TWO things characterise Japanese songwriter and singer Hiroaki Igarashi - he is from head-to-toe a passionate lover of his native Hokkaido, and his music is its product. ''The nature and wide open space at home makes my music different,'' the quiet-looking 36-year-old singer said. Up in his ice-cold island, Igarashi finds his roots and inspiration for creating music, which often comes into being from a guitar. Whether in rhythm, melody or harmony, Igarashi's songs are infused with an air of nature and its simplicity. Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, where Igarashi was born, rises above 30 degrees Celsius only twice in a year. Hongkong, therefore, struck like an oven when he arrived to adjudicate for a karaoke contest, organised by the cultural office of the Japanese Consulate in Hongkong. It might be his first visit here, but to local Japanese music-lovers, Igarashi may not be a total stranger. His album White and Blue and a collection called I Do Everything for Love made their debut in Hongkong last year. In fact, one of the songs, ''Gradation'', has been rendered into a popular Canto-pop duet sung by Vivian Chow and Hacken Lee. Shortened and re-arranged, the local version is lit with a passion that markedly departs from the original soft and gentle tune. But the songwriter does not mind. He possesses a sense of ease that might have come from having battled a great illness eight years ago. The singer was diagnosed with duodenal ulcer and faced disruption in his rising career. ''Survival became my only preoccupation during that time,'' he recalled, ''I was deeply struck by how basic survival is. Without life, one cannot afford to talk about interests, let alone to create music.'' It took Igarashi three years to fight back to health and singing. The sickness failed to dampen the singer's spirit and he re-emerged with a stronger voice and more enriched music. Nevertheless, Igarashi said he had ''suffered many heartbreaks''. Still, he finds an advantage in singlehood. ''Being a bachelor enables me to compose compelling love songs,'' he said, as if in jest. Igarahsi's latest single, ''See You There Tomorrow'', will soon be released locally as part of a new album later this year. This being his 11th album, the little boy who started humming music and improvising a mike with his chopsticks at the age of three might truly have what he described as ''a destiny with music''.