Story of Hamasaki Ayumi

 "Never judge a book by its cover" This sentence is so true. Who would have imagined a petite lady like Hamasaki Ayumi (浜崎あゆみ) to be so successful and influential? Hamasaki Ayumi is a well-known Japanese singer-songwriter, record producer, model, lyricist, actress, fashion leader and spokeswoman. Commonly known as Ayu by her fans (even she herself). Thanks to her enormous popularity and widespread influence in Japan and throughout Asia, she has been dubbed the EMPRESS OF POP. Despite all these, even until today, Hamasaki Ayumi remains a mystery and is frequently misunderstood by many.

Her Childhood and School Life

Ayumi was born on 2 October 1978 in Fukuoka Prefecture. When Ayumi was still a toddler (age of 3), her father abandoned the family and ever since then he never appear in her life. Ayumi was left in the care of her grandmother while her mother worked hard to support the family. Thus Ayumi grew up in a completely different background as compared to most kids of her age. Her mother couldn’t pick her up from school nor care for her much which lead to her having a rather liberal discipline system. Being forced to be an adult when she was little, Ayumi developed into an introverted, mature child who preferred to stay alone on her own.

At the age of merely 7, Ayumi began modelling for local institutes to help lessen her family finance burden.
She left her family at 14 moving to Tokyo alone to pursue on as a model under SOS, a talent agency. However her modeling career did not last long as SOS eventually regarded her too short for a professional model and transferred her to Sun Music, a musicians' agency. She was initially a good student with good grades in high school but she became a delinquent and dropped out after she felt the school modules were useless to her. Then she attempted to further her studies at Horikishi Gakuen, a high school for the arts. Along with her friends, she took the entrance exams along and ended up to be the only one who failed. She persisted on and passed when she retook the exams. However she dropped out in the first year. At this time, Ayumi started to attend a television program 'Idol on Stage'.

In 1995, under the name of Ayumi, Ayumi released a rap EP (single and album), Nothing from Nothing, with Nippon Columbia label where she would claim she was the first Japanese female rapper.
She was ultimately dismissed from the label when both these releases failed to chart on the Oricon due to almost no promotion. Ironically, this album is highly hunted down and is sold at outrageously high prices now. 

After this failure, she took up the acting name Kurumi Hamasaki and had a few minor roles in second-rated-movies such as 'Ladys Ladys!! Sōcho Saigo no Hi' and television dramas such as 'Miseinen'; both received poor response. Later on, she managed to co-star in two movies with Maki Mochida. From August 1995 to March 1996, Ayumi also co-hosted the SoundLink magazine 'Hōkago no Ōsama (放課後の王様, After-school King)' for the Nintendo Satellaview once a week with Shigeru Izumiya. In 1996, growing discontented with her career, Ayumi moved away from acting and moved in with her mother who had recently moved to Tokyo. It was during this time, she got to know Nagase Tomoya, who was also a newcomer to the entertainment industry, and they started dating.

Once Upon Meeting Max Matsuura and Avex Trax

After multiple failures, Ayumi ended up wasting her time shopping at Shibuya boutiques and dancing at Velfarre, an Avex-owned disco club, in Roppongi. Unaware that Velfare was owned by the avex trax, she was introduced to her future producer, Max Matsuura, through a friend who worked there. 
After hearing Ayumi sang, Matsuura offered her a recording deal but Ayumi suspected ulterior motives and no confidence in singing so she rejected the offer. He continued to convince Ayumi and succeeded in recruiting her under the avex trax label in the following year. Ayumi started vocal training but skipped most of her classes after finding her instructors to be too stern, the classes boring and she hated the idea of going back to school. When she confessed this to Matsuura, she was surprised that he did not scold her but decided to train her vocals using other method by sending her to New York which she went reluctantly for 3 months. She stayed at a midtown hotel and was surprised to see that the lessons were lenient. During this period, Ayumi frequently write to Matsuura. Her writing style impressed him so much that on her return to Japan, he suggested that she should try writing her own lyrics. 

This was a major turning point in Ayumi’s life. She was never taken seriously by anyone. Ayumi was always lost and this gave her a whole new direction in her life. Finally, she was also able to put something “hers” in what she was going to release. Although Ayumi has zero knowledge in lyric writing but she is able to write her lyrics based on her emotions.

