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.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Kaori Mizumori -- Yamatoji no Koi (大和路の恋)

I thought it was about time I write an entry on Kaori Mizumori (水森かおり). She's one of those "Kayo Concert" regulars that I'd see about once a month, appearing on the Kayo stage in (more often than not) elaborate strapless gowns with a jovial expression. But I don't really mind as Mizumori's smooth and clear vocal delivery is enjoyable to listen to, plus it's hard not to like that bright smile of hers - sort of like Haruo Minami (三波春夫), I dare say. And you know how I always say that enka largely features the prefectures and their landmarks? Well, here's the queen of this category of enka. Browsing through her discography is like having a crash-course in the Geography of Japan.

Gifu, Hokkaido, Shimane and Tottori are some examples of the prefectures Mizumori had sung about. As for her 24th single, "Yamatoji no Koi" the place of interest is Nara, or more specifically Yamatoji. I did some research on this area in Nara - Mom helped in translation as the J-Wiki had too many Chinese characters for me to understand - and it turns out that Yamatoji is supposed to be a path to Yamato, which was where the emperor's seat way back then and is now current-day Nara. In Toshiya Niitani's (仁井谷俊也) lyrics, there are shout-outs a couple of landmarks in the city of Sakurai, like Mt. Miwa, all while talking about a woman reminiscing (?) a past love. Composing "Yamatoji no Koi" was Tetsuya Gen (弦哲也), who put together an airy and grandeur melody that sounds more joyful than the lyrics.

"Yamatoji no Koi" was released on 1st April 2015 and it commemorates her 20th year in show business. It did well on the charts, peaking at 10th place and settling at 101st place by the end of 2015, and it won an award for excellence at the 57th Japan Record Awards as well as a nomination at the 48th Japan Lyricist Awards - Niitani is really on a roll here, having many of the songs he penned nominated. Mizumori sung this song on the 66th Kohaku last year while riding on an animatronic phoenix with the view of Nara in the background. Her performances seem like they are getting more impressive over the years; not to Sachiko Kobayashi's (小林幸子) level yet, but she's getting there.

I've visited Nara a couple of times on package tours... Well, more like the deer park and the temple that resides in the deer park. It was fun being able to touch the free-roaming deer that walk up to you hoping for hand-outs, but boy the hoards of high school students that came as we were leaving were scarier than a herd of deer coming after you for food.


  1. Hi, Noelle.

    I hear you about those junior high school kids on their school trips. It's kinda like unleashing hell especially with the moppets so excited about being on their first trip abroad with the parentals.

    But I also did like Nara for the deer and the temples, although one priest screamed at the whole bunch of us tourists over loudspeaker for being too noisy. Man, talk about a guy being in a bad mood.

    Now that you mention it, there is something of the Haruo in Kaori. My Dad also remarked during her appearance on the Kohaku that she was looking prettier every time with her beaming countenance. And I bet Minami would have done a fine job with "Yamatoji no Koi" as well.

    1. Hello J-Canuck.

      Unleashing hell indeed. And the students just kept coming, one busload after the other, some groups looking studious while others looking like budding yakuza.

      Wow, tourists being told off by a priest for being too noisy, I've never heard that one before, but the thought of it makes me chuckle.

      I only noticed the Minami-ness in Mizumori as I was watching videos of her singing this song while writing the article. A smile like that that can make a song sound happy and the audience feel good reminded me of the venerable enka veteran. It'd be nice to be able to hear Minami sing "Yamatoji no Koi" with his chirpy vocals, but sadly he's long gone.

    2. Yeah, I know what you mean about the adolescent hordes including some of the ones I accompanied when I went on one of those school trips. And the last thing you wanna do is tick off a priest in Japan.


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