Ayaka Hirahara has soothed fans' feelings with her singing prowess and warm-toned voice, best represented in her hit song "Jupiter."
The singer is currently touring the country to mark the 10th anniversary of her debut and look back on her progress. The tour includes concerts at Festival Hall in Osaka on Aug. 30 and 31 and at Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Tokyo on Sept. 20, 21 and 27.
"I say, 'I got married to music,' and then realize I'm all by myself, but the past 10 years have been such a busy time for me. I was just running like crazy," Hirahara said.
Her career path may seem smooth sailing, but the truth is it has had a fair share of problems.
"Since I was self-taught, I couldn't be confident. One time, when I was on stage, I thought I'd better quit singing," she confided.
Looking back on her career so far, she said, "Each year of my career has been filled with a series of challenges that I felt the need to celebrate each and every year."
Hirahara released the album "What I am" (Universal) at the end of last year. For the title song, she poured out her inner worries in the lyrics.
"Before, I used to think I must not let out my weaker side [in the lyrics]," she said. "But I thought that if I make songs out of both happy and sad things, there may be someone who listens to them and feels better, so I wrote them without pretense."
Although she dithers at times, she believes in what she is able to achieve. Every year, she introduces a new performance repertoire in concert to bring out her potential. After demonstrating vocal percussion and tap dancing in recent years, this year she will sing the theme song of the musical "Love Never Dies" in an operatic style. The choice is in part due to her appearance in the musical, the sequel to "The Phantom of the Opera," this spring.
"The production was staged only in Tokyo, so there were requests from fans in Osaka who want to listen to the songs from the musical in their city, too," she said. "I've watched videos of opera singers on the Internet and studied how they open their mouths and move their tongues."
or the current tour, she chose her signature songs and introduced some new ideas. The concert is in two parts, a first for the singer.
"Singing in front of an audience is what I live for. On stage, I feel as if I can be closer to how I want to be. You know, there's this thing called 'stage magic.' You can do on stage things you can't do in rehearsals," she said.
With a decade of performing behind her, Hirahara only turned 30 in May.
"A fan who has been supporting me since her primary school days has become an adult," she said. "We've made history together, me and my fans. I'll work even harder to make them happy."
Ayaka Hirahara Concert Tour 2014 "What I am-Mirai no Watashi e" is currently under way. The next stop is Utsunomiya on Aug. 23, followed by Nagoya on Aug. 24; Osaka on Aug. 30-31; Mito on Sept. 6; Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sept. 7; Yamagata on Sept. 12; Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, on Sept. 13; Aomori on Sept. 15; Tokyo on Sept. 20, 21 and 27; and Sendai on Sept. 23. For more information, visit www.camp-a-ya.com