In 1998, at the age of 20 she started recording her first single 'Poker Face'.
For the first time in her life, Ayumi decided to give her super best in this debut and worked extremely hard. However just before her debut, her grandmother was hospitalized for a serious illness. Ayumi frequently traveled back to Fukuoka to remain by her grandmother’s side. Before the recording, Ayumi told her grandmother that she would return the instant she finished recording and her barely conscious grandmother started crying. During the time when Ayumi was recording, her grandmother passed away. Matsuura asked her to stop recording and return to Fukuoka immediately but Ayumi decided to continue recording. This single ended up reaching  number 20 on the Oricon Charts and sold over 43,000 copies.

“In the beginning, I was searching for myself in my music. My music was for me. I didn’t have the mental room to be conscious of the listener; I wrote to save myself.” 

This tragic event greatly affected the lyrics in Ayumi’s future releases which are filled with loneliness, individualism, misery and hopelessness. Ayumi sang her lyrics to keep herself alive and it became the only place where she belongs.
She decided to work hard for herself so that if she failed, she would have only herself to blame. Her first true breakthrough was her 5th single 'Depend on You' which is associated with the game 'Thousand Arms'. Her popularity grew and the Japanese started to relate themselves to her lyrics. Her debut album, A Song for XX was a success which sold over a million copies and topped the Oricon charts for five weeks.
Thanks to this unexpected success, Ayumi won two awards at the Japan Gold Disc Awards as “Best New Artist” and “Pop Album of the Year”. This also led her to be invited to perform at the prestigious NHK Kouhaku Utagassen.

Up The Staircase of Success

In 1999, Ayumi began moving a step higher by experimenting different musical styles including trance, dance, ballads and orchestra. Ayumi worked continuously to release 8 singles and finally earned her first number 1 single, 'Love ~Destiny~'. Subsequently all her singles would be featured in a 12 cm format. Her 9th single 'Boys & Girls' became her first maxi single and it was an instant hit, selling over a million copies. The following single 'A' was yet even more successful and sold over 1,670,000 copies. Oricon announced to the public that it was the 6th highest selling single from a female artist during the last 10 years and is recorded to be her highest selling single to date

After a string of victory, Ayumi finally released her second album Loveppears and single 'Appears' on the same day in November 1999. There is an obvious change in Ayumi’s lyrics though the lyrics still show her lack of self esteem and her hidden emotions but many of them were written from a third person standpoint. This marked the first time where Ayumi dyed her hair blonde. Since then, blond has become her trademark and also started a trend among many Japanese teens who modelled after her. The album cover features her posing topless which raised a great deal of debates. Despite this, Loveppears was even more successful than the first album and sold nearly 3 million copies. 
In support of Loveppears, she held her first tour, 'Ayumi Hamasaki Concert Tour 2000 A'. Being in the limelight, she received several contracts with HONDA, Lycos Japan, AUBE and Tu-Ka. It has been rumoured that Ayumi has saved Tu-Ka from bankruptcy. She also won her first fashion award, the "Nail Queen award"

“I have trouble voicing my thoughts… I can’t communicate very well that way.“

In year 2000, she became a spokeswoman for Kose, a popular cosmetics company in Japan. 
It has been documented a record of 500,000 lipsticks were sold in only two days when she appeared in commercials to promote Kose’s lipsticks. She rapidly became a fashion icon and started to be featured in more prominent magazines. She also won the "Best Jewellery Wearing Teenager" award for the first time. In April to June, she released her infamous trilogy, a series of singles consisting of 'Vogue', 'Far Away', and 'Seasons'. The lyrics of these songs focused on hopelessness, a reflection of Ayumi's disappointment that she had not expressed herself thoroughly in any of her earlier lyrics and a sense of shame of her public image. These singles were intentionally linked in various ways. Out of these 3, 'Seasons' became a major hit, by selling over 1,367,400 copies and getting the number 1 position for 2 consecutive weeks.

