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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Saburo Kitajima -- Bungacha Bushi (ブンガチャ節)

I was watching "Kayo Concert" the other night and it was down to a reduced guest list: Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎), Sayuri Ishikawa(石川さゆり), Hiromi Go(郷ひろみ)and Yoshimi Tendo(天童よしみ). The theme for the evening was the debut singles for the four singers along with their more recent numbers.

Saburo Kitajima may have retired from the Kohaku Utagassen (the environmentalists must have celebrated knowing that there will no longer be trees sacrificed for all that confetti), but he was still finishing up the show on Tuesday. As requested, he performed his debut single from 1962, "Bungacha Bushi" (Bungacha Melody), but before he did, he gave a little background on the release of the song way back when. I couldn't quite get all of what he said but I did make out the part where he said that after the song was broadcast on TV 3 times, it was summarily banned from further televised performances. He didn't go into the reason behind its banishment.

Well, when I looked up his J-Wiki entry, I went to the paragraphs surrounding his debut and found that reason. First off, going back to the performance, Sabu-chan's "Bungacha Bushi" was written by Tetsuro Hoshino(星野哲郎), and he included a fair bit of onomatopoeia such as "kyu, kyu, kyu..." and the titular "bungacha-cha, bungacha-cha...". Apparently, the problem was there. The song was about one man going nuts for that young woman, and from that point, the powers-that-be thought that the "kyu, kyu, kyu..." was too reminiscent of bed springs getting a little too much exercise one night. Thus, one week of TV exposure was gone. Kitajima didn't speak about when it was alright to perform the song on the telly again, but I certainly hope Tuesday's performance wasn't the first time.

As it was, I frankly thought all that onomatopoeia was just that romantic heart going "ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump...". And Toru Funamura's(船村徹)lightly bouncy (maybe I shouldn't be using "bouncy") music is a pretty happy-go-lucky thing about an innocent lad skipping down the road, a bit buoyant because of his head-over-heels feelings. Listening to the original song, I thought that "Bungacha Bushi" wasn't a purely enka song with that laddish chorus in the back and the comical horns, but there was enough of an enka-like formality (for lack of a better word) in the arrangements that perhaps it makes for a nice little hybrid.

Kitajima was around 26 years old in 1962, so I'm not how sure he was feeling when he found out that the song he was starting out his career with was given the hook from the airwaves (maybe it was given a reprieve on radio).  But he didn't need to worry for long. His second single, "Namida Bune"(なみだ船...Ship of Tears), which came out in June of that year and was created by the same duo for "Bungacha Bushi", became a million-seller.


  1. Hi J-Canuck,

    That "Kayo Concert" episode was the 3rd time I had witnessed a 4 person lineup. The 1st was with Shinichi Mori, Kiyoshi Hikawa, Fuyumi Sakamoto and Miyako Otsuki (got to see a pic of her back in the 80's with Michiya Mihashi with his shades, which was really cool). The 2nd was with Hiroshi Itsuki, Akira Fuse, Aya Shimazu and Natsukawa Rimi. I wonder if they'll have more of these episodes, they're quite interesting to watch.

    About "Bungacha Bushi", I thought that the "bungacha-cha, bungacha-cha" was to incorporate the title into the song, and that the "kyu, kyu , kyu" was to resemble the lovesick fellow's giggles of amusement and thrill at the knowledge that he's in love with the girl... the thought about bed springs doing a nocturnal aerobic workout did not cross my mind, even after reading the lyrics again! It looks rather innocent. I think those powers-that-be are just reading too much into it. And "Bungacha Bushi" is a really fun and catchy little ditty to listen to, it kinda sounds like "Ozashiki Kouta" (お座敷小唄) by the Mahina Stars. I hope Sabu-Chan gets to sing this more often now.

    1. Hi, Noelle.

      Strange to say considering how big NHK Hall is, but it did feel somewhat more intimate in there with just the four guests not only appearing but also sharing the hosting duties with the usual fellow. Could use a few more of those from time to time.

      Yeah, as for the "racy" nature of the lyrics, I couldn't really pick up on that at all when he first sang it. I kinda wonder how Hoshino took all of the so-called controversy but then again, the 60s were a far different time. And I remember that a decade previously it was verboten to utter the word "pregnant" on American TV.

      I'm not sure how beloved "Bungacha Bushi" is within Sabu-chan Nation, but yes, I think the audience (and NHK) has caught up with the that he is getting on a bit more in years, he may want to relive the old favourites.


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