Lyricist Matsumoto Reiji died yesterday in what police believe was a suicide, setting himself on fire outside his home in Tokyo. He was 68. His wife found him badly burned but still conscious on the street in front of his Setagaya home at around 4:40am. Police later found a discarded lighter and the canister of an oil heater near the scene. Matsumoto was rushed to hospital and declared dead shortly after 10am. No will or suicide note has been found but his family say that he seemed to be troubled recently and likely had health problems. A music industry colleague reported that Matsumoto had undergone gall bladder surgery in May.
A former chief purser for Japan Airlines, Matsumoto joined the Pony Canyon record label in his early 30s after a chance encounter with the company president. He started as a director and then became a lyricist, writing popular songs for a wide variety of artists that ranged from teen aidoru’s to such mega-stars as Ishihara Yujiro (1934-87) and Morishige Hisaya (1913-2009). He wrote the last song that Morishige recorded, “Izuko e.” His many enka hits included several for Ishino Mako (50), and ironic in view of the manner of his death, the title of Ishino’s final single before she retired in 1981 was the Matsumoto-penned “Burning Love.” He also wrote a song for the 100-year-old twins Kin-san and Gin-san, who were a media sensation in the early 1990s.