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.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Saburo Kitajima -- Kita no Ryoba (北の漁場)

Ain't nothin' more manly than going out to the choppy sea for some fishing in ye ol'weather-beaten vessel! Or that's the impression I got from listening to Saburo Kitajima's (北島三郎) 'Kita no Ryoba', or 'Northern fishing grounds'.

I'm generally not too fond of songs by Sabu-chan because of his singing style, but the moment I heard the music - done by the late composer, Seiichi Sakurada (桜田誠一) and lyrics by Kaoru Shinjo (新條 カオル)  - I kinda knew sooner or later I'd grow to like the gritty Sabu-chan tune, much to Mom's disdain for she has a, and I quote, 'profound dislike' for the singer. She could tolerate (barely) the intimidating Hideo Murata and Grande dame Hibari Misora. But Grandpa Enka would be a definite NO. Heh, I remember that look of venom she shot me when I told her I liked one of his songs a few days back. I could bet my bottom dollar she'd hit the back of my head with a fan at the drop of a hat if we were Japanese.

As I was saying, the song really makes you envision being out on those fishing boats (I'd call it the S.S. Sabu even if it were a little rubber dinghy) on rough seas, overcast skies and mile-high winds, seagulls up above squalling in excitement, hoping to steal some of the day's catch just hauled in by some salty sailor/fisherman. So like I implied above, it has an aura of manliness to it.

Moving on, the song did quite well and at its peak, placed 17th on the Oricon charts. It also helped Sabu-chan bag another award at the 28th Japan Record Awards, this time for 'Best singer'. However, he only sang this song once out of his 50 appearances at the Kohaku and only after 22 years later after its release in 1986. A song like this makes me think that it'd have more rotation at the annual competition, no?

I had actually first heard this song while watching Monomane talentKorokke (コロッケ) spoofing the half an hour long Enka song show, 'Enka no Hanamichi', but never paid much attention to it since I was too preoccupied with laughing as Sabu-korokke ordered the Sabumaru to go port and starboard.

The link above is for that 'Enka no Hanamichi' spoof, and the 'Kita no Ryoba' part is the last act, but you can enjoy Korokke's staple repertoire of Aki Yashiro, Hiroshi Itsuki and Shinichi Mori first. Everything seems normal until 'Aki Yashiro' turns around...


  1. I was surprised to read that this particular song didn't make it onto the Kohaku all that much. "Kita no Ryoba" seems tailor-made for Sabu-chan to perform on the Shibuya stage but perhaps it wasn't quite epic enough for his position at the very end of the show.

    Yup, it's a typical manly-man Saburo song. Standing on the stern of a fishing boat, hewing wood in a forest or raising mikoshi at a festival...that's his wheelhouse.

    Y'know, I had my battles with Mom when I was a teen but it's the first time I've read about teenage rebellion via kayo kyoku. :) Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi J-Canuck,

    I suppose when he's got songs like 'Matsuri' (sung 6 times if I'm not mistaken) that rounds off the show with a festive note, 'Kita no ryoba' doesn't really stand a chance.

    And yeah, Mom doesn't really like Enka. Whenever she hears one of those sung by singers like Hideo Murata (Introduction via 'Osho' and 'Jinsei gekijo' was probably not such a good idea) and dear Sabu-chan, she feels like throwing them into the bin...

    Just last night I introduced her to Murata's rival, Haruo Minami and I kept emphasizing on that perpetual bright smile he gives while singing because his motto was 'Audience comes first', and all she said was that he looked ugly, that he wore sissy kimonos (lots of flowery patterns and of colours like lilac) and wanted to empty a trash can on to his head.

    But thank goodness she doesn't mind Mood Kayo or she'll be wanting to throw Kiyoshi Maekawa into the dumpster... but that ain't gonna stop me from listening to them!

    1. I was pretty fortunate in that both my parents like enka, although neither of them can sing for beans at karaoke. I've done my fair share of karaoke at the boxes in Tokyo but I had to be careful about singing it depending on the group I was with. Like your mother, I had some students who would flee from enka/Mood Kayo as if it were the plague.

      Keep on with the enka listening, Noelle. There are also young people who appreciate the genre and ultimately (and obviously) it will be up to younger generations to keep it going.


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