If someone asked me about any sort of pop ballad from Osaka, I would usually blurt out "Osaka Bay Blues" by Masaki Ueda（上田正樹）. Then sometime in my final year in Japan, one of my old friends who ran a cram school for the kids in the neighbourhood was kind enough to give me a CD of Takajin Yashiki's（やしきたかじん） biggest hits. I had never heard of him before so I plopped the disc into my Discman and gave him a try.
The first track was "Yappa Sukiyanen" (I Really Do Love You). It was notable just from the title since it was in the Kansai dialect....or at least, tried to be ("yappa" is actually a Kanto expression; "yappari" or "yappashi" is more the Kansai thing). To my ears, it came out as an emotion-drenched love ballad with a melody that sounded middle-of-the-road pop....perhaps a tune that Ruiko Kurahashi（倉橋ルイ子） would tackle. And much of the other songs on the CD were along the same lines. Yashiki definitely put in a lot of emotion into his music, but "Yappa Sukiyanen" was the one song that has stayed with me so far.
Takajin Yashiki（家鋪隆仁） was born in Nishinari Ward in Osaka back in 1949. He wore a number of hats in his celebrity career. Along with being a singer, he was also a radio personality, an emcee and a regional tarento. As a singer, he officially debuted in 1976 with "Yume Irankane"（ゆめいらんかね...Do You Need A Dream?） (his very first song was to have come out in 1971 but since the lyrics dealt with incest, the release was cancelled). Although Yashiki had lived for a time in Tokyo, he returned to Osaka in 1982, and apparently harboured a lot of resentment against at least the Tokyo media. In fact, he had a standing threat to resign from show business if any of his TV and radio programs ever got broadcast in the capital city.
"Yappa Sukiyanen" was written and composed by Ayataro Shika（鹿紋太郎...not sure if this is the right reading so please forgive and correct me if this is indeed wrong） as his 13th single. It was released in September 1986, and although I'm not quite sure if Yashiki had the same attitude towards the song's distribution that he had towards his programs, the song managed to peak at No. 60 on Oricon. Shika was actually from Tokyo but he had a great love for Kansai culture and tried to show that in his lyrics for this particular tune. There was some criticism, though, that the Kansai dialect lyrics were not exactly accurate, but Yashiki stood up for the songwriter stating "I didn't want to so much sing a Kansai-ben song, but a song about a woman's heart", so the lyrics stayed as they were. And although nationwide, the song didn't get to smash into The Top 10, it was a huge hit in the Kansai area and started a "Sukiyanen" boom of sorts (thank you, J-Wiki).
Sadly, on January 3 2014, Yashiki succumbed to esophageal cancer. He was 64 years old.