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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.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Takashi Hosokawa -- Bokyo Jonkara (望郷じょんから)


When it comes to Takashi Hosokawa (細川たかし), I believe that the best way to get acquainted with this seasoned enka singer would be via his debut and revival hits "Kokoro Nokori" (心のこり) and "Kita Sakaba" (北酒場), more so if you're uninitiated to enka because they lean more to the genre of pop. In other words, they're easier on the ears on a whole. On the other hand, in my case, the then not-so-initiated-to-enka me had "Bokyo Jonkara" to do the introduction. All I can say is, was I lucky I was patient with it! I was actually very close to clicking out the back icon about a few seconds into watching that very video up there when all I heard was the strumming of the shamisen - I disliked anything too traditional in the early days - but for one reason I managed to stop myself from doing so.

That reason was: I wanted to see the bit that monomane champ, Korokke (コロッケ), had been spoofing. As I've said before a number of times (I think), the impressionist was responsible for introducing me to many enka singers that I now love, Hosokawa being one of them. Whenever Korokke were to do an impression of the minyo practitioner, he would more often than not just be wailing away to a little excerpt of music. I got myself to look up what he was "singing", which happened to be "Bokyo Jonkara" and I promptly went to search for that. This brings me back to where I stopped in my first paragraph, finding Hosokawa's 25th single... boring.

Well, Korokke sang most of it here.

It begins slow with just the shamisen and Hosokawa's forlorn delivery with the shakuhachi coming in from time to time. I was glad when he finally went, "Ah ah ah aaaaaaaaaah ah aaaaah aaaaaaaaaaaaaah..." in his powerful, enka-vibrato-filled voice. And then the chorus portion came on to change my views on the song completely. Unlike its start and for that matter its later part, "Bokyo Jonkara" at its chorus has got a pop-like melody made cool and dramatic by its combination strings, the electric guitar slicing in, and the shamisen in the background. I enjoy this interesting transition a lot and it kind of reminds me of "Amagi Goe" (天城越え), just more forlorn and not so much scorn. The music was brought to you by renowned composer, Keisuke Hama (浜圭介). It took me a while to get past the very minyo bits of "Bokyo Jonkara", but when I did it became one of my top Hosokawa-favourites.

Going off on a bit of a tangent here - about Hama, I'm still unable to pick out his style of music and it's bugging me more than it should. He's been creating such a variety of songs that its hard to pinpoint exactly what he's most known for. My guess is - this only came to me just - that some of his melodies will incorporate the electric guitar.

Dang, he really improves with age... His voice, to be exact.

Moving on, Ryuichi Satomura (里村龍一) penned the lyrics and since this is a bokyo song - this is where I coined the term, by the way - as you can already see, it has Hosokawa singing about missing home (which happens to be in the rural area of Tsugaru, Aomori) after leaving to work in the city far, far away. The protagonist also faces the perennial problem of feeling torn as to whether he should go back to his hometown which he so dearly misses or continue toiling away and earning money. Tough choice.

"Bokyo Jonkara" was released on 21st August 1985 and not surprisingly it did well, allowing Hosokawa to win the Gold prize at the 27th Japan Record Awards. In total, he sang it 4 times on the Kohaku Utagassen - 1985, 1995, 2000, 2009. I'm hoping that I'll be able to catch him sing "Bokyo Jonkara" on the Kohaku. I think I would be even happier than I was when he sang "Kokoro Nokori" on the most recent edition (66th).

To end this article, here's Hosokawa's student, Konomi Mori (杜このみ), giving her rendition of her mentor's hit. Not a bad attempt, I must say. There are times where I can hear the "Hosokawa-ness" in her voice.



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6 comments:

  1. Interesting. My company holds a conference every in San Francisco and in the past 3 years, our CEO, who's a great fan of Hawaii, would bring in a Hawaiian couple to perform before his keynote. The music was very very similar to Bokyo. I didn't realize that until now.

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    1. Hi there.

      Well, that's interesting to note. It could be "Bokyo jon Kara", or perhaps not as I'm pretty sure that there's more enka or other songs in general that have the same dramatic style.

      If you don't mind me asking, why is your CEO inviting people (or just that Hawaiian couple) to perform at a keynote? Sorry, I don't really know how that kind of higher level stuff in workplaces work; when I do do work on the holidays, its usually at the menial labour level, like filing records or shredding obsolete documents.

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    2. Yeah, I gotta admit I'm intrigued as well about your CEO bringing entertainment before a keynote. Probably the closest I got was toffee. :)

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    3. The conference is like an annual event for our customers, as well as a trade show to sell our products to new/potential customers. Therefore, our CEO would like to entertain them, like U2 appearing in Apple's iPhone/iPad/iWatch launch. It's like a big party.

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    4. So that's what it is all about. The couple must be pretty good for your CEO to have them perform for your customers so many times.

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  2. The "longing for home" is another venerable theme in a number of enka tunes. I have to say that this is quite an epic illustration of that theme with Hosokawa compared to Masao Sen's "Kita Kuni no Haru" which also has that singer wanting to head back to the hometown. Sen has a somewhat more wistful approach.

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