In September, Ayumi released her third album Duty, which is affirmed by many to be her best studio album to date with many tracks reflecting feelings of loneliness, confusion and the burden of her responsibilities. The musical style was darker as well and Duty was a rock-influenced album. The album cover featured her wearing a catsuit outfit with black hair which had a huge impact among the Japanese. The promotional video of 'SURREAL', the single 'SURREAL' and the DVD 'Ayumi Hamasaki concert tour 2000 A Part I' were all released on the same date. All these releases managed to hit number 1, making her the first person to hold the top position on all three charts. She moved on winning several other awards at the Japan Gold Disc Awards and The Japan Record Awards. Despite all these successes, Ayumi’s personality still has low self-esteem. At that time she realized she was looked up to by many teenagers and that she had become a role model for them. 
This year also highlighted with the birth of Ayupan, a figurine doll designed by Ayumi herself and rumoured that they were named like that because Ayumi thinks they look like a panda. They are small plastic figurines that are cartoon version of Ayumi. To date these are the hottest merchandise items being released by Ayumi. At the end of 2000, Ayumi held her first New Year countdown concert at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

Her Confidence Built Up

Her success slowly lead Ayumi to build up her self-confident and be in control over her career. She discovered her passion in music and she grew more powerful within avex due to the massive sales she produced. She took over in the creative process of her music and moved away from the typical idol persona and became a diva. Soon, Ayumi was no longer a simple singer but one who can decide which direction her music suppose to go. Nothing was released without her approval, not even the font type of a release. And just because she was so powerful, avex could not control her as much as they wished to.

In December 2000, Ayumi released her legendary single 'M', which was her first composition with the pseudonym CREA. This single sold over a million copies and became one of her signature songs. It was one of her first songs with a rock genre and Christian influences. 
In March 2001, avex forced Ayumi to release her first best compilation album even though Ayumi opposed strongly. At that point of time, Ayumi thought that a compilation album is only released to mark the end of a singing career. Fearing this might be the case, she put in her soul in this compilation album and re-sung certain songs.  She even posed with a tear rolling down, as a symbol of her protest. Streets turned sorrow with the display of this photo. This album was released in direct competition with Utada Hikaru’s Distance and as a result this was the start of the media-created rivalry between these two music giants. The promotional campaign was immense and Ayumi posed in 40 magazines. This album sold over 5 million copies and became the 6th highest-selling album of all time in Japan. After this undeniable success, it was obvious that Ayumi had become the ultimate diva of Japan

In September 2001, her second eurobeat remix album became the second remix album in Japanese history to top the charts. avex also re-released her 8cm singles and 9 remix singles. With such a hectic lifestyle, she fainted and got injured while practicing for the concert 'Dome Tour 2001'. During this time, she became aware that she was becoming deaf in her left ear. Her doctor stressed that she had to take time to rest but she could not let down all of her fans and 'Dome Tour 2001' was carried out as per scheduled. Thus 'Dome Tour 2001' is commonly referred to as one of her greatest concerts. Since then Ayumi often wears ear plugs. 
Her fashion has led many people to purchase whatever she wore. She won the Barbie Award due to her golden locks and attractive fashion sense. Her 'evolution' fox tail (shippo) is regularly known as one of her trademark accessories. Ayumi became an influential figure not only in Japan, but throughout Asia. When her fourth album’s release was delayed, stock prices for avex trax had shown significant signs of decrease. She contributed to an estimated 40% of the avex’s profit. This proved the amount of influence she has.


Ayumi increased her control over her music by composing all of the songs found in her I Am... album under the pseudonym CREA. Moved by the tragic events in September, Ayumi reconsidered and decided to revise her vision of I Am.... Therefore Ayumi and her team ditched the whole photoshoot for the album and re-shot a simplistic version to portray peace, faith, freedom and hope in a difficult time for the world.

Ayumi also released her second duet single with Keiko Yamada. 'A Song Is Born', which was part of avex trax’s non-profit Song + Nation project to raise money for charity. The song was rather simplistic, highlighted with sincerity while asking the audience to listen and to remain hopeful for peace. 

After a year full of struggles and hitches, I Am... was finally released and proved to be a turning point in Ayumi’s lyrical career. Ayumi grew from the insecure teenager and become a woman seeking for peace in the world and within herslf. Instead of singing about loneliness and confusion, Ayumi sang about love, freedom and peace. This direction proved to inspire countless Japanese and sold more than 2 millions copies. 

