‘Enka’ star Murata dies of pneumonia

Hideo Murata, a popular singer of “enka” ballads, died of pneumonia Thursday morning in Osaka, his office said. He was 73.

Hailing from Saga Prefecture, Murata, whose real name was Isamu Kajiyama, debuted in 1958 with the song “Muho Matsu no Issho” (“The Life of the Outlaw Matsu”).

Other hits included “Jinsei Gekijo” (“The Drama of Life”) and “Osho” (“The Shogi King”).

He appeared in several movies, including the series “Kyodai Jingi” (“The Honor of Brothers”), which also featured singer Saburo Kitajima.

He channeled his efforts into philanthropy after launching a charity organization in 1988 with fellow enka vocalists Hachiro Kasuga and Michiya Mihashi.

Murata suffered from diabetes and his right leg was amputated in 1996 and left leg in 2000. But he took to the stage again and also made speeches to encourage diabetics.

Murata was hospitalized in May when his condition worsened due to pneumonia.