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, August 29, 2014

Eisaku Ohkawa -- Sazanka no Yado (さざんかの宿)

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.


  1. omg, that prank video, so embarrassing! well, he must have been ok with it if he let it air on tv..

    i hope you don't mind, but i have kind of an off-topic question. as someone who lives in the united states, i sometimes have a hard time finding Japanese music to buy. do you know if Japanese music companies do digital purchases these days? Especially for out of print music. A lot of the music you post here I have a hard time finding elsewhere, or only one or two songs by them in a big compilation disc set.

    One album in particular i've been trying very hard to find is Masae Ohno's "MASAE ALA MODE". I have only been able to find one of her songs, and a very expensive vinyl for sale out in Japan, of which its condition i don't know.

    Do you know of any places where I could buy these kinds of albums online and download?

    1. Hi, Ryan.

      Yeah, "Dokkiri Camera" pulled some stuff that was way beyond what the original "Candid Camera" did and perhaps even beyond "Punk'd" with Ashton Kutcher. I also remember one incident in which an ex-wrestler was made to believe that he was targeted for a hit while supposedly during filming out in the woods.

      As for your question on downloading some of the rare stuff. I share your interest and frustration at trying to track these albums down, and it took me a long time to find even a couple of CDs for these artists (Takako Mamiya and Makoto Matsushita) come to mind.

      Since I'm a bit more analog, I don't know of any established sites in which digital purchases can be done. However, I've sent word to my fellow contributors since I also got your message via Gmail. They seem to be more with it when it comes to the newer technology. Wish you all the best on your search. It's a bit of a Holy Grail thing, I know.

    2. Japanese TV in general seems to be a lot more outrageous than most. There's a lot of amusing clips on Youtube. I'm also a big fan of Gaki no Tsukai and the funny stuff they put them through on the show. Got to have a good sense of humor to be a part of that.

      Thanks for your input on my question. I figured that was the case, but i'm glad I asked. I feel like if i was able to read & write Japanese I'd have a much easier time finding things, some of my friends do but I don't want to bother them with my internet archaeology quests :P

    3. Yeah, I've always wondered if it's because Japanese society has that impression of being so staid and conservative that their TV has to explode in outrageousness. I mean, even Anderson Cooper of CNN covered a piece where the members of Morning Musume were seen screaming on a variety show since their heads with raw pork chops taped to their foreheads were thrust into cages with live iguanas in them.

      As for the search, yeah, if you have any questions on the kanji reading for a certain song or lyric, please let me know. I helped solve one such query for a friend of mine the other day. :)

      Take care!

  2. Hi, Ryan. I hope you come across this reply. I was able to get one answer to your question via nikala:

    "Hi. I have been absent from the blog for a while but should start writing again. This email reminded me to finally create that online merchant guide I've kept on hold for ages.

    When it comes to buying Japanese music online from overseas, physical format is the way to go. Nearly all digital shops refuse to take foreign credit cards and middleman services don't deal with those shops. OTOTOY is an exception to that and they even carry high quality formats above MP3, but I doubt they have much enka as they specialize in independent and alternative music. I spotted some 70's folk on there but that's about it.

    iTunes Japan is another option, but you need to purchase the code for iTunes Japan Gift Card from sites like in order to use it. I've used it a couple of times. I believe they have a lot of enka, but you gotta browse the store. The good thing is that you can search the artists' names in romaji.

    If none of these two options satisfy anyone, then all I can recommend is to go after that CD or vinyl because it's the only way. For some reason digital music stores in Japan tend to exclude foreigners. *shrug* Some CD stores do as well, but not to such extent."

    I hope that this will provide some insight.

    Take care!


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