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.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ken Yabuki/Kiyoshi Hikawa -- Ushiro no Sugata/Anata no Blues (うしろの姿・あなたのブルース)

A couple of nights ago I was watching "Kayo Concert", and I was a bit late for the top batter in the singing lineup. It turned out to be enka veteran Yoshimi Tendo(天童よしみ)singing a song that I hadn't heard before, "Anata no Blues" (Your Blues). As I heard the mournful cry-in-your-sake melody and the anguished delivery by Tendo, I wondered out loud to my parents if this had been a Keiko Fuji(藤圭子)song. They didn't know but since I seem to have developed this affinity for this brand of Mood Kayo, I decided to dig further.

Well, I found out that the original singer for "Anata no Blues" was Ken Yabuki(矢吹健), a Mood Kayo singer from Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture (good grapes there) who came down to Tokyo to study under composer Takuya Fujimoto(藤本卓也). He made his debut in June 1968 at the age of 22 with "Anata no Blues", written and composed by Fujimoto, and he certainly made the most of his first single in terms of emotion. The songsheet could've wrung out a litre of tears. Listening to the YouTube video above, "Anata no Blues" is the second of the two songs, and as I listened to Yabuki, I thought he sounded a lot like another enka veteran Shinichi Mori(森進一), something that the J-Wiki article on Yabuki indicated. In addition, my initial thought about it being a Keiko Fuji song also bore some was indeed covered by the late singer a few years later. The Yabuki original managed to get as high as No. 27 on Oricon, selling close to 140,000 records.

(Sorry but the YouTube video has been taken down.)

The first song on the YouTube video is also quite appealing for that round in an old-fashioned nomiya. "Ushiro no Sugata" (The Back of You) is Yabuki's 4th single from May 1969, and the man sounds even more like Mori with that yell and vibrato in his delivery. I think the video of Yokohama Bay at night works well with the two songs; I hope it stays up for a good while longer. Fujimoto also composed the music for this one, but the lyrics were by Yoko Yamaguchi(山口洋子), who would later write the breakthrough hit for Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし) in 1971, "Yokohama Tasogare"(よこはま・たそがれ).

Going back to "Anata no Blues", a number of other singers have also covered it over the decades, including Kiyoshi Hikawa(氷川きよし). He also gives the song a goodly amount of anguished heft. I could imagine the poor protagonist having to be dragged out in despair by the exhausted lone bartender at closing time. Hikawa's rendition is on his 17th entry in his album series "Enka Meikyoku Collection 17" (演歌名曲コレクション17...Famous Songs of Enka Collection 17)from November 2012.


  1. I've always found this song quite funny, since they sing the words 'anata' at least ten times in the song - and then again I also didn't really know what the song meant, only that it sounds rather sad.

    I say Yoshimi Tendo pulled off the song quite well because of her low voice. I think the episode of Kayo concert she was on singing that song was with Yuzo Kayama singing 'Kimi to itsumademo' (great song by the way) and this other weird guy singing a song ending with him screaming out 'Bakayaro!!!' which I personally found the most amusing part of all the Kayo concerts I've seen so far (almost 10 I think), I'm rather new to it...

    1. Hi Noelle. Good to hear from you.

      Yeah, I think the singers with the low voices (or who can pull off anguish well) such as Tendo and Fuji would be the prime singers for "Anata no Blues" (or perhaps any song with the title " Blues") since their "cigarette-and-whiskey" voices can express the lows they've suffered.

      As for that "weird guy", it was Katsuhiko Miki behind "Hana wa Osokatta" (花はおそかった). I was just reading his entry on J-Wiki and when he made his appearance on the 1967 Kohaku with that song, his "Bakayaro" made quite an impression. Apparently, a couple of other songs paid a bit of tribute to that exhortation, one of them being Masahiko Kondo's "Blue Jeans Memory"( I think the producers picked the right song for that episode of "Kayo Concert" since the theme was 'dramatic kayo'. Strangely enough, I've only known Miki as the smooth partner of Sachiko Kobayashi in "Moshikashite, Part II".

      Finally as for the repeated "anata" in "Anata no Blues", you should also take a look at Hiroshi Madoka's "Musoubana" ( and check the repetition there! :)

  2. I listened to 'Musoubana'. I think it beats 'Anata no blues' in the repetition department! So many 'Tonde' and 'Mawatte' consecutively... It sounds pretty good nonetheless, although I can't say I've seen this guy or this song on any of those YouTube videos showing medleys of the best songs from the 70s and or 80s.

    I would want to say he's something like Akira Terao since they seem to only be popular with one song in particular, but... well, I've seen Akira Terao on those medleys and no this Hiroshi fellow.

    1. I'm a bit surprised that 'Musoubana' didn't make it onto any of the medleys. I would have thought the refrain by itself would've qualified it. Akira Terao's "Ruby no Yubiwa" definitely did latch on permanently to the ears of a lot of the baby boomers in Japan, including me, as this representative song from the 80s.


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