There were a couple of kayo tropes I picked up from "Kita no Hotaru" (Fireflies of the North) when I heard it once again on the most recent episode of "Kayo Concert"（歌謡コンサート）the other day. One is that old-style Japanese songwriters do like their flying animals. There have been a multitude of titles featuring various birds (the more migratory the better) to represent the protagonist's wish to either escape his/her current fate or to send a message of love/regret to a former paramour. Insects are another example, and one of the better-loved ones have been fireflies. A summer fixture, the bio-luminescent firefly has been part and parcel of a family's memories or a catalyst for potential romance (especially when it comes to anime) in Japan. In my town of Tsukiyono back in my JET days, there was an annual firefly festival which took place around the local Bullet Train station.
"Kita no Hotaru" is once again one of those songs whose intro I can recognize immediately because of how the horns glide into original singer Shinichi Mori's（森進一）vocals. Released in August 1984 (perfect timing for fireflies), it was written by legendary Yu Aku（阿久悠）and composed by Takashi Miki（三木たかし）, and speaking about vocals, this leads me into the second trope. I think all enka singers have had to show their fair share of anguish in their performances to reflect crushing regret/melancholy/defiance. Mori is one of the enka singers who I think is one of the aces of anguish. And with "Kita no Hotaru", I believe he is taking on the woman's role as he pleads with the insect of choice to relay feelings of regret over to an old flame. He may not have tears in his eyes but there's no doubt that he's singing from an unhappy place.
The ballad managed to peak at No. 22 on Oricon, but it also won a Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards and a Grand Prize at the Japan Lyricist Awards. Sasuga, Aku-sensei!
Speaking about aces of anguish, Sayuri Ishikawa（石川さゆり）and the late Keiko Fuji（藤圭子）provided their own cover versions of "Kita no Hotaru". Both of their versions carry that albatross of regret but I could also detect a certain layer of "How dare you?!" anger/resentment in there.