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.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tomoko Ogawa -- Yuube no Himitsu (ゆうべの秘密)

I was looking for something older in the kayo kyoku era when I discovered....or perhaps I should say, re-discovered..."Yuube no Himitsu" (The Secret From Last Night). The beautiful melody is something that I recall but I can't sure where the source was...perhaps it was a single out of my Dad's old record collection or it was a song that I had seen performed by the lovely singer-actress Tomoko Ogawa(小川知子).

"Yuube no Himitsu" was Ogawa's debut single from February 1968, and was written by Ichiko Tama(タマイチコ) and composed by Maria Chiba(千葉マリア)who was only 18 years of age at the time. Ogawa herself had just turned 19 when she started out as a 60s aidoru. It was quite the difference back then as to how an aidoru sounded back then compared to how an aidoru sounded in the 80s and now in the 21st century, wasn't it?

Here she is on a 1995 NHK program singing "Yuube no Himitsu". Hearing the original version, I was surprised at how mature she sounded considering her age although her vocals didn't sound as if she had been this jaded seen-it-all, heard-it-all woman. There was still this innocence about her delivery of the lyrics which had her plaintively begging her paramour not to reveal anything about the night before so that the experience could stay pristine. For me, the Latin rhythm brings to mind a romantic couple tripping the light fantastic on the dance floor, and there's even a bit of a feeling in my weird imagination that this could have fit onto the soundtrack of a James Bond film...notably "You Only Live Twice" but that had already been out the previous year.

Another interesting point about the song involved the recording. Ogawa had been suffering from a fever at that time, so her voice went somewhat whispery when she was behind the mike. That obviously didn't hurt the record at all, and it was probably because of that fever's effects that had the male listeners swooning. She also ended up appearing on the Kohaku Utagassen for 3 years in a row with her debut starting things off.

"Yuube no Himitsu" reached No. 1 on Oricon. However, Japan wasn't the only place to have applauded the song's charms. During the early 70s, it apparently (for reasons which have yet to be cleared up, according to the J-Wiki article on Ogawa) made the trip over to South America under the title of "Amor Japones" and become a hit over there as well. The strange thing is that although it was still Ogawa's voice, the singer's name was given as Akaina Akomoto.

The above video is of Ogawa performing the song back in the early days. Since that auspicious beginning, she has released 31 more singles up to the year 2000, although she only released three albums up to 1969.


  1. Hello. I stumbled upon your blog because I listened to a 1968 cover by Japanese-Brazilian singer Rosa Miyake and wanted to know the story of this song. It surprised me a lot when I read about the song being (unintentionally) exported to South America. At first I thought it was Peru or Brazil, because of their Japanese colonies. But when I read the Youtube comments and googled some blogs it turned out it was Cali, Colombia!!!

    I'm from Bogotá and though I listen a lot of Japanese music since the 2000s I hadn't listened to this song before. The popularity of Amor japonés by (the totally made up) "Akaina Akamoto" seems to be circumscribed to the Valle del Cauca province in Western Colombia, whose capital city is Cali, Colombia's third largest city. From what I read, it seems the song entered through Buenaventura, one of the only two Colombian ports on the Pacific coast (it's the only thing all accounts seem to agree). One account claims either a Colombian sailor of the (now defunct) Grancolombian Merchant Navy or a Japanese citizen gave a record (a single or a LP... or even a cassette with a label saying «Música japonesa» as someone wrote) to a Colombian which either was a record shop owner or a radio announcer in Cali (Jaime Echeverry Loaiza and Alfredo Cajiao Cañizales are the names that pop up). Since none of them could read Japanese, they made up the title and the name of the singer (coincidentally, Valle del Cauca is home to a small but influential Japanese colony, but it seems none of its members came to correct the error). It was also used as the theme song of an afternoon drive time radio programme, always in Cali's local radio. From what I read it's clear the song is very popular in that region, having regular airplay since the 1970s. It was played even at salsa night clubs and small pubs known at the time as "grills". With the arrival of the internet and a brief popularisation of Japanese language in some universities in the early 2000s as a elective subject, the truth started slowly to came to light, but many people still ask for 'Amor japonés' to the local stations. As I said before, I hadn't listened to it before in Bogotá, but it wouldn't be surprising if it was played on easy-listening station Melodía Estéreo, which was known for including some songs in French, Japanese and Portuguese among its purely instrumental programming (I could swear I listened to Meiko Kaji there way before Kill Bill came out).

    Interesting story.

    1. Hello, Julian, and thank you very much for the additional information regarding how "Yuube no Himitsu" became "Amor Japones". I had also assumed that it made its way to Brazil or Peru for the same reasons you had so I was quite surprised to hear that it initially landed in Columbia.

      The process where "Yuube no Himitsu" made its way to South America and gained its fame sounds quite similar to how "Ue wo Muite Arukou" by Kyu Sakamoto got over to the UK and America and became the famous "Sukiyaki" song. Some very interesting parallels here.

      You said that you have been listening to Japanese music since the 2000s. Do you listen to the contemporary songs or the older kayo?

    2. Hello. I started with anime soundtracks, later with the songs we were taught at the classes of Japanese-language (including the aforementiones Ue o muite arukō and Kiroro's Mirai-e), and slowly, thanks to the internet, I began noticing about contemporary songs. As my shows, my favourite singer is MISIA, with Hikaru Utada taking a special place in my taste. I had read about the kayokyoku songs in a book I read when I was in college at Bogotá's main library, but it took me some years to know that music. A few months ago it turned out my mother-in-law had meet many years ago a Japanese woman, who was or is the wife of a German citizen living here, who taught her some songs: she can sing by heart a song which turned out to be (having found it out by googling part of the lyrics she sang to me) Yukari Itō's Namida no shizuku! Lately I have been listening 60s-80s songs (the first time I read your blog it was a post on Chisato Moritaka), mixing it with more recent music (I'm very into NakamuraEmi now, for example).

    3. Hi, Julian.

      I've found that a lot of J-Pop fans started out from listening to anison and then branched out from there. That period in the late 90s and early 00s was pretty sweet for J-Soul, thanks to Misia, Utada and bird.

      Nice story about your mother-in-law and that Japanese lady. My very first commenter, makotogawa, also mentioned something similar about his first encounter with Japanese music. One of his friends, a Japanese businessman, introduced him to some kayo on some of his trips over to Europe. Some very interesting ways to find out about the music.

    4. Hola a todos.
      Lo que dice Julian es cierto, soy de un pueblo que esta a 20km de cali llamado Yumbo aunque mis padres son de palmira y buga respectivamente. recuerdo que mi padre colocaba la cancion " Amor Japones" de una tal akaina akamoto, luego en bachiller tenia un compañero de padre japones y madre colombiana alli mismo en yumbo al cual le cante un trozo de la canción a lo cual el le cuenta a su padre y resulta ser que la canción se llama Yuube no himitsu y no amor japones como se decía y la cantante era tomoko ogawa no la otra inventada.
      Claramente el padre de mi amigo sabia de la existencia de la canción pero no se esperaba que en el común de los vallecaucanos se escuchara tan a menudo, la verdad es que me resulta muy fascinante e interesante la historia detrás de esta canción.

    5. Hola Dubar! Gracias por tu mensaje. Unfortunately, that's the only Spanish that I can write since I have to rely on Google Translate. :) I'm happy and interested to hear that "Yuube no Himitsu" was also a popular song in Columbia. I hope you are doing well in Cali.

  2. Now that you've mentioned anison, here's Azumi Inoue, during her brief career as an aidoru, with her second single, a cover of Yuube no Himitsu (1983).


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