Minoru Miki was born in Tokushima, Japan in 1930 and graduated in music from the Tōkyō University of the Arts (formerly the Tōkyō National University of Fine Arts and Music) in 1955.
In the 1960s Miki began to augment his training in the western classical style by exploring composition for traditional Japanese instruments. Out of this grew the Pro Musica Nipponia (formerly the Ensemble Nipponia) which Miki founded and took on extensive tours around the world. Many works written during this time were created in close collaboration with leading performing artists such as the koto player Keiko Nosaka and the marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe (who in turn was a great influence on Evelyn Glennie).
Miki commenced during the 1970s what was to become an epic cycle of nine full-length operas on Japanese historical and literary themes, starting with Shunkinshō (春琴抄 – A Portrait of Shunkin, based on the novella by the great Japanese romantic author Jun’ichirō Tanizaki), which won the Giraud Opera Prize. Due to a burgeoning interest in Asian music from the English Music Theatre Company (successor to Benjamin Britten’s English Opera Group) Miki received a commission to write An Actor’s Revenge which was first performed in London in 1979. Miki is one of the few composers to have braved setting sections of the monumental 11th Century work The Tale of Genji (源氏物語), often credited as the first modern novel.
Miki was a pioneer in cross-cultural fusion, combining elements of western classical music with the instruments and performance traditions native to Japan, China and Korea in a unique and sensitive fashion. He also scored many films including the acclaimed In the Realm of the Senses (愛のコリーダ – L’Empire des sens).
Miki received many awards during his lifetime, most notably in 2000 the Order of the Rising Sun – the highest honour conferred by the Japanese government in recognition of the promotion of Japanese culture. In 2009 he was awarded the Fukuoka Arts & Culture Prize in recognition of his significant contribution to the creative musical interchange between Japan and Asia and between the East and the West.