Crossing Beyond Japan
In 2002, Ayumi held her first concert outside Japan, at the 'MTV Asia music awards ceremony' in Singapore. At the ceremony, she received the award for "Most Influential Japanese Singer in Asia". In support of I Am..., Ayumi held 2 tours, 'Ayumi Hamasaki Arena Tour 2002 A' and 'Ayumi Hamasaki Stadium Tour 2002 A'. In November 2002, as Ayu, she released her first European single, 'Connected' a trance song from I Am... composed by DJ Ferry Corsten. It was released in Germany on the Drizzly label and topped at number 18 on Germany’s MTV Dance Charts. Ayumi continued to release singles (all of them remixes of previously released songs) in Germany on Drizzly until 2005. 

At this instant, Ayumi was listed as the top earning entertainer in Japan. In 2002, she won "Best Female Artist Award" at 'MTV Asia Awards' for the first time and was given a special award as the "Most Influential Japanese Artist In Asia". She was also featured on TIME Magazine and Vogue for the very first time. Another remarkable activity that occurred enabling her to expand her horizons in Asia was the Uraayu photobook which is located in Hong Kong. 

Ayumi also received her biggest commercial endorsement with Panasonic. Ayumi also become a frequent model and started her fashion designs for the label MATERIAL GIRL. Ayumi also started to host a television program titled 'AYUREADY?' where several artists were invited as guests to perform.

Ayumi released only 3 singles in 2002. In April 2002, Ayumi released the single 'Free & Easy'
In collaboration with the magazine Free & Easy, Ayumi also released Hamasaki Republic, a photobook that was actually a special issue of Free & Easy, in conjunction with the single. 'H' became her best selling single in 2002 which sold more than a million copies. This triple A side single contained her last associate with Tu-Ka, and another collaboration with Kose. To honour hitting the million mark in sales, this single was re-released Special Limited Edition on 7 November 2002. In September, Ayumi resumed her acting career with the short movie Tsuki ni Shizumu which was released at a selected theatre in Shibuya. She released her last single in 2002 'Voyage' to promote this movie and managed to set a new record as it topped the Oricon Chart for a total of 3 weeks. 

After performing at the 2002 MTV Asia music awards, Ayumi felt that she was unable to bring her message across to other countries if she only write Japanese lyrics. Realizing that English is a common global language, she included English lyrics in 3 songs. The album was stylistically diverse; Ayumi included rock and trip-hop-influenced tracks as well as "summery", "up-tempo" and "grand gothic" songs and experimented with new techniques such as gospel choruses and audience yells. The lyrics were also varied: themes in the album included freedom, the struggles of women, and "a summer that ends in sadness". All in all, Rainbow, released in December 2002 was her first studio album to use English lyrics.

Rainbow has a totally new image and theme where Ayumi projected herself as a sexy, stylish and independent individual. The song 'Real Me' was her first to reflect a feminist approach and contain a set choreography. Rainbow marked Ayumi’s happiest year as she would sing about love, happiness and confidence. This album received a lot of attention owing to several reasons. Most of the songs had collaboration with either Panasonic or Kose. What's more, this album is primarily composed by CREA and DAI. Overall it sold close to 2 millions copies. A few months later, Ayumi released a ballad collection, titled A BALLADS. This album contained a fair sum of tracks which were remixed, rearranged and re-sung. The whole theme of this album was to illustrate the transition of Ayumi from unconfident to confident. This album sold close to a million copies.

A 19 episodes cartoon series of Ayupan were aired on TV. In 2003, Ayumi released 3 singles '&', 'Forgiveness', and 'No Way to Say'. Out of the 3 singles, '&' attracted the most attention which sold around 600,000 copies. Once again, all 3 singles topped the Oricon charts. In celebration on the release of her 30th single, a tour titled 'A Museum ~30th collection live~' was held at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium. Due to her hectic schedule, Ayumi decided to release a mini CD + DVD album Memorial Address where almost all the songs included a promotional video. Although it was only a mini album, Memorial Address became a huge success selling over a million copies and is recorded to be the best-selling mini-album by a solo female in Japan.

