Twin sisters Emi and Yumi Ito were discovered singing in a small club in their native Nagoya, Japan. Their act consisted of Japanese-translated covers of popular songs mixed with traditional Japanese folk songs. They were signed by Sho Watanabe of the powerhouse talent agency Watanabe Productions. Watanabe controlled and represented the vast majority of the entertainment industry in 1960s Japan. The sisters, now dubbed The Peanuts, recorded the pop number “Kawaii Hana.” It became an instant hit. A string of Japanese hits followed. They toured extensively, delighting audiences with their unique ability to sound like a single voice recorded with reverb. This was achieved with simultaneous singing. Since the girls were nearly identical, their voices were at similar timbre, as well.
Soon, The Peanuts were appearing internationally, with stints in the United States on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Danny Kaye show. They established a reciprocal relationship with German singer Caterina Valente. They traded cover songs with Valente and gained a loyal following in West Germany.
In 1961, The Peanuts were tapped to appear in the sci-fi film Mothra from famed Toho Studios. The sisters played “Shobijin” (little beauties), a pair of tiny fairy spokespersons for the mighty title monster. They reprised the roles in the 1964 releases Mothra vs. Godzilla and Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
Japanese women in the entertainment business in the 1960s were expected to maintain certain social status, and the pursuit of a career after marriage was frowned upon by the rigid rules of society. Emi married in 1975, forcing The Peanuts into immediate retirement. The sisters disappeared from the public eye until 2012, when Emi’s obituary appeared in Japanese newspapers. She was 71. Four years later, Yumi passed away.