Thursday, June 12, 2014
Ikuzo Yoshi & Kaori Kozai -- Ashita no Meoto Zake （明日の夫婦酒）
When I first started "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I never figured that I would ever put up an enka song from the 2010s. My impression was that any of my enka articles would be of those ballads from way back in the Showa era. Well, little did I know. Enka may not be as widespread in Japanese pop culture as it used to be, but it still occupies a good niche in music in the country.
Case in point, I saw enka singers Ikuzo Yoshi and Kaori Kozai （吉幾三・香西かおり）on a recent episode of NHK's "Kayo Concert" performing "Ashita no Meoto Zake" (Our Drink Tomorrow). Written and composed by Yoshi as Kozai's 38th and latest single from March 2014, the song sounds as if it had been created decades ago. The music, words and delivery by the pair seem to evoke an especially rich feeling of old-school married life as Yoshi and Kozai sing to each other their appreciation and apologies over the course of their lives together. One of the idyllic (and perhaps idealized) images of Japanese matrimony I've seen on TV is that commercial or drama scene of a couple at the dining room table sharing that contented drink of sake or shochu after the kids have gone to bed. Perhaps not all that easy to see considering the usual work hours of the Japanese businessman or businesswoman. And not many couples wear yukata anymore at home.
Ikuzo Yoshi is someone I've become very well acquainted with since my go-to karaoke song had always been his hit number from the 80s, "Yukiguni"（雪國）. Kaori Kozai is another singer I've seen often on shows like "Kayo Concert" but unfortunately I don't know very much of her discography. A native of Osaka, Kozai had released a couple of singles in the early 80s under her original kanji name（香西香）, but her "official" debut as an enka singer was in 1988 with "Ame Sakaba"（雨酒場...Rainy Bar）which earned her a Best Newcomer's Prize at the Japan Record Awards. And then in 1993, her song "Mugonzaka" (無言坂...Wordless Slope -- composed by Anzen Chitai's Koji Tamaki) cracked the Top 10 for the first time and earned her a Grand Prize at the same awards ceremony. An invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen that year was a foregone conclusion. She would perform on the New Year's Eve special four more times.