A couple of nights ago on Christmas Eve, TV Japan aired the 2013 version of "Nodo Jiman The World", hosted by SMAP's Masahiro Nakai. The special features non-Japanese people from all over the planet who are invited onto the show to sing their favourite J-Pop songs extremely well. These folks probably end up hitting the karaoke boxes alone since I can envisage them intimidating their friends right out of the room with their talent.
Anyways, I was struck by Chris Hart's rendition of one song. The San Francisco-born Hart has become very well-known in Japan over the past year especially as a beautiful singer of kayo kyoku/J-Pop. He got his big national exposure almost a year ago when he appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen. In any case, the song he sang was Chiharu Matsuyama's（松山千春）"Ohzora to Daichi no Naka de" (The Big Sky and the Great Land). Good golly, Hart sent that one over the roof!
I was charmed so much by the ballad that I tracked down the original on YouTube. I was surprised to find out that "Ohzora to Daichi no Naka de" was never made an official single but was the 2nd track on Matsuyama's debut album, "Kimi no Tame ni Tsukutta Uta"（君のために作った歌...The Song I Made For You）which was released back in June 1977. Written and composed by the singer, I've become an instant fan of the song, thanks to the mellow horns and his distinct delivery. It has become one of the representative tunes for Matsuyama's native Hokkaido. I've only been there once, and when my plane was landing at Shin-Chitose Airport near Sapporo, I took a look out the window and was reminded of the Canadian countryside.
As for the album, "Kimi no Tame ni Tsukutta Uta", peaked at No. 8 on Oricon but also became a long-lasting hit. In fact, about 18 months after its release, it ended 1978 as the 29th-ranked album and even ended up as the 19th-ranked album for 1979.
I'm quite the sucker for Japanese folk ballads from the old days. Another couple of examples are Saburo Tokito's（時任三郎）"Kawa no Nagare wo Daite Nemuritai"（川の流れを抱いて眠りたい）and Iruka's（イルカ）"Ame no Monogatari"（雨の物語）.