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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Teruo Ikeda -- Neon Bune (ネオン舟)

(karaoke version)

When I first heard and saw Teruo Ikeda(池田輝郎)perform "Neon Bune" (Neon Boat) on NHK's "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート) last week (in fact, I think the above performance is straight from last week's show), I naturally assumed that the enka/Mood Kayo song came straight from the 70s or 80s. Then I did my due diligence and found out that it was actually released for the first time THIS year.

Lyricist Toshiya Niitani (仁井谷俊也)and composer Hideo Mizumori (水森英夫)were responsible for the creation of "Neon Bune" for release in June 2014. Niitani has brought in all the tropes for a bar-friendly Mood Kayo: the tired salaryman, the neon of the city and the remedy of alcohol. Back in my Gunma days, I learned an expression from my colleagues: "Neon ga yonderu" (The neon is calling) which is analogous to "The night is young", and they jokingly did some jazz hands when they said that. "Neon Bune" has that inviting tone for the office-weary to head for that nomiya or izakaya in the downtown area (the song seems to be centered on the city of Hakata) after another 10-hour day. As for the fact that the neon is on the boat, I first thought about yakatabune, those floating versions of izakaya sailing through the canals but they are usually equipped with simple lanterns. So, perhaps the neon boat is referring to those much larger cruise ships slicing through the water in the bay at night. Sad to say, but I never got the opportunity to get on either of those vessels during my time in Tokyo.

Teruo Ikeda is 61 years old at the writing of this article and he's a relative newbie in the business. Born in Saga Prefecture in 1953, he had wanted to become a singer since elementary school after being moved by a Yukio Hashi (橋幸夫)song. However, for most of his twenties, Ikeda didn't pick up a single least, not in the professional sense, since after having seen enka singers like Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)bring their A-game, he'd thought that he wouldn't last a day in the industry. Then at the age of 29, he started singing again in the genre of minyo before transitioning to enka in his early 30s and releasing his first indies record in 1995. Finally, in 2007 at the age of 54, Ikeda released his first record on a major label with "Yu-no-Sato Shigure"(湯の里しぐれ...Shower in Yu-no-Sato).

"Neon Bune" is Ikeda's 8th single. It's certainly fine to see that enka is not only humming away in the 21st century but that someone starting from middle age can make his/her mark in show business. It's not just AKB 48 and Johnny's boys, y'know.

Yokohama Chinatown


  1. Hi J-Canuck,

    I had seen this article quite a while ago, but never actually listened to "Neon bune", mostly because I had no idea who Ikeda was. But after hearing it on an episode of "Nippon no uta", I must say, it really is a good song to listen to after a rough day at work. Very Enka with a touch of Mood Kayo, I like it after the first listen. The name is fun too... "Neon bune". Liked it after... "Enka bune"... Hmm, it seems like boats seem to be one of the go to Enka topics nowadays, just like trains were back in the 50's and 60's.

    So Ikeda has got experience in Min'yo huh? Not surprising since he has that Min'yo voice, quite obvious when hitting the high notes. But I was surprised to see that he's somewhat new to the entertainment world, kinda like Junko Akimoto. He looks like one of those Enka singers who's been at it since the 70's or 80's... but I can understand him being hesitant in entering the world of Enka then when Hiroshi Itsuki, Takashi Hosokawa, etc. were at their peak. But for him to make himself known as an Enka singer at this day and age is impressive indeed!

    1. Hi, Noelle.

      Yeah, those yakata bune (and modern cruise liners) are a staple of the traditional side of Japanese culture so they're perfect as enka titles. Never had a chance to have dinner in a yakata bune, but I figure that I would have ended up seasick anyways.

      It's a feel-good story concerning Ikeda (although I'm sure even he had to pay his dues in the process of becoming a professional singer). My parents seem to see a minyo background as a good sign for any of those up-and-coming enka singers which is why they like Kouhei Fukuda so much.

      Some years ago, I was under the impression that enka was on its last legs but I think that's not true anymore. Like jazz, it may no longer be at the leading edge of pop music but it will occupy a fine favoured niche for the foreseeable future.


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