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, September 29, 2013

Toshifumi Hinata -- "Tokyo Love Story" Soundtrack

Toshifumi Hinata -- Tokyo Love Story
I've always been, still am and will probably always be a late bloomer. I only discovered the enjoyment of American TV programs like "Moonlighting" and "Remington Steele" when my brother nagged me about them just near the end of the first season. My social dweebiness only started to fade (somewhat) on entering university. And I only came upon the drama, "Tokyo Love Story" two-thirds of the way into its original run back in early 1991 while I was still in Gunma on the JET Programme.

I had to play catch-up with the episodes over the next few years when I was back in Toronto via video tapes and through a subtitling project that I will explain a little bit later. But from the time I finally caught onto the bittersweet saga of Rika, Kanji, Satomi, Kenichi and Naoko, it was the music that helped me hold on through the last few episodes. Of course, the amazing theme song "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni"ラブ・ストーリーは突然に) by Kazumasa Oda(小田和正) will be inextricably linked with the drama; no one who has become a fan of the show will be able to picture any of the characters or even the title without hearing that song. However, in my original article on the Oda theme, I may have been a bit hasty when I stated that it was the 10th player of the baseball team. It was, and still is, a vital musical meme for "Tokyo Love Story". However, I neglected to put in Toshifumi Hinata's score for the series. His contributions also helped enhance the characters and the scenes.

Hinata(日向敏文) was born in Tokyo in 1955, and attended the Berklee College of Music and then the University of Minnesota in the late 70s in which he majored in classical piano, songwriting and arrangement. He debuted in 1985 with the album, "Sara no Hanzai"(サラの犯罪...Sara's Crime)and had several albums under his belt since then, but "Tokyo Love Story" was the first of his TV soundtracks in 1991.

On the Net, I came across one enthused fan's comparison of Hinata to the legendary Henry Mancini. I'm not quite ready to agree only because I've yet to really know some of Hinata's other works on TV dramas. The soundtrack to "Tokyo Love Story", though, has been something that has stuck with me when it comes to music from those shows. Only the music from 1997's "Odoru Dai Sosasen"(踊る大捜査線) with Akihiko Matsumoto(松本晃彦), and to a lesser extent, Yukie Nishimura's(西村由紀江) soundtrack for another popular 1991 Fuji-TV drama, "Hyaku-Ikkai Me no Propose"101回目のプロポーズ) has remained in my memories all these years.

One reason that Hinata's magnum opus with "Tokyo Love Story" has stayed with me is because I am a fan of the Smooth Jazz/AOR genres, and I think the music on the disc definitely falls into those categories. But the other reason is that Hinata was able to create these themes that seemed to fit the scenes and the characters themselves so well. Case in point is "Tenderly - Rica's Theme" which is covered in the video above. Probably next to "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni", this is the song that is the most recognized from the series. It encapsulates the lot of Honami Suzuki's Rika Akana to perfection. The first half of the song has a sad violin and harp followed what sounds like a lonely child's lullaby from a music box; I think it describes what Rika's life had been like before she met up with Kanji and the rest. But then from about the halfway point, the song shifts into first gear with a driving melody that has this message of "No time to feel sorry for yourself! Get up and at 'em!" which describes the usual Rika optimism. I don't think I've ever come across a soundtrack song since that has shown this sort of dual personality, but it is the musical equivalent of Rika.

"Good Evening, Heartache" is the introspective theme of the soundtrack. I remember it coming on when the various characters, especially Kanji and Rika, have gone into intimate conversations about their lives. One scene in particular was when Kanji was describing his home prefecture of Ehime and as he was doing so, the camera did a sweep of his hometown. However, the uncertain mood that the piano plays when the track starts often strikes me as being Naoko's theme since it was the song that introduced the character when she was looking distinctly uncomfortable in the bar.

As for dedicated videos for the tracks, the above two are the only ones. The others can be heard through the scenes from the show that have been uploaded, and in a way, I think this is actually quite good since we can all see how they are utilized as the scenes play out.  The above video comes from the first episode, and has a number of the tracks including the aforementioned "Good Evening, Heartache" and that introductory scene for Naoko at about 4:20. At the very beginning of the video though, there is that reunion party at the izakaya in which an excerpt from the heartwarming and relaxing "So Far Away" debuts. Perhaps it's titled as such since that first scene has Kanji quietly mooning over his crush from his school days, Satomi, someone he hadn't seen in several years while she had been hundreds of kilometres away.

At 2:25, Rika unexpectedly pops into the reunion, much to Kanji's surprise and annoyance, to the jaunty "Crazy For You". It's one of my other remembered tracks since it acts as the happier theme for Rika. But one of my favourites on the album comes at about 10:25, "Autumn", a jazz guitar and synth number which has this feckless, devil-may-care feel to it...much like Kenichi's character, played by Yosuke Eguchi, who also happens to be Chisato Moritaka's(森高千里) hubby.

The various themes also pop up in this video as well, but another favourite track is the soothing and romantic bossa nova "Over The Stars" which pops up at 4:10 when Rika surprises Kanji for his birthday. But frankly speaking, all of the songs are great. The fact that if any of them were played over on TV on a totally different TV show or on a restaurant's stereo speakers and I would recognize them right off the bat just shows how memorable they have been for me.

