Ah, I just love it whenever I'm able to figure out and differentiate the music styles of different composers, especially between Tetsuya Gen (弦哲也) and Chiaki Oka (岡千秋), since some of their works sound somewhat similar at times. Both put together elegant pieces filled with strings and the koto. However, I've noticed that Gen generally incorporates the accordion into his works, and when you can hear the harmonica and the guitar being strummed at a lower note, it's most likely going to be Oka's doing.
I managed to find this difference as Haruo Minami's (三波春夫) "Ganko Oyaji no Naniwabushi" (頑固親爺の浪花節) - a whimsical tune that I would love to write about but I'm still unable to find it on the Net - played through my ear pieces. I had assumed that Gen was responsible its music, but looking up the song proved me wrong. It was, instead, done by Oka. So from then on, I began paying close attention to the songwriters' styles; I picked out George Yamamoto (山本譲二) songs, since Gen has composed many of them, and compare them with "Ganko Oyaji no Naniwabushi" (primarily). Eventually I had a rough idea about the differences mentioned in the earlier paragraph, then came "Hatoba Shigure" to cement my hypothesis... Oh my, a little fragment of my science studies has made its way into my writing, hasn't it?
As I was saying, I came across "Hatoba Shigure" while on a train commute home from school about a week back. I was feeling like a soothing tune with Sayuri Ishikawa's (石川さゆり) gentle vocals, aka "Meoto Zenzai" (夫婦善哉), but while scrolling through my "Sayuri Ishikawa Playlist", I noticed "Hatoba Shigure", a song I hadn't yet touched, above my first choice, so I decided to give it a try. The moment I heard the strumming of the guitar, Oka immediately came to mind. This time, I was right, and I'm still pretty proud of this little feat! Not as soft as "Meoto Zenzai", though still as relaxing and easy on the ears, and the tinkling at the beginning of song made me think of rain drizzling down on some bay area at night, when the only thing making the rain visible are the lights in the area.
Since I focus on the music here, I tend to block out whatever Ishikawa sung. The only parts I hear when I finally tune in to Osamu Yoshioka's (吉岡治) lyrics are the areas that make "Hatoba Shigure" the representative song for the offshore island of Shodo, Kanagawa prefecture, namely the Tonosho port and the Setouchi sea. The rest of it just breeze by, probably because I'm too busy watching the passing housing estates from the train, or just staring aimlessly at nothing with nothing going into that head of mine.
Anyway, "Hatoba Shigure" was released on 21st July 1985 and it did pretty well on the charts, peaking at 29th place on the Oricon weeklies. The song allowed Ishikawa to bag the "Best Singer" award at the 27th Japan Record Awards, and she sang it once during her 8th Kohaku appearance in 1985.
The video above is Oka's unplugged rendition of "Hatoba Shigure". At times, he really sounds as though there's something stuck in his throat.