Approaching the end of the year, the various citizenry of both Japan and Canada will probably be starting to think about all those get-togethers in December, whether it be the annual Xmas parties here or the customary bonenkai back in Japan. I've been involved in both with the year-end fetes in my nation of heritage being more rigid in structure. When I was on the JET Programme, December was filled with bonenkai for me. In my first year, I think I attended parties for 5 straight nights: two for each school that I visited, one for the PTA, one for the Board of Education in my town and then the really big one for the entire town hall. I ended up calling the whole process the rubber sushi circuit. And each party was divided into the main party at the beginning, followed by the nijikai second party usually at a bar and perhaps even a sanjikai third party at a karaoke bar. Then, there was even a fourth party to end things off by gobbling down some ramen or ochazuke. Those Gunma folks could really party.
That was back in 1989. In the last few years being back in Toronto, I've organized the year-enders with my small circle of friends. The last couple of years have been spent at a fine izakaya called Kingyo but to shake things up a bit, I've decided to make this year's reservations at an Italian place called Fieramosca. Food is great but I think it's even better to gather all the guys together once a year since it is already a bit tricky to do so with a number of folks settling down and having their families.
So it was with some kismet that last night's "Kayo Concert" on NHK had a number about getting the old gang together for a good time. The old folk group Four Saints（フォー・セインツ）and actress/singer Keiko Matsuzaka（松坂慶子）teamed up to perform the group's latest single "Tama ni wa Nakama de" (Occasionally With Some Old Buddies) from October 2015. Lead vocalist of Four Saints, Toru Uehara（上原徹）, provided the gentle music with Osami Okamoto's（岡本おさみ）lyrics about meeting up with the gang for another round at the favourite nomiya. What was especially wistful was the one lyric which stated about friends who have passed who used to sing the old chestnuts. Now that I've passed 50, I'm starting to think a little more about my own mortality.
Four Saints was a folk group that had its initial run between 1968 and 1973. It was formed during a culture festival at Seikei High School in Musashino City, Tokyo and gained notice on the radio program "Folk Village". The group released 11 singles during those 5 years with the biggest hit being their debut single "Chiisana Nikki"（小さな日記...Little Diary）which sold 200,000 records. It got back together in 2006 and has been performing ever since.
It was definitely nice to see Keiko Matsuzaka back on the singing stage. Her appearance on "Kayo Concert" and in the promotion video at the very top reminded me of that former high school beauty who all the guys chased after with the one buddy finally catching her heart for good. In 2015, she's still vivacious as ever, and it's quite adorable to see her partnering with Uehara all those years after crooning her most famous song, the salacious "Ai no Suichuuka"（愛の水中花）from 1979.
Yep, time to appreciate those buddies over beer and bites. The party season will soon be upon us.
|Enjoying the okonomiyaki with friends|