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 microphone...at 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.