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.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kazuo Funaki -- Koukou Sannen-sei (高校三年生)

Let's remember about our final year in high school: getting ready for university/college, the yearbook and the senior prom. Pretty eventful time, eh? In Japan, it's also an important year for the high school senior. The yearbook is there but there's no such thing as a prom and the pressure to get into higher learning is enormous on a terrifying level. I very much doubt that most folks there will ever forget that year....whether they want to or not.

Perhaps that might be one reason that Kazuo Funaki's(舟木一夫)"Koukou Sannen-sei" (High School Senior) hit such a chord when it was released in June 1963. Funaki was born as Shigeyuki Ueda(上田成幸)in Aichi Prefecture in 1944, and had his first taste of show business when he was invited on stage to do a duet with singer Akira Matsushima(松島アキラ)in 1961. A couple of years later, armed with his new stage name, the young man who had just graduated from high school himself a couple of months earlier made his debut with "Koukou Sannen-sei"(High School Senior), written by Toshio Oka(丘灯至夫)and composed by Minoru Endo(遠藤実).  Endo reportedly told Funaki to wear a high school uniform when performing the song.

Funaki made his first big step into stardom right from the get-go. With his prim and proper and handsome appearance and his tender voice, the song hit the stratosphere in terms of popularity and sales. There was no Oricon at the time but "Koukou Sannen-sei" sold well over 2 million records and earned awards for both Funaki (Best Newcomer) and the team of Oka and Endo (Best Songwriting) at the Japan Record Awards. Not surprisingly, Funaki was also invited onto that year's Kohaku. Just imagine how the kid and his family must've been feeling....a little over 2 weeks after this 19th birthday getting all the accolades AND appearing at a major New Year's event. If his family didn't have a TV set that year, they probably bought one by December 31st.

And Funaki also achieved another career benchmark. He was placed alongside two other young male stars, Teruhiko Saigo(西郷輝彦)and Yukio Hashi(橋幸夫)(also profiled) to become the Gosanke(御三家...The Big Three). Approaching his 40th anniversary in the geinokai, he released his 114th single just at the beginning of 2012.


  1. I watched Funaki perform this song first on the most recent Kayo concert! Really nice, and so was the last song he sang for the show... although I forgot what its title was.

    1. Yup, I saw the show on Tuesday night, Noelle. "Koko Sannen-sei" is always the fan favourite on these programs. He also released another high school-themed song titled "Shuugaku Ryoko" (School Trip); I managed to find the 45" single of it in my Dad's dusty collection recently.


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