I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sayuri Ishikawa -- Tsugaru Kaikyo Fuyu Geshiki (津軽海峡・冬景色)

Checking YouTube for this classic enka hit for Sayuri Ishikawa(石川さゆり), I saw the Japanese comment that even non-enka fans know this song. There is a party game in Japan that's similar to that old American game show, "Name That Tune" called "Ultra Intro-Bon" (ウルトラ・イントロ・ぼん)in which participants have to recognize a kayo kyoku song within the first few notes. This song would be categorized in the "Easy" section with its dramatic intro of strings, sax and chorus. It's probably also a karaoke favorite.

"Tsugaru Kaikyo Fuyu Geshiki" (The Tsugaru Strait - Winter Scene) was written by the late legendary Yu Aku (阿久悠)who was once the most commercially successful lyricist in Japan, having sold more than 68 million copies of all of his songs from 1968 to 2007 (remember, this is just within Japan). Aku also wrote hits for the aidoru duo, Pink Lady, including, arguably, their most famous song, "UFO". Takashi Miki(三木たかし)was behind the melody here. The composer has created tunes for both aidoru and enka singers alike over the years, and both he and Aku were also responsible for a Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)classic, "Shishuuki"(思秋期).

Ishikawa had debuted 4 years earlier as an aidoru but didn't make much of an impact until she switched to enka with this song (although actually her early releases also seem to be enka in tone). After this one, the rest is enka history. The song talks about a young woman leaving Tokyo for her hometown in Hokkaido after a romantic breakup. She is crossing the Tsugaru Strait, the ocean passage that separates southern Hokkaido from the main island of Honshu (Aomori Prefecture) in mid-winter.

The song was released on New Year's Day 1977 (why would anyone go to the record stores on that day?) and peaked at No. 6 on the Oricon weeklies and ended up being the 16th most popular song for the year, earning a Japan Record Award and landing the 19-year-old Ishikawa a spot in that year's Kohaku Utagassen(紅白歌合戦). She's been on the show 31 more times since then.

You can also get further insight about her, and in enka in general, if you click on "Barbara's Enka Site" at the bottom.

Thanks to Wikipedia and J-Wikipedia.


  1. I recently came across this clip, which ironically was uploaded just a couple of days before the original blog entry on this. Masako's performance is magnificent.

    1. It's an interesting rendition by Mori since she sounds a bit more emotionally fragile. Perhaps this would have described the woman in the lyrics as making the journey very soon after the breakup.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.