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, July 4, 2015

Kenji Ninuma -- Tsugaru no Koi Onna (津軽恋女)

To be honest, I find it ticklish to listen to Japanese songs that have the singer repeat one particular word over and over and over again - the lyricists responsible for such tunes must've had an easier time churning out the lyrics. I guess it's due to the fact that this language is not my native tongue, so I pay more attention to how the word sounds like in comparison to what I know in English rather than its meaning. That part comes a little later, especially if the show doesn't have subtitles. Anyway, some examples include "Anata no Blues" (あなたのブルース), "Musoubana" (夢想花), and ever since Tuesday night's "Kayo Concert" featuring songs of the "Northern Country", "Tsugaru no Koi Onna".

Written by Kyosuke Kuni (久仁京介), this song features the Tsugaru region in Aomori - a hot bed for enka - which is known to have cold winters with lot's of snow, so I can see why Kuni had Kenji Ninuma (新沼謙治) sing the word "Yuki" () in rapid succession and even list down the 7 different types of snowfall there at the chorus. The rest of "Tsugaru no Koi Onna" looks to be about a woman from, you guessed it, Tsugaru, pining for her man as she waits for him to return to her - I'm not completely sure if its from the woman's point of view, or the man's, or if Ninuma is just narrating what goes on. And from the looks of the first stanza, she's not taking the separation very well. For a while I wondered how the listing of snow relates to the latter since it seemed to have come out of no where, but I soon (this morning, Singapore time) got the idea that the woman has to wait till all the 7 types of snow have fallen before she can see her loved one again. To complete the song is a rather forlorn and slightly dramatic score composed by Mondo Okura (大倉百人).

"Tsugaru no Koi Onna" was released in 1987 as Ninuma's 27th single. Although there's no information about how well it did, I think "Tsugaru no Koi Onna" did well enough for it to still be sung from time to time. It also seems to be one of Ninuma's more well-known tunes.

The video right here was of the performance earlier this week. It was a duet between Hiroshi Miyama (三山ひろし) and Kouhei Fukuda (福田こうへい). Fukuda seemed to be holding back on this one.

Wa-hey, Ninuma looks
cool in this picture!


  1. Hi, Noelle.

    "Tsugaru no Koi" is the one that I always associate Niinuma with, and yep, I've seen the song being performed by him and others over the years so it's got the lasting power. I definitely like his's very resonant.

    I saw your statement that you enjoy hearing repetition in songs. Well, it's not an enka song...more along the folk vein, but I wrote about Hiroshi Madoka's "Musoubana" almost 3 years ago, and it's famous for him repeating one word over and over again.

    1. Hi J-Canuck,

      Ninuma's voice is quite pleasant - smooth, not too enka-like.

      I've read about and listened to "Musoubana", and there are A LOT of repetitions. It's a refreshing song to listen to though, and it actually reminded me of a level of "Super Mario Galaxy II" that comprised of a huge wooden slide up on a floating island of some kind - you're supposed to control Mario as he zips down that dangerous slide at high speeds. I enjoyed that level, but boy was it a tricky one!

      One more thing, do you happen to know what "Jonkara" means? I've heard it in a number of songs featuring Tsugaru/Aomori, including "Tsugaru no Koi", and it seems to mean something. I tried looking it up, but I usually see Takashi Hosokawa's "Bokyo Jonkara".

    2. Hi, Noelle.

      I did a bit of digging on your question about the meaning behind "Jonkara". From what I've found, it is apparently a dialectal variant of the word "chongare" which referred to an old joyful tune that was sung by a street musician. Supposedly, it was music that was applied to the singing of a mock Buddhist sutra. Perhaps the original singers were the ancient equivalents of Weird Al Yankovic. :)

    3. Thanks, J-Canuck. Much appreciated. I kinda thought that "Jonkara" was the Aomori prefecture's term for something like a traditional folk song/Minyo.


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