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, June 20, 2014

Frank Nagai -- Tokyo Gozen San-ji (東京午前三時)

It's Friday night, and Tokyo on Friday nights, as would be the case in most places on Friday nights, has got its myriad bars and other watering holes working at full speed into the wee hours. I was never quite the barhopping type in all of my years in the Japanese megalopolis, though. Sometimes, I would meet up with a few of the teachers and students on a Friday night and then hit one of the izakaya in Shinjuku or Ginza; perhaps afterwards there might even be a round of karaoke nearby before I had to race other late-night commuters to catch the final subway back to Ichikawa City. In my early years there, that meant a literal dash at Iidabashi Station some minutes before midnight! And that explanation mark at the end of the previous sentence is indeed there since I'm sure some of you may find it hard to believe that one of the largest, most modern and safest cities on Earth would close down so early. However, things improved temporally speaking since then. I wasn't running nearly as hard in my final years there.

Back in the early postwar years, there was a certain romanticism about life in the bright lights and big city of Tokyo which was coaxed out frequently through the songs in the Mood Kayo genre. Probably the master here was none other than the late Frank Nagai(フランク永井). His "Tokyo Gozen San-ji" (Tokyo 3 A.M.) has been listed as his 9th single from March 1957, and as created by the famous tandem of Takao Saeki and Tadashi Yoshida(佐伯孝夫・吉田正), Nagai is our guide as he croons about seeing a beautiful young lady in a red dress getting into that Cadillac in the wee hours somewhere in the city (I'm assuming Ginza here) and wondering about the possibilities. It rather makes me want to nurse that glass of Old Parr on the rocks. The saxophone and the ancient strings takes me back to those old nights in the tiny nomiya although when the song was first released, a lot of folks in Japan were probably wondering about a potential new life enjoying the night in Ginza or Akasaka.

I can count on one finger the number of times that I actually stayed up to/past 3 a.m. in Tokyo. A few of us ended up doing a marathon karaoke session in Shibuya one Saturday night that took us to 3:30 a.m. The subways and JR trains had long ceased service for the day, so we had to crash at our buddy's house which was thankfully nearby. There was nothing really romantic about an empty Shibuya, though. It looked pretty grungy actually with only the overnight buskers reassuring us during our brisk walk out of the area that things were perfectly safe.

Neither Ginza nor Shibuya
but the more suburban neighbourhood
of Jiyugaoka.

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