Veteran enka singer Eisaku Ohkawa（大川栄策）always had that look as if he had retired from a previous career in the boxing ring. I've never noticed any cauliflower ears but he's had that stocky build and puffy nose. And yet, he has a voice that is pure and resonant and distinguishes itself from the whispery huskiness of Shinichi Mori（森進一）and the powerful crackliness of Saburo Kitajima（北島三郎）.
And when it comes to Ohkawa, one song always comes to mind since it has been his greatest hit thus far. "Sazanka no Yado" (Inn of the Yuletide Camellia) is about as enka as an enka song can get with Jiro Takemura's（竹村次郎）arrangement of Shosuke Ichikawa's（市川昭介）delicate music. It almost comes across as the musical equivalent of a geisha making her walk down the side streets of Kyoto to where she works. Meanwhile, Osamu Yoshioka's（吉岡治）lyrics speak of a man's agony in his love for a woman who's already betrothed to another. The words refer to the season of winter and therefore of the man's discontent as he prays somehow for spring to return.
For Ohkawa, his sad vocals could have come from his own life. He debuted in 1969 with "Men nai Chidori"（目ン無い千鳥...Plovers Without Eyes）under the aegis of his mentor, composer Masao Koga（古賀政男）. The song became a hit but after that, Ohkawa never could grab that brass ring again for 13 years. It was a very long and difficult dry spell for him during which Koga passed away in 1978. However, "Sazanka no Yado" became a huge hit after its release in August 1982, getting as high as No. 2 on Oricon and becoming the top song of 1983 with a total of 1.8 million in record sales. It won the Long Seller's Prize at the Japan Record Awards, and I wonder if Ohkawa had been keeping his old master in his head when he went to pick up that prize and then perform at the Kohaku Utagassen. It made for a fine story of redemption.
One humourous story of Ohkawa I will share with you. I'm not sure if he has ever lived it down but he was once a victim of a practical joke on the Japanese version of "Candid Camera" in which he found himself playing golf with a pretty woman. It turned out that the woman was really a porn actress and she was wearing a skimpy mini-skirt and a V-neck sweater with no bra. The audience had a ball laughing as they watched Ohkawa squeeing like a little boy at Xmas as he supposedly nonchalantly tried to look down the woman's sweater. I was rather lucky to have seen that episode on a video tape somewhere.