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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 31, 2013

Hiromi Iwasaki/Akina Nakamori -- Shishuuki (思秋期)



I have been hearing this song by Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美) as one of the best in her repertoire for years, but until today, I hadn't known that she had first performed it so early in her career. Mind you, this was her 11th single released in September 1977. However, back in those days, kayo kyoku aidoru singles came out at the rate of once every few months, so this was still just a couple of years since her debut.

One of the reasons that I'm surprised is that "Shishuuki"translates as "The Autumn of My Years". The lyrics by the legendary Yu Aku(阿久悠) express some major regrets about how youth and the once-strong bonds of friendship have managed to slip through the fingers as the person realizes that he/she has reached middle age. As one of the verses go:

The autumn that makes my heart shiver has come. My bitter tears.
Youth is a fragile thing. Even if I love, I get hurt.
Youth is a forgettable thing. I only notice it when it's gone.

Time to grab that bottle of Jack Daniels! Anyways, the surprise is that Iwasaki was all of 18 years of age when she first approached this song. Apparently, she had to stop the recording process several times because she couldn't stop crying....probably due to some frustration. Afterwards, she told Aku, "I just couldn't do it because it was strange how men in their forties could understand their lives and emotions." Of course, Iwasaki being of a different age and gender, how could she know?

And yet this teenager probably had mid-level corporate section chiefs running for their telephones to see about getting that old school reunion planned and executed. Takashi Miki's (三木たかし)composition comes off as something resembling distinctly European, almost chanson-like. And with Iwasaki's amazingvoice for someone her age at that time, I couldn't be surprised for believing "Shishuuki" was a song that was released far later into her career. In J-Wiki, this was labeled as an "aidoru kayo kyoku", but I don't think there is anything remotely aidoru about this song, which turned out to be her first ballad single.

People probably took some good notice of her talent when this song started to make the rounds on radio and TV. It was such a tenderhearted delivery, and I could imagine her tearing up whenever she performed this on the tube or on the stage. It did presage that part of her career as a musical actress later on.


To a certain extent, the timing of the song may have been perfect. The first postwar generation to reach that certain age and status in life was probably around that decade.....to work that hard to bring Japan up from the ashes and then looking back at what they had been able to achieve and what they'd had to sacrifice.

The song peaked at No. 6 on Oricon, and quickly became the 38th-ranked song for 1977. It was also a track on her 5th album released in October of that year, "Shishuuki Kara....Otoko to Onna"思秋期から。。。男と女/From The Autumn of My Years...Men and Women) which peaked at No. 3 on the album charts. It also won a couple of music awards as well.

(cover version)

For her first cover album, "Utahime"歌姫,....Diva) released in March 1994 and peaking at No. 5 on Oricon, Akina Nakamori(中森明菜) did her own version of "Shishuuki". At the time, she was not yet 29 years of age, so even she was nowhere near the age that Yu Aku had probably been aiming at when he came up with the lyrics. But as a lot of Japanese music fans probably know, Nakamori had gone through quite a bit of trial and tribulation in the last number of years, so she could probably dig up the gravitas needed to successfully navigate the song. And by that time, her voice had also gained that richness, so even at that young age, she could probably convince the company kacho to sigh and look up at the sky.

I just wonder....what could Momoe Yamaguchi have done with this song?

9 comments:

  1. Thanks J-Canuck for this great post on 岩崎宏美's 「思秋期」. Definitely one of her best songs! Anyone else think a young Iwasaki Hiromi looks almost like 中森明菜? Maybe it was just the extreme closeup in the video but for a moment I thought it was Akina. American Enka Singer ジェロ sang a great duet of this song with Hiromi as well - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk24G89vlJ4

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    1. Yes, it's definitely one of the 70s kayo kyoku classics....surprisingly dramatic for what was labeled as an aidoru song.

      I just had to select that video of her performance there just because of that closeup of her in her youth or her 20s. I hope it stays there for a good long while!

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  2. Just to suggest another Hiromi song for you to look at. Watashi Tachi seems to have an interesting history behind it, from what I can make out in google translated articles. Wondering which to use as the A and B sides, the team eventually settled on Romance as the A side and Watashi Tachi as the B side. The composer seems to have wondered how things might have been if Watashi Tachi had been chosen as the single.

    Watashi Tachi was popular in concerts, but eventually Hiromi put it aside (the latest version I can find from her early days was in 1983), saying that the song was better left in the memories. It got another airing in the 35th anniversary concert in 2010, possibly 27 years after she last performed it. Incidentally in the 1981 concert Watashi Tachi followed a very vigorous Cinderella Honeymoon. It's a tribute to Hiromi's singing ability that she was able to perform both.

    http://orikarapoponta.blog.so-net.ne.jp/2011-06-05

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    1. Hi there, and thanks for your informative comments and reminding me about "Watashi Tachi". I like "Romance", but "Watashi Tachi" also has that wonderfully evergreen feeling that Iwasaki's vocals and the arrangement delivered all the way back in the mid-70s. I'm surprised that she hadn't sung the song in almost 3 decades; I think it's a wonderful tune, but perhaps she didn't quite agree with her fans on that. It kinda reminds me of an earlier conversation I had with some of the other commenters that although a number of early Akina Nakamori hits are fan favourites, the singer herself was not particularly thrilled with them personally or professionally.

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  3. Just returning to your question, "What could Momoe Yamaguchi have done with this song?". Momoe released Cosmos a month after Hiromi released Shishuuki. It just shows what a golden age that was for Japanese pop music, that two songs that are such classics, were released within a month of each other.

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    1. Hello there. Yeah, I can hear the similarity between "Cosmos" and "Shishuuki". It's hard for me to choose between the two but ultimately, I just ask myself, "Why do I have to choose?" I like them both fine.

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  4. I found some more background on this song in a Japanese article whose link I've forgotten, but which had snippets of information from Hiromi reflecting on her 40 year career. Apparently her father had been doubtful about her choice of a showbiz career, but came round when Shishuuki was released.

    Another retrospective depicts her and Yoshimi as especially close in her family, which shows in their adorable performances together. There's a clip on tudou of Hiromi unusually closing the medley on Yoru no Hit Studio (she's usually somewhere in the middle) with Sentimental, but we see why when she's joined by Yoshimi in what's probably her debut on that program.

    http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/pQFdZHtJAF8/

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    1. Yeah, it's definitely not an aidoru song. I don't know of too many aidoru tunes about looking back on a happier past and a somewhat more sadder present.

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