In 2004, Ayumi’s contract with Kose ended abruptly, with 'Moments' being her final song to be featured in their commercials. Later on in July, a feud between Max Matsuura and Yoda, an executive at Avex trax, caused chaos and scandal. Ayumi stated clearly and firmly that she will follow Matsuura and the stock prices in avex dropped. With such pressure, Yoda finally raised the white flag and ended the feud by quitting avex. On the other hand, Ayumi also announced she would not participate in any future major music awards. She also mentioned that she felt she was receiving the same awards every year, and by forfeiting her right to claim these awards she was giving opportunity to new singers. This decision drew countless talks and scandals. Through this, you can clearly see that she is a very powerful artist within avex and how unwilling she is to be a submissive artist manipulated by her record label.

In August Ayumi returned to USA to film her exotic promotional video INSPIRE and travelling overseas to record a video became a normal routine for her. 
INSPIRE became the second single to contain a DVD Edition and her highest selling single in 2004. Later on in fall, Ayumi promoted the Bvlgari jewellery line in the prestigious Vogue. Ayumi also received great honor to have her own wax statue in the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Hong Kong. 

Route to Becoming Empress of Pop

In winter, Ayumi was dissatisfied with her last two studio albums as she thought had been rushed. She began work on MY STORY early. In contrast with her previous albums, MY STORY had no set theme nor did Ayumi attempt to write something good or even something that would give people hope. Rather, she simply wrote freely and honestly which contained mainly autobiographical lyrics about her emotions and reminiscences of her career. She approached the composition of the music freely too with notable rock overtones expressing her liking for rock music. MY STORY is a predominantly rock album which focused on powerful vocals and more mature themes. She was so contented with the result that she declared MY STORY the first album she felt satisfied with. MY STORY and its singles, 'Moments', 'Inspire', and 'Carols', all topped the weekly Oricon charts moreover with sales of over a million copies. 
From January to April 2005, Ayumi held the nationwide 'MY STORY' arena tour, her first album-based tour. Also in January, she began working with Lamoureux Orchestra to create MY STORY Classical, a classical version of MY STORY; the album served as an "alter-ego" of the mostly aggressive MY STORY. The orchestra also created a classical version of 'A Song Is Born', which was included on MY STORY Classical

Almost 5 months after the release of her 6th album, Ayumi returned with yet another rock single, 'STEP you / is this LOVE?'. This single became her top selling single in 2005 and also started a string of double a-side singles. Apart from containing two promotional videos, an extra video from her previous album was filmed, 'My name’s WOMAN'. Huge amount of money were invested in all these videos and received excellent responses from her fans. 3 months later, Ayumi went to Hawaii to film the promotional video of Fairyland which is renowned for being Japan’s most expensive video ever recorded and is also the 8th most expensive music video worldwide. In fall, Ayumi released a tie-in with a movie, 'Shinobi'. The song 'HEAVEN' was a big project for Ayumi where she focused on creating a grand powerful ballad with a strong emotional theme. Ayumi travelled to New York to record music videos for the single.

Ayumi released her 7th studio album (Miss)understood in January 2006 that showed  signs of brand new musical directions. Longing to sing a tune like those of the group Sweetbox, Ayumi received permission from Sweetbox’s composer Roberto "Geo" Rosan to use demo songs he had intended to use in Sweetbox's upcoming album. She edited the songs to fit her personal vision, rewriting the lyrics and rearranging some of the songs. For this reason, (Miss)understood included ballads, funk, dance-pop, R&B, and rock songs. All of (Miss)understood's singles topped in Oricon charts. 'Bold & Delicious' became Ayumi's 25th number 1 single, tying her with Seiko Matsuda for the record of most number one singles by a solo female artist. Though (Miss)understood also reached the top in charts, Oricon stated that it fail to sell over a million copies marking Ayumi's first studio album to fail the million mark. In support of the album, Ayumi held the  (Miss)understood arena tour, which spanned 3 months with 30 concerts, from Saitama on 11 March 2006 to Yoyogi on 11 June 2006.

