Credits

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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Miyuki Nakajima -- Chijo no Hoshi (地上の星)




Into the 21st century, NHK came up with a new documentary series called "Project X -- Challengers" which depicted some of the unsung heroes who had toiled through postwar corporate Japan to come up with the products and innovations such as the Bullet Train or computers that not just the Japanese but everyone the world over know about. NHK's angle was that these marvels of engineering have become so ubiquitous that they....and their inventors....have been taken for granted. The video above, for example, has the Project X folks looking at the history of the domestically-made computer in Japan. The program took on a somewhat intentional over-the-top blockbuster approach with a cold open and a sage voiceover before the dramatic opening credits rolled on out.




For a documentary that wanted to go epic, its producers went to somebody to provide that epic theme: Miyuki Nakajima(中島みゆき). They wanted bold, defiant and proud. She gave them bold, defiant and proud. She gave them "Chijo no Hoshi" (Earthly Stars -- Unsung Heroes).

"Chijo no Hoshi" comes off as an anthem with a melody that hints at an oncoming storm with Nakajima as its eye. The lady already starts singing proudly right from the start, but her voice just swells up even further and fires five rounds rapid (yep a "Doctor Who" reference, I know) in the refrain as if she's trying and succeeding to drown out the howls of the hurricane around her. It's the clarion call for all of the corporate cogs to stand up and out from behind the worktables and desks, and for even a moment, just to celebrate themselves and their work. I can imagine Nakajima carrying that spear and shield in front of them. She's become the Patron Saint of The Working Class.

Lyrically, Nakajima created a song that demanded where and why all those unsung heroes went. She mentions about the Pleiades in the wind, the galaxy in the sand, the Pegasus in the plains and the Venus on the ordinary street corner. All those constellations but why isn't anyone looking out for them? Why is everyone looking up at the sky when they ought to be looking a lot further down (perhaps as far down as that basement izakaya where some of those stars are probably ruefully knocking back a few brewskis)?

The single came out in July 2000, a few months after "Project X" had begun. And I think the theme and the show turned out to have a symbiotically beneficial relationship. The song put the show on the map but "Project X" also boosted its theme song's presence on the charts. It certainly helped when the first credit following the title was the song title and Nakajima's name.

"Chijo no Hoshi" also has the distinction of being one of the longest-running singles in the history of Oricon. When it first debuted in July 2000, it initially hit No. 15 but it started taking that long winding road through the chart, hitting No. 100 in its 97th week of release but then in its 130th week (January 2003), it rocketed all the way up to No. 1, thanks to Nakajima's very first appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen of 2002. She performed the song in a tunnel associated with one of Japan's most famous feats of engineering, the Kurobe Dam in Toyama Prefecture...rather fitting place to sing it.

For the annual charts, the song took a more slow-and-steady approach. It was ranked No. 78 in 2001, No. 67 in 2002 and then No. 11 in 2003.

Now, when a salaried worker is feeling the blues as he/she is chained behind the desk at 11 p.m., there isn't just that bottle of Yunker for solace. There is also that certain 37th single by Miyuki Nakajima.

Miyuki Nakajima -- Chijo no Hoshi

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