Name: 中澤裕子 (Nakazawa Yuko)
Stage name: 中澤ゆうこ (Nakazawa Yuuko)
Date of birth: June 19th, 1973
Place of birth: Kyoto, Japan
Date of debut: September 11th, 1997 (Member #2)
Graduated: March 31st, 2009
Yuko Nakazawa is a Japanese singer, author, actress and Tv-personality (talento).
She started her career as a member of the group Morning Musume in 1997 from which she graduated in 2001. She also had a solo career from 1998 and up to her graduation from Hello! Project in 2009.
In 1997, an audition program called «Sharan Q Rock Vocalist Audition» was held in association with ASAYAN. ASAYAN was a tv show aiming at producing new music artists, and the band Sharan Q, with their lead man Tsunku, were looking for a female vocalist to join their group. Nakazawa ended up being one of the 11 finalists, but she lost to Michiyo Heike, to everyone’s surprise. Nakazawa was the person people thought would win.
Shortly after, she was contacted by Tsunku, leader of the band Sharan Q, and she was offered a challenge. She would form a group with four of the other finalists and record a song. If she and the other girls would sell over 50.000 copies in five days, Tsunku would be their manager and make them the most popluar group in Japan. Nakazawa and the four other girls completed the challenge in four days, and would later be given the name Morning Musume. Nakazawa, being the oldest member at 24 years, was named the leader of the group.
They released their first single in early 1998, «Morning Coffee», and slowly gained popularity until making it big, no.. huge, with the release of their ninth single in late 1999.
In late 1998 it was announced that Yuko Nakazawa would become a soloist while still being a member of Morning Musume. When it was announced to the other members that she would do this, and that the genre she’d be doing was enka, they were beyond surprised. Everything was shown on ASAYAN, so the promotion was big. The title of her single would be Karasu no Nyoubou («The Raven’s Wife») and it was released on August 5th, 1998. It reached nr. 19 on the Oricon Charts and sold almost 75.000 copies!
Cdjapan even claims that Nakazawa revived the interest for enka music with this release. It was somewhat fresh, as it mixed a Jpop sound with the traditional enka style.
Her second single would be a duet with fellow UP-FRONT artist Gen Takayama. The single, Odaiba Moonlight Serenade, was released in December of 1998, just shortly before her debut album Nakazawa Yuuko Daiissho («Nakazawa Yuuko Chapter 1»). The track list of the album is a mix of original songs and cover songs of well known enka tunes. Compared to her debut single, the follow-up single and album sold poorly, with «only» around 20.000 and 10.000 copies each as a total.
After this Nakazawa didn’t release anything until her third single in June.
When the single was announced she started an enka campaign, where she teamed up with fellow UP-FRONT artist Junko Yanagisawa. They would both record their own versions of the single, entitled Junjou Koushinkyoku («A Marching Song for Self-Sacrificing Devotion»). A limited edition of the single was also released, where Nakazawa sang the main chorus and Yanagisawa sang a few lines and the chorus. Yanagisawa would also join Nakazawa in the H!P 99 concert that year. Their performance however was cut from the VHS release. (But she can be seen singing Zurui Onna at the end).
In addition to releasing music, Nakazawa also hosted the TV shows «Idol wo Sagase» and «Hello! Morning». «Idol wo Sagase» was a variety show presenting Japanese idols who was part of Hello! Project. Nakazawa hosted it until Kaori Iida and Rinne Toda took over in 2000. «Hello! Morning» was also a weekly variety show hosted by members of Morning Musume.
In the summer of 2000, she released her 4th single,, Shanghai no Kaze («Shanghai’s Wind»). This showed a new direction in her music style, as it had a different sound from her previous releases. It still had an enka vibe to it when it comes to the music and lyrics, but it was more in the direction of a sad ballad than the enka / Jpop mix her earlier singles had. This was what her future releases would sound like; mellow and soothing Jpop ballads, some pop-ier than others.
A special fan club release was made in 2001; a special package of solo singles by all the members of Morning Musume (counting 13 girls at this time). Each girl got her own 3″ cd single with a brand new original song. The titles of the singles are puns on their names. Nakazawa’s single is called yuu・wa・ku («Temp-tati-on»), as Nakazawa is sometimes called Yuu (or Yuu-chan). The song is a slow ballad of unrequited love.
Morning Musume 11th single, Renai Revolution 21 («Love Revolution 21») would be Nakazawa’s final release with Morning Musume, giving her a tenure of 4 years in the group. Her reason for graduating was her age (she was 14 years older than the youngest member at the time of her departure) and her desire to pursue other things by the time she was 30 years.At her graduation concert she sung her final song with Morning Musume ("I WISH"), before she gave her farewells and sung her self-penned song Koi no Kioku («Memory of Love»).
2001 would be a busy year for Nakazawa: After her graduation she released her 5th single in February, entitled Kuyashi Namida Porori («Tears of Frustration Falling»). It would be a boost up sales wise from her recent releases, where sales had slowly declined. It ended up selling almost 73.000 copies. This is only a few thousand copies short of her debut single.
She released her first photobook, Feather, which featured Nakazawa in various outifts on various locations in Japan.
In August she released her sixth single, Futarigurashi («Living Together»), which would eventually sell around 40.000 copies.
