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Thursday, May 7, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Japanese Star's Death Upsets Fans

AP

TOKYO - Tens of thousands of young fans shut down central Tokyo today in an extraordinary outpouring of grief for a rock guitarist who hanged himself.

Hideto Matsumoto, 33, who was lead guitarist for the popular but now-defunct rock band X Japan, hanged himself in his Tokyo apartment on Saturday.

The group, which broke up after a final concert on New Year's Eve, was known for its wild hair, heavy makeup and dedication to social causes.

Some of the mourners had their hair dyed blue, orange, yellow or green. Many were clutching bouquets of white flowers or Buddhist rosary beads and dressed in black, while others sobbed into handkerchiefs.

Helicopters buzzed over Honganji Temple, where services were held. TV networks went live as ambulances carted away dozens of people overcome by emotion and the 82-degree heat.

Matsumoto had a solo tour planned for the summer.

"I can't believe he's dead," said Mayumi Meguro, a 21-year-old part-time worker who took today off for the services.

The crowd, estimated at between 20,000 and 50,000 people, stretched almost a mile along the streets under a blazing sun. Some had camped out in front of the temple gates for several days.

Alarmed by the response, Matsumoto's old band mates have urged mourning fans to stay calm.

They have reason to be fearful.

A 14-year-old girl was declared dead today after hanging herself Monday night at her home in Tokyo using a towel tied around her

neck, the same method Matsumoto used.

Another girl jumped from a bridge Monday night but survived, and yesterday a 19-year-old woman who attended the wake was taken to the emergency room after she cut her wrist with a paper knife.

If precedent holds, more attempts could follow.

Matsumoto's death was only the latest in a series of high-profile suicides that have dominated Japanese headlines in recent weeks - chiefly of businessmen and bureaucrats linked to a government scandal.

A rash of suicides followed the death of singer Yutaka Ozaki in 1992, and some parents standing in line with their children for today's service said they were apprehensive.

"I am here to make sure my daughter comes home afterward," said Kazuko Ishiwata. "I am worried about her, even though she has said she wouldn't do anything like that."

Information from Reuters is included in this report.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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