Japanese recording artist, lyricist, model, and actress. Also called “Ayu” by her fans, Hamasaki has been dubbed the “Empress of J-Pop” because of her popularity and widespread influence in Japan and throughout Asia. Born and raised in Fukuoka, she moved to Tokyo at fourteen to pursue a career in entertainment. In 1998, under the tutelage of Avex CEO Max Matsuura, she released a string of modestly selling singles that concluded with her 1999 debut album A Song for ××. The album debuted at the top of the Oricon charts and remained there for four weeks, establishing her popularity in Japan.