If Europe is the place where heavy metal found new life years after the grunge revolution, '80s rock definitely survived in Japan, and one of those who has been most prominent in keeping the flame alive is Nanase Aikawa -- of course, along with millions of her compatriots who gladly bought her CDs. What's also amazing is that at the same time she managed to keep a firm hold on her privacy -- even though in Japan celebrity adoration is elevated to an art form. Not much is known about Nanase Aikawa before she started recording, although it's a fact that she was a problem teen, which is attributed to school bullying and her parents' divorce. Some rumors even suggest that she was in a girl gang. At 15 Nanase, who already took part in several singing contests, decided to drop out of high school, spending the next five years in total obscurity and receiving music training from the producer Tetsuro Oda. Perhaps her tough teen years gave her interest in music with a rougher edge (rock songs dominate her back catalog), as well as an understanding of how to write tunes that people can relate to (she composes her own music). Whatever the case, after these years of study Nanase made her conquest of the J-rock world neat and swift, as her debut CD, Red, sold two million copies in one month of 1996. She capitalized on her success by performing on a New Year's music event on Japanese TV and by releasing 1997's Paradox, which sold nearly two million copies. Her two tours were also as successful as might be expected from an artist with these sales, and both discs scored Japanese national music awards.
After that Nanase was on a set path. She continued recording and regularly touring the country, recording four more successful albums between 1999 and 2004. None repeated the success of the debut disc, but they all sold well enough. These records were accompanied by two EPs, two "best-of" compilations, and then some disappointing news for many male fans of the handsome rocking lady: in 2001 Nanase Aikawa got married, with a child born later the same year. However, that didn't hinder her career for long. In the 2000s she also landed a number of theme songs for anime series, most notably including the story of the national favorite dog demon boy, Inuyasha (2000). And one of her more recent live lineups boasted Marty Friedman, the head shredder of the number two '80s thrash band Megadeth, who was married to a Japanese lady and living in Tokyo at the time. Her other collaborators included producer Tomoyasu Hotei and members of Hide and X-Japan -- all big names of the Japanese scene, only reinforcing Nanase Aikawa's status as Japan's leading female rock performer. Nanase went on a hiatus in 2006, but re-emerged in 2008, issuing the Reborn full-length in December of that year.