The score to "Rica's Theme" from a compilation of
Toshifumi Hinata's theme music
I may have kept my reputation as a late bloomer alive by coming across "Tokyo Love Story" so late into its initial run, but returning to Toronto in the summer of 1991, I re-joined the Japanese-Canadian Students' Association (JCSA) at University of Toronto, and by doing so, I helped out in a subtitling project featuring the show itself. Spearheaded by a fellow Canadian fan of the series, he was able to recruit a lot of working-holiday students from Japan in the translation work, which he accomplished with an Amiga II. There was obviously nothing like the software that is available today back then, so it was pretty much a day-in, day-out labour of love to put the English underneath the words that the characters had spoken, fueled by lots of pizza and cola. But it was completed within a couple of weeks, and it became one of our more popular entries to be shown at our weekly drama showings at the International Student Centre. The reason that Hinata's music became further embedded into my consciousness was that all of us had to go over specific scenes during the translation over and over again. In fact, the first link above to the video from Episode 1 had all the scenes that I was helping out on.

As for the details on the casting and the progress of the show, I refer you to JTM's fine article on "Tokyo Love Story". What I can offer are my impressions and opinions. I had my brief dalliance watching Japanese TV dramas through the 90s, but for me, the ultimate experience was indeed this one. As JTM remarked, the show not only provided these likeable if flawed characters but it also gave viewers like me a look at what Tokyo was like back then: a city without cellphones and tablets, where the fashion of the time was in full display with the Neo-Zoot Suits, the short haircuts on the guys and the women's sauvage hairstyles. And it was a Tokyo that I was able to walk through from time to time during my weekend trips there from Gunma; it is nice to see those areas from way back when again.

It also showed a Tokyo and its people in a phase of transition of sorts. In the late 80s, Japan was in the late stages of its economic bubble, and the trendy dramas of the day reflected that fact with characters with exotic and glamourous katakana job names (kopiiraitaa, for example) who seemed to live in far bigger apartments than would be the case for most young people of their pay grade. And the situations often involved goofy scenarios with meet-cute romance. "Tokyo Love Story" was one of the first, if not the first, of the jun'ai純愛...pure love)dramas in which the humour was a bit more toned down and the giddiness and angst of love were on bigger display. And perhaps reflecting the end of the economic heyday, although the characters in TLS had that young glamour, Rika and the gang were either plowing through more regular and relatable jobs or struggling through school.

I realize that I've strayed far off from the music, but I do have to give an opinion that a lot of viewers had at the end of the programme. It answers the question: Who should have Kanji have gone with? Rika or Satomi? At the time of the series, I had wanted to scream at the indecisive Kanji, "Dude! What's the matter with you?! You just dumped Rika!" Sure, she could be flighty and vindictive with a hair-trigger temper, but she was also cheerful, optimistic, vivacious and gorgeous. And that million-dollar smile she gave Kanji in the park at the end of Episode 1 could have melted an iceberg in a minute.

But as the years have gone by, I've come to the realization that Kanji would not have lasted with Rika for long, and that ultimately, the much-steadier if not-as-exciting Satomi was the choice. Rika was too much of a force of nature for anyone to handle, even a former flame in the form of the older Section Chief Waga. Just my speculation here, but in those 1993 Special Edition scenes (and yep, JTM, they are part of the DVD set that I got for a ton of yen), Rika came across as a much more emotionally older and wiser woman who, I think, also came to the same conclusion about herself; there seemed to be a distance about her that would probably no longer allow any man to come any closer. Kanji was the love of her life.

I came into the ISC after class on the night that the final episode of "Tokyo Love Story" was playing. It was playing in total darkness like at a movie theatre so I was only able to stand by the door lest I accidentally bump into a viewer. I just caught it when Rika and Kanji were saying their final goodbyes in that Tokyo park, and then came that final scene with Rika on top of a building smiling away at the sunset. Kazumasa Oda's theme came on for the last time, and the lights went up. I was surprised to see not a single dry eye in the entire room. There was even one fellow who was quickly dabbing his glassy eyes. Quite the impression it left even though this broadcast was in 1993.

Hinata himself has gone on to score other TV dramas since then, but for me, "Tokyo Love Story" will always be the one.


  1. Hi J-Canuck,
    Thanks for this great followup post to 『東京ラブストーリー』. I agree that Hinata Toshifumi's OST score was absolutely brilliant and I regret not mentioning his contribution in my article. I loved reading your take on the ending. I think you are spot on in your observations about why Kanji gave up Rika (I think Oda Yuji's character even admits the same thing to Mikami that Rika's energetic personality is too much for him). After I finish up watching "Hanzawa Naoki", I'm planning on watching Marco V's recommendation of "Love Generation" just to see how it compares to TLS (it will be interesting to see how the pairing of Kimura Takuya and Matsu Takako matches up to Oda Yuji and Suzuki Honami). Thanks again for all the great article J-Canuck.

    1. Hello, JTM.

      Yes, I was definitely very happy to have gotten the soundtrack to TLS. It's not all that often that I buy drama soundtracks but when something like this one comes around, it's too good to pass up.

      I remember there was a spate of Kimura/Matsu pairings for dramas over several years. It seems like those two have become the Tracy/Hepburn of J-Dramas. :)

  2. Hey does anyone know where I could download the OST to Tokyo Love Story? I'm just curious?

    1. Hi, Fayt.

      I'm not an expert on downloading sources since I'm more of the old-fashioned LP/CD type, but I think you may find some help at Good luck.

  3. Anyone know who sang the english version of the soundtrack that originally sang by Kazumasa Oda? She is american female singer if im not mistaken. And anyone know what is the song title? I really curious and want to download it.

    1. Hello there.

      I'm not certain by any means if this is the version that you were asking about. There is an English version by BENI on YouTube. She is actually half-American, half-Japanese and lived in both countries.

  4. Hello!i search a song by Saigo Terujiko,Umi No Komori Uta,if you have a recording y like very much ear,thank and greetings rafael.


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