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, January 15, 2015

Sayuri Yoshinaga and Hiroshi Wada & Mahina Stars -- Samui Asa (寒い朝)

Well, I'm glad that NHK's "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)is back on after a pretty lengthy Holiday hiatus. I appreciated some of those New Year's specials but unfortunately TV Japan doesn't really make it a habit to show many of them. It's nice to see and hear some of that old-fashioned kayo kyoku again after what seemed to be a month.

A lot of the songs were ones that I have heard (and written about on the blog) before, but then Kaoru Mizumori(水森かおり)sang a lovely ballad that I hadn't experienced, "Samui Asa" (Cold Morning). Then I found out who the original singer was.

Way before there were Amurers (Namie Amuro fans) in the 90s (and for that matter, some years before Trekkies arose from the university campuses in the 70s), there were the Sayurists...the ever-loyal fans in love with actress Sayuri Yoshinaga(吉永小百合). I first read about the phenomenon in "The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture" by journalist/film critic Mark Schilling, and to be honest, if I had been born a couple of decades earlier and born and raised in Japan instead of Canada, it's pretty likely I would have ended up a Sayurist as well.

I've always seen the very-much-still-active Yoshinaga (she just starred in "Fushigi na Misaki no Monogatari" last year) as an actress but she did perform that evergreen duet with Yukio Hashi(橋幸夫), "Itsudemo Yume wo"(いつでも夢を)in September 1962. However, some months earlier, she made her debut as a songbird with that tune that Mizumori had performed a couple of nights ago. "Samui Asa" was written by Takao Saeki(佐伯孝夫)and composed by Tadashi Yoshida(吉田正), the same duo behind "Itsudemo Yume wo", as a duet for both Yoshinaga and Mood Kayo band Hiroshi Wada & Mahina Stars(和田弘とマヒナスターズ)for release in April of that year.

The song was used as the theme for a seishun eiga starring Yoshinaga and actor Mitsuo Hamada(浜田光夫), "Akai Tsubomi to Shiroi Hana"(赤い蕾と白い花...Red Buds and White Flowers), and looking at the video at the very top of the article gave me an intangible sense of sepia along with the green and blue that shone as "Samui Asa" was playing. Yoshinaga and Mahina Stars related that although the cold north winds may chill the early hours of the day, the love between two people would keep them toasty. The natsukashii melody reminded me of some of the tunes that actors Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald had performed as one of the premier musical pairs a few decades previously back in Hollywood.

I can only imagine how excited the fans must have been when it was announced that their heroine would be releasing her first single. Yoshinaga already had about 29 movies under her belt since her film debut in 1959, so had plenty of exposure to the public by the time that "Akai Tsubomi to Shiroi Hana". After the release of "Samui Asa", the single managed to sell 200,000 records and get the actress her debut on the Kohaku Utagassen that year.

Composer Yoshida was originally from Hitachi City in Ibaraki Prefecture. And as a tribute to him, since October 2005, Hitachi Station on the JR Tokiwa Line has used a part of the song as the warning chime on the platform for trains heading away from Tokyo.

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