I was watching NHK News at Nine while having my breakfast this morning when I heard the news of the passing of author Yoko Yamaguchi（山口洋子）at the age of 77. The Nagoya native was not only a prolific writer and the winner of the semi-annual Naoki Prize in literature twice in 1985, but she was also the lyricist of some of the moodiest of Mood Kayo.
Yamaguchi wrote the classic "Yokohama Tasogare"（よこはまたそがれ）which became Hiroshi Itsuki's（五木ひろし）breakthrough hit and also Yujiro Ishihara's（石原裕次郎）marvelous "Brandy Glass" (ブランデーグラス）. But according to J-Wiki, her first attempt at songwriting also came up roses, and that is the above "Uwasa no Onna" (Woman of Rumour or That Woman). The 5th single of Hiroshi Uchiyamada and The Cool Five（内山田洋とクール・ファイブ）was released in July 1970, several months before "Yokohama Tasogare", and I've gotta say that lead vocalist Kiyoshi Maekawa（前川清）just gushes out the pain of that woman under probably unfair scrutiny and scorn. To be socially isolated in Japanese society is pretty close to a death sentence, and the woman in question in the song bitterly lashes out at how anyone could understand the depths of her suffering.
Composer Kosho Inomata（猪俣公章）came up with the whiskey-worthy melody of bluesy saxophone, guitar and chorus, and together with Maekawa's aching resonant vocals, the effect is of a lonely walk through the side streets of gaudy neon and tiny drinking establishments with the angst of "water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink"...and no friendly faces, either. "Uwasa no Onna" had an effect on listeners. It went all the way to No. 2 on the Oricon weeklies, selling half a million records and ending up as the No. 14 song of 1970.
The aforementioned Hiroshi Itsuki did his own cover of "Uwasa no Onna" as well. As I was listening to both versions, I did wonder once more about the custom of having male artists crooning about the feelings of a woman in enka/Mood Kayo. My knowledge on Japanese cultural history is hazy at best, but I wonder whether there was any connection at all between the custom here in popular music and kabuki actors taking on onnagata roles. Although the J-Wiki article on "Uwasa no Onna" didn't feature anything on cover versions, I cannot imagine any female enka singers NOT performing this song. Composer Inomata also created (former Mrs. Maekawa) Keiko Fuji's（藤圭子）"Onna no Blues"（女のブルース）, and she would've been an excellent choice for "Uwasa no Onna". Also, Sayuri Ishikawa（石川さゆり）would belt this one out of the park.