|From the "Kayo Arena" magazine I got a while ago. He really|
looks younger than his actual age.
At one point in the performance, Yoshi's official debut single, "Koibito wa Kimi Hitori" (恋人は君ひとり), was brought up. Released in 1973 when Yoshi, the gruff enka singer I know and love, was known as Eiji Yamaoka (山岡英二), the aspiring aidoru (I kid you not). The cover photo of this single, which was enlarged for the crowd to gawk at, had him in a white, Elvis-like outfit and standing in all sorts supposedly cute (fine, he did look a little cute) and sexy poses... I'm so glad the big guy turned to enka. But anyway, all that talk about Yoshi's/Yamaoka's debut single had me thinking about the Prince of enka's own debut single, "Hakone Hachiri no Hanjiro".
Released on 2nd February 2000, "Hakone Hachiri Hanjiro" was the song that shot a then 23 year-old Hikawa to instant fame. It peaked at 11th place on the Oricon weeklies and remained in the Top 50 even on the following year, coming in at 41st position, and it sold around 750 000 copies as it was certified a triple platinum record. Written by Yurio Matsui and composed by Hideo Mizumori (松井由利夫 . 水森英夫), it won the singer many accolades, 5 in total, 4 of which were Best Newcomer Awards and the other being the Grand Prize at the Japan Lyricist Awards. So it's not a surprise that this song gave Hikawa his first ticket to the Kohaku on that same year. Now that's one heck of a feat!
Attributing to the success of "Hakone Hachiri Hanjiro" was most likely his youth, impressive warbling, looks - in my opinion, he's better looking now than then (it's the hair) - and the catchy-ness of this jaunty tune with its signature line "Yadane tara, yadane" that he sings with a playful intonation, complete with the necessary finger gun hand gestures, has the fans screaming, "KIYOSHI!!!" immediately after. Just this one line alone got stuck in my head after hearing it for the first time during a "Kayo Concert" episode a few months ago, and it made me want to listen to it again.
Y'know, the "Yadane tara, yadane" part of this song seems reminiscent of one of Hikawa's more recent singles, "Choitto Kimagure Wataridori" (ちょいときまぐれ渡り鳥), where the pauses in between his equally as whimsically sung "Otto dokoi ikenee yo" allow the audience to scream out his name.
Finally, the video above shows Hikawa's performance during the annual year-end competition 15 years ago. Okay, it's definitely the hair... and that feather boa isn't helping (that was in the previous video that got taken down... that coat in this video is not doing him any justice either).