Yoshimi Tendo (天童よしみ) was one of those singers whom I'd acknowledge for having an amazing voice and would be glad to see them on regular music shows like "Kayo Concert" as I think they can pull of pretty much any kind enka/Mood Kayo. But other than that, my interest in the likes of Tendo usually ends about there because I haven't yet found a song under their own repertoire that I like a lot. Other singers in this category include Aya Shimazu (島津亜矢) and Kouhei Fukuda (福田こうへい).
A few weeks ago during the Osaka Special on "Kayo Concert", Tendo graduated from that category, so to speak, when she sang one of her signature tunes, "Tonbori Ninjo". I did hear it on last year's edition, but I only paid attention to it recently... Mostly because "Juso no Yoru" (十三の夜) - again - and "Osho" (王将) were not sung; needless to say I was not particularly pleased about that. Well, listening to "Tonbori Ninjo" sort of cheered me up.
What drew me to Tendo's hit from December 1985 this time was the contrast between its elegant melody by composer Toshiaki Yamada (年秋山田) and the lady's fruity and powerful vocals that gives "Tonbori Ninjo" an edge. And I noticed that this contrast is more prevalent when Tendo sings this song later in her career. Though she sounded as impressive as she does now, I feel that her current voice has more depth than it did back then; perhaps due to cigarettes and consuming some of the hard stuff, plus the added confidence from years in show business. That reminds me of Takashi Hosokawa (細川たかし).
Writing the lyrics to "Tonbori Ninjo" was Kahoru Wakayama (若山かほる). As you can already see from the title, it features a popular area in the Minami part (entertainment district) of Osaka that would seem like a good place for foodies to gather due to the number of restaurants there, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization website - probably why the song regularly appears on the Osaka Special. Anyway, from what I gather from the lyrics, it looks to be about an Osakan woman in Tokyo trying to get over the one who got away and encouraging herself to be strong. Tendo's growling delivery at the chorus makes our heroine in "Tonbori Ninjo" appear more determined and confident that she'll rise above her predicament rather than brooding and sulking over her sake.
Tendo, born in Wakayama, began singing at a young age after being influenced by her music-loving father, and she won a couple of singing competitions, including "Nodojiman". In 1970, she debuted as Yoshimi Yoshida (吉田よしみ). She changed her stage name to what it is now in 1972, but did not do particularly well in the years that followed. From the J-wiki page I think I read that she was contemplating on giving up all together. And then came "Tonbori Ninjo" years later which slowly became popular with the crowd and she regained her popularity. I also read that another enka singer, Goro Kagami (鏡五郎), had sung this song too in 1986, but it didn't do as well. Unfortunately I'm not able to find his version.
Tendo sang this song on the Kohaku twice, during her 5th appearance in 2000 and 13th appearance in 2008. Speaking of Tendo on the Kohaku Utagassen, she'll be on tonight for her 20th appearance singing one of Hibari Misora's (美空ひばり) invigorating hits, "Jinsei Ichiro" (人生一路). I'll be looking forward to that!