At only 13 years old, Hirari Sato is making her name with a mini-album of original songs and standards like "Amazing Grace." Her pure and strong voice on "Nanairo no Yume" (A seven-colour dream), released by Shinko Music Records, has attracted many fans.
She has a congenital condition called optic nerve hypoplasia and has been blind since birth.
"As I couldn't see, my mother gave me lots of things that made sounds, and one of them was a toy piano," she said.
So from a very early age, Sato expressed her feelings as if they were songs.
She heard the late, legendary Hibari Misora's hit "Kawa no Nagare no yo ni" (Like a river flows) when she was at a nursery and became enamored with its melody. Soon she was giving public performances at nursing homes and other facilities.
"Whenever I sang Hibari-san's songs, everyone praised me," she said.
At the age of 5, she started taking piano lessons and then started composing music and writing lyrics.
She was 9 years old when she composed "Mirai" (Future), one of the tracks on the mini-album.
"After the Great East Japan Earthquake [in March 2011], I wondered if there was anything I could do through my songs. After a while, I jotted down words, and from there the song came into being," she said.
The song features a sweet melody in which Sato sings and calls out, "Kako, genzai, mirai, minna aruite yukeru yo" (Past, present and future, everybody can continue walking).
In 2012, she won the grand prize in a music contest for disabled people with her rendition of "Nanairo no Yume," the title piece of the new mini-album. Her success attracted a lot of attention. The following year, she was given the opportunity to perform a Whitney Houston hit during Amateur Night at the famous Apollo Theater in New York.
"In Japan, everyone quietly listens to me singing, but [in New York] the audience was really enthusiastic," she remarked.
Her singing shows a maturity beyond her years. When told she sounds like an adult, she said, "I can do this sort of voice, too," revealing a voice that sounded like an anime character.
She regularly carries an audio recorder with her and records any sounds she finds interesting. She said she likes the different chimes that are used for the hourly time signals by broadcasting stations across the country. Her acute sense of sound appears to be the foundation of everything she does.