Say aka Ichii, with the support of Nakazawa, released an album called FOLK SONGS. A concert was held at Shibuya AX where they sang songs from this album, folk songs not featured on the album and songs from their solo careers. This concert would later be released on VHS and DVD, and would also end up being an annual thing: a series of cover albums of famous Japanese folk songs. A total of five albums were made, featuring Nakazawa and other Hello! Project artists.
Nakazawa had acted while being in Morning Musume, but her debut in a dorama after graduating would be her first this year, in Beauty 7. In the years to come she would star in more doramas, with probably Gokusen being the most famous one. She has also been in several musicals, Footloose being the first back in 2001. She also does commercials on a regular basis.
In 2002 she only released one single, Tokyo Bijin («Tokyo Beauty»). It sold poorly 13.500 copies; pretty low compared to the upcline in her recent releases. There might be various reasons for this. Downloading music illegally is getting more and more common, and artists in general sell much less copies than compared to previous years. Or maybe Nakazawa doesn’t have the same appeal anymore, as H!P is more and more for a narrower demographic. Natsumi Abe was also suspended during the upcline of Nakazawa’s sales, so maybe UFA had the time to promote her more?
A few months after the release of the single, a collection with all of Nakazawa’s music videos was released on VHS and DVD. It is called Nakazawa Yuko Single M Clips 1. 2002 also saw the release of her second photobook, Watashi ga Omou, Konna Onna («How I Feel About This Kind of Woman»), and her first essay book, Kaishin («Change of Heart»). Another essay book would be released the following year. entitled Zutto Ushiro Kara Mite Kita («I Have Been Watching (you) Secretly»).
In January of 2003, Nakazawa released her first live & talk tour as a solo artist, Shinshi wa Mini ga O-suki! at Studio Dream Maker («Gentlemen Like Mini Skirts! At Studio Dream maker»), available on VHS and DVD.
She would also release a single in spring, GET ALONG WITH YOU, selling a total of around 9.000 copies. The music has the same sound and quality as her singles released after Shanghai no Kaze, yet her singles sell less and less copies.
In February of 2004, she releases her 9th single, a double A-side called Genki no Nai Hi ni Komoriuta / Nagaragawa no Hare («A Lullaby for Days When You’re Down / Sunny Nagaragawa River»). Both songs are slow ballads, and music videos were made for both of them to promote the single. The videos are connected, where in Nagaragawa no Hare Nakazawa is selling flowers to a customer (of whome we can’t see her face). In the second video, Genki no Nai Hi ni Komoriuta, she is the customer (and we can’t see the face of the flower seller).
In May 2004, Nakazawa releases her 10th single, DO MY BEST, a genki ballad with fun lyrics. The single sells around 7.000 copies (2.000 copies more than her prior single), and her second album is released a few months later in June. It is called Dai Nishou -Tsuyogari- («2nd Chapter -Bravado-») and features her singles released from 1999 up to 2004, a cover song and two new songs. It sells 6.764 copies.
After the release of her second album in 2004, singles were released more sporadically.
In 2006 she released Urara («Oh La La») and in 2007 Danna-sama («Husband»), both selling around 3.000 copies each.
Throughout her carrier, Nakazawa has held several concerts and tv performances each yeard. One of the bigger concerts she held in 2007 was released on DVD, the title being a hell of a long title:
TYPE-Y 2007 BIRTHDAY LIVE Mahou no PRESSURE! Kotoshi mo Yarimasu ∞ SPECIAL – LIVE Nochi, Yotei wo Irenai de Kudasai - («TYPE-Y 2007 BIRTHDAY LIVE This year comes again the pressure of magic! I’ll do it until infinity, special version. Please do not schedule any plan after my LIVE»).
It was a concert held in celebration of her 33th birthday and 10th year since her debut. It featured several guest artists, songs from her solo career, covers of other H!P artists songs and famous Japanese songs.
In late 2008 it was announced that Nakazawa, along with the rest of the Elder Club, would graduate from Hello! Project on March 31, 2009.
On February 1st the next year, during the Hello Pro Award ’09 ~Elder Club Sotsugyō Kinen Special~ concert, Nakazawa passed on her leadership position in Hello! Project to Ai Takahashi of Morning Musume, and graduated from an amazing line-up of groups and artists she was a part of from the early beginning and which she had led up to now. After her graduation from H!P, Nakazawa is still a part of the same talent agency responsible for H!P; UFA. A special fan club was created, called M-Line. It is a fan club for all the graduated members that once was a part of Morning Musume (excluding Fukada, Ishiguro and Ichii). Nakazawa was also given her own blog which she updates regularly.
In late 2010, UFA announces the creation of a new group called «Dream Morning Musume», or «Dorimusu». It features graduated members of Morning Musume, still managed by the agency. They released an album in March 2011, and went on a spring and autumn tour the same year. They also released a single in 2012. They still perform on TV shows, but haven't had any music releases since this single.
In 2011, Nakazawa was cast in Happy Birthday's music video for their upcoming single "Shit!". It shows a day in the life of Nakazawa.
In the early summer of 2012, Nakazawa announced on her blog that she was expecting her first child in the winter, and on November 25th she gave birth to a baby girl. She had her second child a few years later.
In 2013, Hello! Project held a concert called Hello! Project Countdown 2013 ~Hello & Good Bye~, Nakazawa was one of the acts performing on stage along with several other graduated members.
She is still in showbusiness, working as a talento, appearing in commercials, performing occasionally with Dream Morning Musume as well as holding small concerts or live events.