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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sayuri Yoshinaga/Momoe Yamaguchi -- Izu no Odoriko (伊豆の踊子)

There's nothing like a music blog to find some refuge from the mania of a deciding Game 5 between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers...especially when it's a real nailbiter. I've never been a huge baseball fan although I support the good ol' Jays but when things are this tense and when I consider myself something of a jinx when it comes to these playoff games no matter what the sport, I prefer the solace of my room and the television on a totally different station.

Now that I'm done with that preface, in the last few days, I've been doing my usual translation work and I finished off about a scenic spot in Shizuoka Prefecture known as the Old Amagi Tunnel. One of the things I discovered about the place was that it was the setting for a Yasunari Kawabata(川端康成)short story known as "Izu no Odoriko" (The Izu Dancer). I've had to do my fair share of required reading back in my undergrad days as a Japanese Studies major and one of the authors was Kawabata although "The Izu Dancer" wasn't on the list. The brief summary of the story goes that a young high school student meets a small group of traveling performers a number of times while they tour the Izu Peninsula and falls for the youngest dancer.

When it comes to novels written by some of the big guns in Japan such as Kawabata, Soseki Natsume and Yukio Mishima, I figured it was just a matter of time before they were brought to the small or big screen. And sure enough, I found out on J-Wikipedia that "Izu no Odoriko" has gone both ways; in fact, there have been 6 movie versions of the novel between 1933 and 1974. Version 4 was released in 1963, and starred the lovely Sayuri Yoshinaga(吉永小百合)in the title role.

Another thing I figured with cinematized versions was that there would probably be some theme song provided. Once again, I hit the jackpot. Yoshinaga herself sung the title song, also known as "Izu no Odoriko". I've only got two other articles with her and even J-Wiki hasn't really listed any of her musical output although I realize that she has always been known as an actress first. Still, I think she has a fine voice and she did a fine job with this particular song which is basically a relating of the story from her character Kaoru's point of view. The ballad was created by the veteran team of Tadashi Yoshida and Takao Saeki(吉田正・佐伯孝夫).

The final movie version came out in 1974 under the same title. This time, it featured the young Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)in what was her first starring role in a motion picture as the dancer Kaoru. And as with Yoshinaga 11 years earlier, she was also responsible for the theme song which seems to cover the same story. But unlike the enka melody of the 1963 theme song, the 1974 version was not a cover but a new song with a kayo arrangement of sad innocence that fit the early years of Yamaguchi, not surprising since it was created by Kazuya Senke and Shunichi Tokura(千家和也・都倉俊一)who had made most of her early singles. Her "Izu no Odoriko" was the B-side to her 7th single released in December 1974, "Fuyu no Iro"(冬の色...The Colour of Winter)which, incidentally, was her first No. 1 hit song.

As I finish this off, the Blue Jays have just won their division series. There is joy in Toronto tonight and I even decided to watch the final out of the game.

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