Izumi Sakai Dies

Izumi Sakai, lead singer of J-pop group ZARD, fell from an outdoor staircase and later died from a brain contusion May 27.

The 40-year-old singer was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2006 and had since been repeatedly hospitalized. Last April she checked into the Keio University Hospital in Tokyo after it was discovered that the cancer had spread to a lung. She fell to her death at the same hospital.

The media has been speculating as to whether Izumi committed suicide, though her management office has released a statement saying the death was an accident.

"She slipped on the staircase due to rain the previous day when she was going back to her hospital room after a walk."

Some show business reporters, however, question this conclusion because Izumi’s body was found on the ground next to the staircase and not at the bottom of the staircase, giving the impression that she had climbed over the railing. Some have said suicide doesn’t make sense because Izumi’s cancer was reportedly treatable.

At the time of her death, Izumi, who for all intents and purposes is ZARD, was the second most popular active female J-pop artist in terms of record sales, after Ayumi Hamasaki.

She debuted in 1991 and quickly became a star with her soft rock songs and upbeat, romantic lyrics. Unlike many J-pop artists, Izumi never appeared on TV and never granted interviews.

She seldom toured. After her death was announced, several of ZARD’s albums and singles immediately went to the top of the charts.