'Startin' was Ayumi's first single of 2006 which became her 26th number 1 single setting a new record for most number one singles held by a solo female artist. The following studio album Secret was released in November 2006. Secret was apparently the theme of the album. Ayumi reunited with Leslie Kee and release an outstanding photoshoot where Ayumi was featured with an amazing tattoo, where it is rumoured that the “A” design is actually a permanent tattoo. The album also explored strong female figures, love, and sadness; songs’ describing the artist’s struggles and was written to encourage females. Although Secret was originally intended to be a mini-album, but as times goes by, Ayumi was overflowed with things to say while producing the album and wrote five more songs. Ayumi once leaked that this album contains a secret of hers. The album included a variety of orchestral, rock and trance hybrids. The album also topped the Oricon weekly charts, making Ayumi the only artist to have 8 consecutive number one studio albums. This album attracted a lot of attention, especially due to 'JEWEL' being one of the most expensive videos ever filmed. 
Although this album was less successful than her previous albums in Japan, Secret has managed to become extremely popular in Asia. This album topped the charts in China, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. The song 'Secret' was chosen to be the theme song of the movie “Confession of Pain“. In December, Ayumi attended the premiere of this movie in Hong Kong. Despite the above, according to both Oricon and the RIAJ, Secret failed to sell a million copies.

 Ayumi also appeared on CNN International, as a part of Talk Asia’s 'Japan Now' series which featured the most influential people in the Japanese entertainment industry. 
Ayumi was interviewed by Atika Shubert and surprisingly Ayumi answered some questions in English. During the interview, Ayumi talked about her feelings towards her own success, her life as a pop icon and her plans for future. She showed interest in performing overseas if anyone wishes to hear her and also confirmed that she would extend her yearly tour in Asia too. 

After the release of Secret, avex announced the release of her second best compilation A Best 2; a pair of compilation albums, White and Black, containing songs from I Am... to (Miss)understood. Ayumi released the song 'part of Me' to promote this album and it also received a tie-in with Panasonic. Her concert 'Best of Countdown Live 2006-2007 A' was included together with the compilations. A special site “” was set up on 15 February 2007 to promote and celebrate the release of these albums. Both albums  had a combine sales of  over a million copies and ended up breaking yet another record. It was the first time in 36.5 years that a female artist has occupied number 1 and number 2 in the album charts and it is the first time in the United World Chart’s history that a solo female artist could top the chart with 2 albums landing at number 1 and number 2 at the same time.

At the end of 2007, White and Black became Japan's 5th and 7th best-selling albums of the year respectively. In support of A Best 2 and Secret, Ayumi embarked in her first international concert tour, 'Tour of Secret' which lasted 4 month and successfully completed in June. 
Ayumi also merged her Ayupan character with Hello Kitty, which was sold as merchandise in her tour. avex announced that if this product receives popular response, more mergers will be considered. Though Ayumi was travelling in Asia, a commercial for Weider was released in April. In May, Ayumi promoted Dior Addict in the prestigious fashion magazine Vogue. Ayumi based the whole concept of this concert over Leslie Kee’s famous quote “Asia is One” which lead to a huge success. In this tour, Ayumi unquestionably tried to create a connection with her foreign fans in Taipei, Shanghai and Hong Kong by learning some native phrases and also spoke in English. Her Taipei and Hong Kong fanbase who highly anticipated the concerts, wiped out the  tickets in less than 3 hours. Her fans were also instructed to sing 'Poker Face' in Japanese on her 9th anniversary, which was a joyful surprise to the tearful Ayumi.

Not A Good Year

The following year was rather difficult for Ayumi. Soon after the completion of her tour, Ayumi visited Hong Kong in order to shoot a short film, Distance Love, with Hong Kong actor Shawn Yue for her summer single titled 'Glitter/Fated'. 
At the same time, both Ayumi and Tomoya announced that they decided to break up after their 7 year long relationship. Both avoided to explain the reason of their break up and simply state that they remain as friends. 

In September, Ayumi released 'Talkin’ 2 Myself', where she voiced her internal philosophical thoughts about her life at that moment. This single continued Ayumi’s streak of number 1 singles. By the end of the year, a close childhood friend of Ayumi passed away and she wrote a song 'Untitled for her' showing her memories with this close childhood friend and her grief. In January 2008, Ayumi publicly announced to the world that she had an inoperable condition, which caused complete deafness in her left ear. Despite losing her hearing permanently, Ayumi assured her fans in her Team Ayu blog that she still wished to continue her professional career and will not ditch her fans. In December, Ayumi released her first digital only single, 'Together When...', which topped the RIAJ's monthly download chart. 

