Ayaka Hirahara is a Japanese musician signed to Dreamusic. In late 2003 she shot to fame with her debut single Jupiter, which was a cover of Gustav Holst’s 1916 orchestral suite The Planets’ “Jupiter” movement. Hirahara is also known for her songs Ashita (drama Yasashii Jikan’s theme song) and Chikai (the NHK broadcast of the Torino Winter Olympics’ theme song). Her older sister aika debuted under Toshiba EMI in 2006.
In December 2003, Hirahara would debut with the long-selling major hit single Jupiter. Jupiter was a cover of the Jupiter movement in Gustav Holst’s 1916 orchestral suite The Planets, which was set to Japanese lyrics. The single debuted at #19 in its first week, however the song would gain in popularity immensely as it was used as the CM song for the public service announcement urging help for donations to help the residents of Niigata after they had been struck by the 2004 Chuetsu earthquake, as well as Hirahara appearing at that year’s New Years Kouhaku variety concert. In its second week it would jump to #8, and in its third would jump even higher to #3. At its peak, the single would sell 82,190 copies in one week and would reach the #2 position. In fact, the single would spend an impressive 17 weeks in the top 10 (three in 2005 after being chosen as an insert song for the 7th series of the drama 3-Nen B-Gumi Kinpachi Sensei). The single would become the #3 single of 2004 after selling 675,807 copies in that year. Also, interestingly, it would be the #42 single of 2005 after selling 214,098 copies in that year as well (bringing the grand total to 889,905).
Three months after Jupiter’s initial release, Hirahara would release her debut album ODYSSEY. It would experience similar popularity to Jupiter, debuting at #2 on the charts. On the same day, Hirahara’s second single Ashita would be released (though only a limited edition release). While reasonably popular, Ashita would not experience the mega-popularity of her debut single (only reaching #19 on Oricon). The following year would see four more single releases; Kimi to Iru Jikan no Naka de (Toyota Wish CM), Niji no Yokan (NTT Docomo cellphone, BLESSING Shukufuku (also the Toyota Wish CM) and Hello Again, JoJo (Minna no Uta animation song). These singles would fare even less well than Ashita, with the highest being BLESSING Shukufuku at #14 and the lowest being Hello Again, JoJo at #161 (all others debuted within the top #30). Hello Again, JoJo’s unpopularity was mostly stemmed from it being released on the same day as Hirahara’s second album, The Voice. At the 2004 Japan Record Awards, Hirahara won the newcomer award (alongside such artists as Otsuka Ai).
In 2005, interestingly Ashita would be re-released and used as the theme song to the drama Yasashii Jikan (and would fare better on the charts than the original release, reaching #16). In between then and during the release of her next single (Eternally (movie Yokka Kan no Kiseki theme song)), Hirahara would hold her first tour, a massive 35-date tour across the entire country. Hirahara’s next step would to be to release an album of covers songs, lead by the single Banka (Hitori no Kisetsu) / Inochi no Namae. Inochi no Namae was in fact a cover of Kimura Yumi’s insert song for the internationally successful movie Spirited Away. This album would see Hirahara covering such artists as Fukuyama Masaharu and Southern All Stars.
In preparation for a fourth album’s release, Hirahara released a 9th single, Chikai (used as the NHK broadcast of the Torino Winter Olympics’ theme song) which would experience some long-term popularity (outselling most of her other singles but peaking at #14) until the release of the album, 4tsu no L. The rest of 2006 saw sporadic releases, with a 10th single in September (Voyagers / Kokoro, with Kokoro being a self-cover of the song WILL from 4tsu no L) and in November her 11th, the ballad CHRISTMAS LIST.
At the start of 2007, Hirahara released her fifth album, Sora. The album had the theme of a global sense (by having composers from six different countries from around the world). Also the album tries to connect back with Hirahara’s debut, by having not only a classical piece covered (Siciliana by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi) and a song composed by the same people who wrote Ashita.
Official Website: http://www.ayaka-hirahara.com/