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Pop singer Namie Amuro receives prefectural honor award from Okinawa

Namie Amuro smiles at the "Shibuya Hikarie" shopping complex in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, in this file photo taken Oct. 13, 2012. (Mainichi)

NAHA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Japanese pop singer Namie Amuro, who has a strong fan base in Asia, received an award Wednesday from her home prefecture of Okinawa for inspiring the local population.

"I am very happy to have this prestigious award," the pop diva said after receiving it from Gov. Takeshi Onaga.

Onaga praised Amuro for her achievements, calling her a "trailblazer for many singers and celebrities hailing from Okinawa."

After the ceremony, Amuro told reporters that every time she visits Okinawa, she finds it a "place where I can refresh myself." She said she hopes that as many people as possible would learn to love the southern island prefecture.

Amuro surprised fans last year by suddenly announcing on her website that she will quit showbiz in September 2018.

Since her professional debut in 1992, her performances as both a singer and dancer have captivated fans in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. She became one of the country's leading stars, with a string of hits including "Chase the Chance," "Body Feels Exit," "Sweet 19 Blues," and "Can You Celebrate?"

Clad in a miniskirt, thick-soled boots and with her hair dyed brown, Amuro also became a fashion icon, creating a phenomenon known as "Amuraa" in the 1990s, with many young girls and women copying her fashion, hairstyle and makeup.

Amuro sang "Never End" at a welcome reception for leaders of the Group of Eight nations at their summit in Okinawa in 2000.

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