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, September 17, 2015

Hibari Misora -- Ringo Oiwake (リンゴ追分)

Back in late June last year, I had been eager to catch my first ever "Kayo Concert" episode since it's theme was of Hibari Misora (美空ひばり) and Ikuzo Yoshi (吉幾三) was one of the guests on the show. Unfortunately, I did not have a particularly good time watching it (I hardly knew any of Madam Misora's songs at that point in time) even with one of my favourite singers on stage in all his husky, slightly scruffy glory. Yoshi sang "Ringo Oiwake" that night, and with it being a slow, quiet and most importantly unfamiliar tune, it failed to grab my attention and I admit that I got bored out of my wits. The only thing I noted was that he may have sung the song because it has got something to do with apples, which seem to be the pride and joy of the prefecture he came from (Aomori). With that impression of "Ringo Oiwake" in mind, I was afraid of touching it again, and I never did in the year that followed.

(Unfortunately the video has been taken down.)
Yoshi did a good job.

However, in the recent months my interest in the song was revived, thanks to this year's jazzed up rendition of hit during the Misora Memorial episode that made me give "Ringo Oiwake" a second chance, and it being one of my Grandpa's favourite tunes - I only learnt of that a couple of weeks ago. Though it was the latter that pushed me to give the original another go, and this time, I actually liked it. I was not expecting that.

The funky, jazzy version by Ego-Wrappin'.

Listening to "Ringo Oiwake" (again), I must say that I enjoyed the richness of Misora's voice as she crooned forlornly, especially as she dragged the word "Ringo", and its solemn, rhythmic music gives the song an air of melancholy to it. According to J-Canuck's article on this song, during the spoken part, our heroine, while at first ecstatic about the beauty brought to her by the flowers in spring, she is later reminded by the falling petals of her deceased mother. So as the song plays out, you can just imagine her sitting alone in an apple orchard amongst the trees in full bloom admiring them sadly. Just tugs on your heartstrings, doesn't it? "Ringo Oiwake" also struck me as somewhat Minyo-like, more so during the parts of the song when the music stops and Misora carries on singing, and of course when she goes, "Eeeeh".

"Ringo Oiwake" was released in 1952 and was Madam Misora's 5th best selling single (I can now understand why), selling a total of around 1.3 million copies. It was used as the theme song to "Ringo-en no Shojo" (リンゴ園の少女) that starred Misora, and there's even a plaque to commemorate the song in an apple orchard in the city of Hirosaki, Aomori. But surprisingly, she only sang it once on the Kohaku in 1979 during a special appearance medley. Writing the lyrics to "Ringo Oiwake" was Fujio Ozawa (小沢不二夫),  and Masao Yoneyama (米山正夫) was responsible for the music.

Right, I mentioned that "Ringo Oiwake" was one of grandad's favourite songs. Well, to be specific, he liked the Mandarin cover. It's called "Ping Guo Hua" (蘋果花... Apple flower), and the lyrics have Chinese singer Yang Yan (楊燕) singing about the one that got away rather than reminiscing about a deceased family member.

 I wonder what gramps would think if he knew that I too enjoy the stuff he used to listen to.


  1. Hello, Noelle.

    I think your grandfather would have been quite delighted at the fact that you've been actively enjoying the songs of his time. My parents haven't particularly shown any surprise at my interest in enka but then again perhaps they wouldn't since I grew up listening to it and they just assumed that the genre would be absorbed into my brain.

    You noted about giving songs second chances. That is exactly the same experience I've had in recent years. I've had albums sitting on the shelves for years that I hadn't been impressed with initially but after a second and third listening, I've started appreciating them far more. Always a good thing.

    1. Hi J-Canuck.

      Yeah, I think he would have been happy, though Mom always says that he would've been perturbed as well with me liking some old... really, really old singers/songs. I would love to be able to share what I listen to with him and see if he recognizes any of them since a number of these enka and Mood Kayo have been covered in Mandarin e.g. Shinichi Mori's "Onna no Tameiki", which is also one of his favourites, but... oh well.

      For my parents, I'm pretty sure they're more than surprised about my interest in the enka oldies since none of them listen to that sort of music. I think they're still trying to wrap their heads around the fact that I can get excited over a bunch of geriatrics old enough to be my grandparents and older.

      As for second chances with songs, they come by from time to time, especially when it comes to the more difficult to listen to enka, or as I like to call "advanced enka". However, for some of tunes, second and third chances may not be enough to get me to appreciate it, like Misora's other widely popular hit "Kanashii Sake". To me, that's the epitome of "advanced enka" and I'd be amazed if I ever come to like it.

    2. Well, I certainly hope that there are more young fans of enka like yourself out there. Perhaps the genre won't reach the heyday of the past but it will take members of the younger generations to keep it going. And I think it will for the next few decades, at least.

      As for "Kanashii Sake", I've mellowed to it over the years. It's not quite in my Top 3 for Hibari favourites but I've appreciated it as a part of her discography and as a part of enka that likes to squeeze out the waterworks. For me, though, I've always enjoyed the jauntier songs by her.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.