Celebrated Japanese Composer Reveals Himself as a Fake

by Jillian Steinhauer on February 6, 2014

Mamoru Samuragochi pictured in a Japanese newspaper (screenshot via i>Télé on YouTube)

Mamoru Samuragochi pictured in a Japanese newspaper (screenshot via i>Télé on YouTube)

The huge news story out of Japan today is that renowned classical music composer composer Mamoru Samuragochi is a fraud. It turns out Samuragochi, who’s been hailed as a genius and, because he was deaf, a contemporary Japanese Beethoven, had been hiring someone else to write his compositions for him since the mid ’90s. He may not even be deaf. It’s kind of like Shia LaBeouf meets Milli Vanilli, except on a vastly larger scale.

The New York Times has the full, fascinating story, but essentially, Samuragochi came forward and admitted the hoax because his ghostwriter, Takashi Niigaki, finally caved and told his tale to a weekly tabloid. He also gave a press conference, where he asserted that Samuragochi isn’t deaf. What pushed Niigaki himself to the edge was the use of one of Samuragochi’s compositions, “Sonatina for Violin,” by Japanese figure skater Daisuke Takahashi. Takahashi will, now unfortunately, perform the routine in the Olympics that have just started in Sochi, Russia. Here’s a version of it:

One of the more intriguing aspects of Samuragochi’s career is the music he — or more likely, Niigaki — composed for video games. He wrote a symphony soundtrack for the game Resident Evil as well as the music for Onimusha: Warlords. Much of the former can be found in a series of clips on YouTube:

As can the entire Onimusha soundtrack:

Both are quite brooding and affecting. Someone is clearly talented, even if it’s not Samuragochi.

The composer did issue an apology through his lawyer:

“Samuragochi is deeply sorry as he has betrayed fans and disappointed others. He knows he could not possibly make any excuse for what he has done.”

He does not yet appear to have responded to the allegation of faking deafness, although according to the Guardian, he was quoted on a news program explaining that “I had to ask the person to help me for more than half the work because the ear condition got worse.”

In an interesting extra twist to the story, Japanese media outlets have also apologized, for failing to expose the fraud. “The media must also consider our own tendency to fall for tear-jerking stories,” said a spokesperson for the newspaper Asahi Shimbun. It’s not just Japanese outlets that fell for it, though; Americans can never resist a good ol’ heartwarming story either. TIME profiled Samuragochi in 2001 and had this to say:

Perhaps the most dramatic aspect of the Onimusha score is the fact that the composer can barely hear it himself. … His condition has brought him a certain celebrity, which he fears may detract from an honest critique of his work. He understands the inspirational appeal of the story of a digital-age Beethoven, a deaf composer who overcomes the loss of the sense most vital to his work.

Indeed, it seems he understood the inspirational appeal all too well.

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  • Jeffrey Turner

    Why do people do this sort of thing? Do they really think that in this day of almost total transparency that their deception will go undetected?
    Why would one want to live an inauthentic life?
    What good is living a life that isn’t as true as it can be to it’s inner self?
    Am I naive?
    I don’t think so! :)

    • Everything is great until it isn’t, truth be told the music was good and he knew how to market it better than the people that wrote it… obviously. Being the deaf composer was probably a gimmick that got his foot in the door and then a few years later it’s too big of a lie to undo.

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      I ask myself similar questions. It just seems SO obvious that it won’t work in the long run.

  • Patherick

    Nobody is doubting that the music got composed and is good, though, right? So why does it really matter who wrote it?

  • Zev Robinson

    It reminds me of a scene in The Squid and The Whale, when the older brother performs a Pink Floyd song he said was his own, and when he gets caught and is asked why, tells the psychologist that he felt he _could_ have written it, so the fact that Pink Floyd did it first is irrelevant.

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