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, April 9, 2015

Kenichi Mikawa/Akira Kurosawa & Los Primos -- Niigata Blues (新潟ブルース)

I never got to head into Niigata Prefecture although I lived pretty close to the province as a temporary resident in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture. And it wasn't too difficult to get there even a quarter of a century ago since there was the Joetsu Shinkansen that launched from Ueno Station in Tokyo and cut right through the middle of the country. My biggest impression of Niigata, though, is the huge amount of snow that it gets every year...enough to make those huge 3m-high walls alongside the roads. And here I thought Toronto gets whacked with the white stuff.

Kenichi Mikawa(美川憲一)and his associates made an impression of Niigata for everyone back in the 1960s with "Niigata Blues". Released in August 1967, it's about as bluesy as one can get. I practically crave for something alcoholic when I hear this one...preferably in a nice little nomiya in a narrow alley somewhere in Japan. Not only is the song one of Mikawa's "Blues" tunes but it's also categorized as one of his geographical songs alongside his earlier hit of "Yanagase Blues"(柳ヶ瀬ブルース)from 1966.

Written by Kazumi Yamagishi山岸一二三...I'm not 100% sure about the first name since there are quite a few readings for it)and  Daisaburo Nakayama(中山大三郎)under his pseudonym of Keigo Mizusawa(水沢圭吾)with Hiroyuki Nakagawa(中川博之)composing it, the song is another one of reminiscing over a past love as would be fitting for a Mood Kayo with shoutouts to Niigata incorporating place names such as Niigata Station and Bandai Bridge.

About a month earlier from Mikawa's release, the Mood Kayo group, Los Primos(ロス・プリモス), had released their version of "Niigata Blues" as the B-side to their 4th single, "Shinanogawa Bojou"(信濃川慕情...Yearning for Shinanogawa). Strangely enough, Mikawa's B-side to "Niigata Blues" was that same song....maybe the producers had a confab at a nomiya about this. As for the video above, Los Primos' version comes in at the very end at the 5:07 mark following their other hits of "Love You, Tokyo" and "Tasogare Ginza".

(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

Enka chanteuse Aki Yashiro(八代亜紀)also provided her own cover version of "Niigata Blues" although it wasn't an official single and I don't know when it was recorded. In any case, no matter who sings it, it makes for a nice accompaniment for barhopping.


  1. Hi J-Canuck,

    Well, this is as Mood Kayo as Mood Kayo goes. Slow pace and quiet, "Niigata Blues" makes for a great nighttime song. I've listened to all 3 versions, and I think I like Mikawa's one the most because his deep vocal delivery seems to fit the heavy atmosphere the best. Aki's one comes in at a close second, followed by Los Primos.

    I think Mikawa and Los Primos might have been from different recording companies, so they would compete to see which singer from which company does the song better (let sales decide, I suppose), hence Mikawa and Los Primos singing the same songs. Other than that, I can't think of any other reason besides the producers having a thing for bar music, as you've said above.

    And is it just me or is Akira Kurosawa's voice different in the later days when compared to when the group started out? His voice seems a lot higher and not as smooth and low as before.

    1. Hi, Noelle.

      It's been amazing that I had known Mikawa more as the snarky tarento than as the veteran Mood Kayo singer all this time and not come across some of these bar-friendly tunes.

      As for Kurosawa's renditions, I'm not sure about the voice but perhaps adjustments were ongoing during the group's career.

  2. hey, nice blog--with excellent details. for what it's worth, i used to live in niigata city (as an ALT '96-'99) and have lived in nagaoka for the past 16 years, and i will be singing this tune at a gig at a jazz kissa later this month! (actually, this will be the first tune of the night, a teaser to grab the audience's attention, after which i'll be going more of a standard jazz route, for the most part). i DID see yokohama in a few of the last scenes of one youtube video, but i also found one that's all niigata! the link is in the next comment!

    thanks for the good work!


    1. Hello, Brian.

      I was the AET for Tsukiyono (now part of Minakami) from 1989-1991. It was a good time for me there although I think I got more out of it than my employers got out of me being a rookie teacher and all.

      By chance, are you a professional singer? When I saw the word "gig", I thought "this guy sounds more than a karaoke singer". I've also got my enjoyment of specific sub-genre although I do like swing and the trios/combos of the 1950s such as Bill Evans.

      Anyways, thanks for the good wishes and I hope you knock 'em dead at the kissa soon!

    2. Also thanks for the link to the full Niigata video!


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