As expected, her 9th album GUILTY was a dark one and she claimed the production of this album totally drained her out. Thus it is no surprise that the lyrics are filled with regret, guilt and loneliness. She mentioned that the album's tracks appeared to tell a story. GUILTY peaked at the number 2 position on the weekly Oricon charts, making it Ayumi’s first studio album that failed to reach the top. GUILTY was later released as a digital album in 26 countries outside Japan with 19 of them Western nations. Her first step into the global market came when Ayumi decided to employ western DJs such as Armand van Helden for her 2008 remix albums Ayu-mi-x 6: Gold and Ayu-mi-x 6: Silver.

Her 10th Anniversary

April 2008 marked Ayumi’s 10th anniversary in avex. Ayumi released the single 'Mirrorcle World' which topped the Oricon making Ayumi the only female solo artist to have a number 1 single every year for 10 consecutive years. Ayumi flew to Venice to shoot an advertisement for Panasonic. This marked her first time in Europe. 
In fact Ayumi enjoyed her stay in Europe so much that she returned to shoot her promotional video 'Mirrorcle World' in Paris. Ayumi also held her second tour of Asia, 'Asia Tour 2008: 10th Anniversary' to celebrate her 10th anniversary. From April until June she toured Japan holding 17 concerts. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Shanghai were again the foreign stops. 
On 10 September 2008, Ayumi released A Complete: All Singles, a compilation album that includes the A-sides of all her singles along with previously unreleased footage from her A-nation concerts which is the 8th bestselling album of 2008. During her touring activities, Ayumi would still remain active with her endorsements with Panasonic and Weider. In summer, Wacoal announced that Ayumi was chosen to become their new spokeswoman and model. 

Ayumi's next 2 singles 'Days/Green' and 'Rule/Sparkle' continued Ayumi's streak of number 1 singles. 'Rule' is proudly used as the international theme song for the movie 'Dragonball Evolution'. This marked Ayumi’s first global venture. The electronic dance studio album, Next Level, was released on 25 March 2009 in several formats: CD, CD+DVD, 2CD+DVD and a two-gigabyte USB flash drive. Next Level reached the top of the Oricon charts but was only certified double platinum, making it Ayumi's lowest selling studio album to that date. On 12 August 2009, Ayumi released her 46th single 'Sunrise/Sunset (Love Is All)' which was being used as the opening theme song for the Japanese television drama 'Dandy Daddy?'. The single reached the top of the weekly charts, making it her 21st successive number 1 single. 'Sunrise/Sunset' is also her 44th single to enter the Top 10 making Ayumi the artist with the most Top 10 singles ever. Ayumi’s 3rd single of the year 'You Were.../Ballad' was released on 29 December 2009. 

Ayumi's 11th studio album Rock 'n' Roll Circus was released on 14 April 2010. Though the album contained a few "powerful and melodramatic gothic rock" tracks, it was mainly "pure and classic J-pop", with pop-rock songs and ballads. The album topped the charts, making Ayumi the first female solo artist in twenty years to have ten number one original studio albums. In order to have a closer relationship with her fans, Ayumi began expanding her online presence by setting up accounts on MySpace, Ustream, and Twitter. 
Another breakthrough happened in July when entertainment company Livespire announced that Ayumi's 2009 'Next Level' tour would be shown in 3D at Toho cinemas nationwide. 

On 14 July, Ayumi released her 48th single, 'Moon/Blossom'. Subsequent singles 'Crossroad' and 'L' were released within a week in difference. 'Crossroad' was composed by Tetsuya Komuro The 3 singles all topped the Oricon, becoming Ayumi’s 23rd, 24th and 25th consecutive number1 singles thus breaking the record for the most consecutive number 1 singles by any female artist (solo or group) as well as by any solo artist. On 22 December, Ayumi released her 20th original studio album, Love Songs. The album also has her cover version of Komuro's band TM Network's 1988 song 'Seven Days War', which was her first cover of a male song. On the same day, Naoya Urata of AAA released his debut solo single 'Dream On' which featured Ayumi who personally penned and produced, marking the first record she produced for another singer. 'Love Songs' and 'Dream On' both reached the top spots on their respective Oricon charts. Love Songs became Ayumi's 4th consecutive and 17th total number 1 album. The album also marked Ayumi's 13th consecutive year with a number 1 album, breaking her old record.

