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.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Frank Nagai -- Yurakucho de Aimashou (有楽町で逢いましょう)

Yurakucho Mullion Clock
One of the great landmarks in Tokyo.
My image of Yurakucho(有楽町) in Tokyo is that it is the immediate northern and more financially accessible neighbourhood to the more famous Ginza. Yurakucho is certainly a trendy area for the young and the young-at-heart, but at least there is a likelier possibility that folks dining and/or shopping in the area won't get that much in the way of sticker shock or credit card guilt after lunch or dinner there. In recent years, there has been a fair bit of change. The massive building complex known as Yurakucho Mullion has had one of its two longtime department stores disappear although the structure still dominates the area. And there are a few more commercial complexes that have gone up in the last few years I was there, including the oddly-named Itocia which in itself includes the 2nd Krispy Kreme branch in Tokyo.

But way back in the 1950s, when Japan was still recovering from World War II, Yurakucho was far from what Tokyoites know of the place now. It was a pretty dank and dark black market area, just metres away from what Ginza was already becoming. However, it was decided that the neighbourhood would get a major facelift, beginning with the installation of a Sogo Department Store which was founded in Osaka. The campaign soon adopted a catchphrase, "Yurakucho de Aimashou"(Let's Meet in Yurakucho), taken from a Hollywood movie "Las Vegas de Aimashou" which was known as "Viva Las Vegas"with Dan Dailey and Cyd Charisse.

The catchphrase evolved into a trendy phrase outright for that time, and soon enough, at the end of 1957, a song was created by lyricist Takao Saeki(佐伯孝夫) and composer Tadashi Yoshida(吉田正) with that very title.

Sung by Kiyoto Frank Nagai,(フランク永井・永井清人) whom Yoshida had discovered, "Yurakucho de Aimashou" is a resonant and solemn song in which Nagai mentions about the train platforms, the tea rooms and the department store (i.e. Sogo....product placement apparently existed even then), all under persistent rain. The song is about as ideal a mood kayo that has ever been written. Although it was Sogo's official campaign song, I don't think it sounded like one to bring the masses to a department store in a rejuvenated Yurakucho. My impression was that it was meant to bring a certain type of clientele....the type that loves to drink and take in the atmosphere of a drinking establishment at night in the big city.

The long-term campaign to change Yurakucho lasted for well over a decade, and when it was officially over in 1973, Nagai sang the song at that year's Kohaku Utagassen. Now, over half a century after its creation, "Yurakucho de Aimashou" remains one of the most popular examples of natsumero or nostalgic melodies. Perhaps it's taken on even more of a sepia-toned hue since Yurakucho Sogo, the store that was the catalyst behind the whole project, closed its doors for good in September 2000. There is now a Bic Camera store.

Skyscrapers in Yurakucho

A ghost Shinkansen

Sukibayashi Bridge

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