A deaf composer, dubbed Japan's Beethoven, confessed yesterday to hiring someone to write his most iconic works, embarrassing public broadcaster NHK and casting a cloud over a figure skater set to dance to his music at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Mamoru Samuragochi shot to fame in the mid 1990s with classical compositions that provided the soundtrack to video games including Resident Evil, despite having had a degenerative condition that affected his hearing since childhood.
Samuragochi became completely deaf at the age of 35, but continued to work, notably producing Symphony No1, Hiroshima, a tribute to those killed in the 1945 atomic bombing of the city.
In March last year, NHK aired a documentary, entitled Melody of the Soul, in which it showed the musician touring the tsunami-battered Tohoku region to meet survivors and those who lost relatives in the 2011 catastrophe.
The film showed Samuragochi playing with a small girl whose mother was killed in the disaster and apparently composing a requiem for her, despite his own struggles with illness.
Viewers flocked in their tens of thousands to buy his Hiroshima piece, which became an anthem-like tribute to the tsunami-hit region's determination to get back on its feet, known informally as the symphony of hope.
Yesterday morning the composer's life was revealed to have been a fraud, and an NHK anchor offered an apology for having aired the documentary.
"Through his lawyer, Mamoru Samuragochi, confessed that he had asked another composer to create his iconic works," said the anchor. "NHK has reported on him in news and feature programmes but failed to realise that he had not composed the works himself, despite our research and checking."
The broadcaster quoted Samuragochi as saying his deception had begun nearly two decades ago.
"I started hiring the person to compose music for me around 1996, when I was asked to make movie music for the first time," he said. "I had to ask the person to help me for more than half the work because the ear condition got worse."
He paid for the commission, NHK said, adding that the real composer, who it did not identify, had not yet responded to requests for a comment.
A Japanese Winter Olympics medal hope, figure skater Daisuke Takahashi, has been caught up in the scandal.
Takahashi's programme in Sochi includes a dance to a sonatina allegedly composed by Samuragochi that was released two years ago.