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.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Kozo Murashita -- Akina (アキナ) (plus a behind the scene story of Odoriko 踊り子)

It was March 1991 when Kozo Murashita (村下孝蔵) released his 18th single named "Akina" (アキナ).  The title was written in Katakana, but it has the same pronunciation as the famous singer Akina Nakamori (中森明菜).

The protagonist in the lyrics was a young girl whom Murashita described as fully baptized by the joy and sorrow of love, someone who just wholeheartedly devoted to her dreams, a gypsy (love wanderer) as a result of begin shaken by the brittleness of love.  "Sing for us!" Murashita called on her.  "Please blossom! Please show us your cute little smile of yesterday!" he yelled.

It was a song meant to comfort, a cheer up song for a girl who was lost in love.

Although the title of the song, "Akina", represents a generic girl's name,  Murashita wanted to dedicate this song to Akina Nakamori, and wrote the lyrics with her and her story in mind.  It was indeed a cheer up song dedicated to Akina.

Here's a paragraph of the lyrics which I found moving:
歌ってくれ 澄んだ声で
Sing for us! With your sunny cheerful voice.
You're one wounded swan
オレの胸で 深く 泣きな
I'll lend you my shoulder for your deep sorrows
涙はこの手で 受けてやる
My hands will be holding your tear drops for you

On July 11, 1989, Akina was found unconscious in Masahiko Kondo's (近藤真彦, nicknamed Matchy) apartment.  She appeared to have committed suicide, but was rescued eventually.  The reason was rumored (technically I think it was a rumor but in fact it is the truth) to be the culmination of her drawn-out and difficult relationship with Matchy.  Her attempted suicide resulted in a year long rest and rehabilitation.  Even though she came back with her new single in summer 1990, she was never the same again, both career-wise and personality-wise.

It was under this backdrop that Kozo Murashita dedicated this song to her.  In Murashita's CD album, Tanabata Yasoukyoku (七夕夜想曲), producer Sudoh Akira (須藤晃) wrote in the accompanying booklet:
We (he and Murashita) both are Akina fans.  So we decided to create a song to encourage her and cheer her up.  We wanted to contact Akina in person and send our warmest wishes, but to no avail.  In any case, we're glad that we could return this song, singer to singer, out of respect to all the songs that she sang for us.
Here is a live performance of Kozo Murashita singing "Akina":

And here's an album version:


What I am going to talk about next is totally rumor.  I couldn't find any reliable sources except this blog post from a Japanese fan (  

The story continues...

Years later, Akina Nakamori was invited to an interview.  When the interviewer mentioned this particular Murashita's song, she was caught by surprise and indicated she didn't know anything about it.  She was extremely happy and thankful.  Unable to respond, Akina bursted into tears.  By that time, Kozo Murashita had already passed away (he died in June 1999).

It was this behind the scene story that prompted Akina to cover Kozo Murashita's Odoriko (踊り子) in her cover album, Utahime 3 (歌姫3), in the year 2003.  It was her way to pay respect to this singer songwriter, who dedicated a song to her in her darkest days, despite the fact that she was unaware of it at that time.

Here's Akina's version of Murashita's Odoriko:

Odoriko was a song about 2 lovers in a difficult struggling relationship.  Murashita used odoriko, which means dancing girl, as an analogy to describe how fragile and unstable that relationship was.  It's as perilous as a ballet dancer dancing on her tiptoe.  Both wanted to escape but they couldn't, so they stayed together.  There's also an alternative interpretation that says that the love relationship in the song was actually an affair, due to the reference 裏の路地, which means back-alley.  Anyway, it's a sad song to me.

I actually listened to Akina's version first before I listened to Murashita's original.  Maybe it's first impression but through her seeming sobbing voice, I've accepted Akina's interpretation.  So when I listened to the original version, it felt strange because (1) Murashita's tempo is much faster and it dilutes the sadness (2) Murashita's voice was not sad but indifferent.  It was like an old couple who hung on to their unhappy marriage and eventually accepted it as fate.

To this date, I still feel strange listening to Murashita's version of Odoriko.


  1. Hi, Larry. Good to hear from you again. Hope things are going well for you out in San Francisco.

    Thanks for providing this information on "Akina". I had no idea about this song and Murashita's dedication to Nakamori. Listening to the song, I thought it would be something that she would sing...although it would be kinda weird for her to sing a song with her own name as the title. It has that bittersweet quality to it.

    I can understand your feeling about the original version of "Odoriko" by Murashita. There seems to be an outright jauntiness to the song as he performs it although the lyrics don't particularly depict a happy situation. On the other hand, there is quite that level of drama with Akina's version that brings to mind a lot of costumed shows from a few centuries ago; in a way, it's quite similar to what Taeko Ohnuki had done back in the early 80s.

    1. J-Canuck, Happy Easter. I've been busy at work and my photography hobby so sorry for not blogging more frequently than I would like.

      I asked my coworker who went to Japan in Xmas to buy me an iTunes gift card so I can buy Japanese songs. And so I bought a number of songs from Exile, Kazumada Oda and Takao Kisugi. I have to say I like Exile, especially their ballads. I'm hook on Ti Amo right now.

      I'll be going to Hong Kong and Japan end of May/early June. Will stay in Japan for 10 days. Let me know if you need anything :)

    2. Hi, Larry. Happy Easter to you, too. No problems about not being able to post. The blog is just a hobby after all...other things come first. :)

      Lucky you on that gift card. I don't have too many Exile songs profiled so if you are interested in writing any articles on them, please go on ahead. I will probably be making another purchase on CD Japan in the next couple of days...the incentive of a friend asking me to buy a "Kimagure Orange Road" CD from there helps a lot.

      I hope you have a good time in East Asia. How is the exchange rate between the yen and the American dollar these days? Don't worry about me. Use that hard-earned cash for yourself.

    3. The exchange rate has been fluctuating between 1 USD: 118 JPY and 120 JPY. I hope it'll be this way in the coming months.

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