 15th anniversary greatest hits collection released last October. It had dropped out of the Oricon Top 100, but immediately shot back to No.6 on the daily rankings. It was announced yesterday that “Sakai Izumi-san o Shinobukai”, a remembrance event, will be held for fans and fellow artists on June 27 at the Aoyama Sougijo funeral hall. Zard hits will be played throughout the event. Her songs, which have inspired and encouraged a generation of young Japanese, will provide a suitably uplifting sendoff.
• Actress Okina Megumi (27) is to retire from show business, according to “Sports Hochi”. According to sources, she is simply tired of it and her management agency have admitted that she will quit at the end of this month. Real name Mimasu Takae, the Hiroshima native was scouted while still an elementary school student. She made her TV debut in 1992 at the age of 13 and her first drama leading role four years later won her a best newcomer award. She married an IT entrepreneur in 2004 only to divorce a year later.