Photo/IllutrationNamie Amuro sings during a Dec. 30 rehearsal for the "NHK Kohaku Utagassen" (Red and white song contest) held on New Year's Eve. This photo was distributed by NHK officials who claimed it was taken during the live performance on Dec. 31. (Provided by NHK)

Pop diva Namie Amuro's last performance on a nationally televised entertainment extravaganza Dec. 31 was marred by Japan Broadcasting Corp.'s admission that a fake photo of the singer had been distributed to media organizations.

Amuro's special appearance on the prestigious "NHK Kohaku Utagassen" (Red and white song contest) followed her announcement in September that she would quit the music scene this autumn after a quarter-century in the business, during which she served as an influential role model for legions of her young fans.

The more-than-four hour annual show at the NHK Hall in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward brings together the cream of Japan's music world and is watched by millions of people across Japan as the final hours of the year tick down.

Amuro, 40, sang for the last time on the year-end program live from a music studio separate from the main venue, whose location was kept secret.

After she finished singing, NHK Public Relations Department officials distributed a photo of Amuro they claimed was taken during her just-completed live performance.

Some media representatives were skeptical and asked if the photo was taken during the rehearsal by Amuro a day earlier. However, PR officials insisted the photo was genuine.

But on Jan. 5 NHK changed its tune and announced that the photo was actually taken during the Dec. 30 rehearsal. NHK apologized for misleading media organizations.

"We lied and I am very sorry," said Takayuki Fujioka, the head of the Public Relations Department.

According to NHK, Amuro and her staff asked that no photographs be taken by media organizations during her live performance, prompting the broadcaster to release a photo taken during her rehearsal.

After checking that the dress Amuro wore for the live performance was the same as that worn during the rehearsal, NHK officials distributed the rehearsal photo.

Fujioka said he confirmed with his subordinates and the individual in charge of dealing with media organizations admitted that the photo from the rehearsal was used because the studio and the dress were unchanged.