Entering Next Stage of Her Life

On 2 January 2011, Ayumi (32) announced her sudden marriage on TeamAyu! Her husband is none other than the Austrian actor and model Manuel Schwarz (30), whom Ayumi met in August 2010 on the set of her music video 'Virgin Road'. They had gotten married in the Las Vegas on 1 January 2011 hours after she appeared singing her song 'Virgin Road' at the annual 'Red & White Year-end Song Festival' in a white wedding gown. After they registered their marriage on 1st January, they held a wedding ceremony at a chapel in Las Vegas with Ayumi’s close friends and her staff.  The couple attended the wedding in casual wear. It’s been reported that Ayumi and Manuel will not live together, and will keep going back and forth between Japan and the States. Ayumi reassured her fans "I will continue to be myself and I hope we all will, too", and she will continue to work on her career as a singer. Ayumi also clarified that she is not pregnant.

"On Jan 1, 2011, I married in a small church in the United States. I really wanted to tell you immediately, so I'm writing this now. My husband, as you know, is Mannie. He's my Last Angel."

In February 2011, avex announced that her 'Arena Tour 2011 A: Hotel Love Songs' would start in April. However shortly after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit, the tour was rescheduled to start in May and the tour was renamed to 'Ayumi Hamasaki ~Power of Music~ 2011'
Deeply affected by the Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami devastation, Ayumi donated 30 million yen and also collaborated with fashion magazine ViVi to sell charity T-shirts. On 20 April 2011, Ayumi simultaneously released 4 new remix albums: Ayu-mi-x 7 Version House, Ayu-mi-x 7 Version Acoustic Orchestra, Ayu-mi-x 7 Presents Ayu Trance 4, Ayu-mi-x 7 Presents Ayu-ro Mix 4, and Ayu-mi-x 7 Limited Complete Box Set, with releasing them internationally on iTunes which marks Ayumi’s first time releasing internationally on iTunes. On that same day, Ayumi also released Ayumi Hamasaki Rock 'n' Roll Circus Tour Final: 7 Days Special and Ayumi Hamasaki A 50 Singles: Live Selection which topped the Oricon Chart Weekly number 1 and number 2 respectively. These concurrent releases made Ayumi the first artist ever to have 4 albums in Oricon's top 10 and also the first artist to hold 2 top positions in Oricon DVD chart. They were originally scheduled to be released on 30 March but were postponed to 20 April due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Then on 21 April 2011, it was announced that she would perform in 'a-nation 10th Anniversary for Life Charge & Go!'. On 4 May, it was announced that she broke another record — the female artist with the highest DVD sales of more than 2 millions copies.

On 31 August 2011, Ayumi attended a pre-screening and greeting event for her 3D movie, 'A 3D II ayumi hamasaki Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus Tour FINAL ~7days Special~'. This film involved footage from her final performances of last year’s nationwide tour.  Regarding her 3-D movie, she said, I am glad that this film became a movie full of touching emotions. The songstress continued, I was able to do the tour til its bittersweet end because of you guys and gave her thanks to the fans. 'A 3D II ayumi hamasaki Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus Tour FINAL ~7days Special~' is set to hit theatres on 3 September 2011.

Regained Her Single Status

On 16 January 2012, Ayumi made an official announcement through her official fan club, Team Ayu, that she is divorcing her Austrian actor Manuel Schwarz! The couple wedded in Las Vegas on New Year’s Day of 2011.

Ayumi revealed the reason for her divorce due to a change of heart living outside Japan after the Tohoku Earthquake. In her own words she explained: "At the time of our marriage, we decided to live in America, however, because of the Tohoku Earthquake that occurred two months later, a strong feeling sprouted within me that I didn't want to be apart from Japan. I wasn't able to imagine a life in America, and as a result, I left my husband by himself for a long period of time.".

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Courtesy from Channel-Ai and  Wikipedia.


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