The composer who was once nicknamed “the Beethoven of Japan” – and how it all came to light …
14 October 2021, 17:37
The extraordinary story of classical music’s greatest fraudster, and how he was discovered.
Among the biggest scams in history is this incredible tale of a deaf composer, once nicknamed “Japan’s Beethoven,” who was exposed as a fraud in the spring of 2014.
Mamoru Samuragochi, who rose to fame in the mid-1990s, confessed to hiring someone else to write his most famous music for almost 20 years.
Samuragochi had claimed to be the composer behind video games such as Resident Evil, as well as his Symphony No. 1 (Hiroshima), a tribute to those killed in the 1945 bombing of the city.
The real composer behind these works ultimately turned out to be Takashi Niigaki, a music teacher at a college in Tokyo. Here is his story, and how Samuragochi fooled the world …
Read more: The story of concert pianist Joyce Hatto, and how the classical world was fooled
Who was the negro, Takashi Niigaki?
In February 2014, the Winter Olympics were held in Sochi, Russia, and 2010 Olympic bronze medalist figure skater Daisuke Takahashi was preparing to perform.
The Japanese figure skater was set to skate to Samuragochi Sonatine for violin in front of a global audience.
“I couldn’t bear the idea that skater Takahashi was seen by the world as an accomplice in our crime,” said Niigaki, who called a press conference to tell his story.
In a nearly fifty-minute confession, Niigaki revealed to a field of microphones at the New Otani Hotel in Tokyo, that for the past eighteen years, he was the one who had composed Samuragochi’s music.
The show interrupted Japanese daytime programming to air the conference, as Niigaki told media that Samuragochi was not a musician and could not even write music notation or sheet music.
It was in 2001 that Time The magazine originally dubbed Samuragochi the “Beethoven of the digital age”.
He played the piano for a journalist from the publication, which is said to have gushed out, and Samuragochi said Time, “Losing my hearing was a gift from God.”
However, Niigaki also revealed during his February press conference that Samuragochi was not completely deaf, but that Samuragochi had exaggerated his deafness.
Niigaki claimed that deafness was just an act for Samuragochi to improve his reputation a la Beethoven.
Samuragochi then responded to Niigaki’s statements with his own two-hour press conference a month later.
In his speech, he apologized and admitted not writing any of the music he had previously claimed. He also admitted that although her hearing was impaired, she did not meet legal requirements for deafness.
Since the couple’s press conferences in 2014, the two appear to have switched roles.
Samuragochi has moved away from the public eye, while Niigaki has appeared on television and in magazines. He was commissioned to write symphonies in his own name and worked with orchestras that had previously performed his work without his knowledge.
Niigaki is now a popular and acclaimed composer in his own right. He recently announced plans to open Shibuya Music College, an online college where students can take as many classes as they want for a monthly fee of 980 yen (£ 6.30).
We look forward to seeing Niigaki’s students continue his now unmasked legacy …