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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mitsuo Kaji -- Seishun no Jokamachi (青春の城下町)

I was commenting to Noelle's article on "Seishun Cycling"(青春サイクリング)by Kazuya Kosaka(小坂一也) the other day and mentioned about how dear the word seishun was in the world of kayo kyoku. Referring to English terms like salad days and youth, I wouldn't be all that surprised if that expression was the 2nd-ranked go-to word for Japanese song titles way back when next to ai no (愛の....of love).

No real surprise at all. I think the Japanese have had that deep sense of wistful nostalgia in a number of aspects within popular culture. Movie and TV franchises like "Mito Komon" and "Tora-san" have or had thrived for decades although the basic story of each entry didn't really change all that much. It would also explain why music shows like NHK's "Kayo Concert" still go on with its look back at enka and Mood Kayo whose songs are often far older than a number of their singers.

So I tried to look up another song that has seishun in it, and it didn't take too long before I came across "Seishun no Jokamachi" (Castle Town of My Youth) by Mitsuo Kaji(梶光夫). That title makes for a fine pairing between my word of this article and jokamachi. What better place than a town built around a castle outside the main cities to engender that feeling of old-fashioned gentility? I've been translating my fair share of articles on the various jokamachi in Japan over the past several months, so in an example of an author falling for his own prose, I've been getting a bit more interested in visiting some of these places in areas like Kyushu or near the Japanese Alps. I have actually visited Kumamoto Castle and Osaka Castle but that was years and years ago. Knowing now what I didn't back then about aspects like castle towers and the overall structure of this architecture from the Edo Era and beyond, I wouldn't mind giving these places and the surrounding townscapes another visit.

Anyways, "Seishun no Jokamachi" was Kaji's 3rd single from June 1964. The young singer from Osaka debuted under composer Minoru Endo's(遠藤実)wing at the end of 1963 at the age of 18 with "Kurogami"(黒髪...Black Hair)and counted Kazuo Funaki(舟木一夫)as his senpai which might explain his delivery of his big hit of "Seishun no Jokamachi". Just like Funaki's evergreen "Koko Sannen-sei"(高校三年生), this particular song about promising to come back from the big city perhaps to his love still living in his old furosato of a castle town is delivered by Kaji as if it were some sort of proud anthem or musical declaration. The message is that when Kaji sings it, he means it. He's coming back home someday after making his money.

Not surprisingly, Endo composed both "Seishun no Jokamachi" and "Koko Sannen-sei" while Sou Nishizawa(西沢爽)came up with the heartwarming lyrics. As I mentioned, "Seishun no Jokamachi" was Kaji's big breakthrough after which he would gain some more hits not only in the music industry but also in TV as an actor. The remarkable thing, though, is that he placed a deadline on his career in show business and kept his promise. In 1970, at the height of his popularity, he announced his retirement as a singer and went into the family jewelry business, eventually becoming a jewelry designer. However, once in a while, he has returned to the stage to sing his seishun song.

I guess I'm no different when it comes to catching the seishun bug. I did start this blog, didn't I?

1 comment:

  1. Hi J-Canuck.

    I wasn't expecting "Seishun no Jokamachi" to sound nearly as longing as this. I assumed it'd be similar to "Seishun Cycling", in other words faster and jauntier. And then again, this is about a town around a castle not cycling, and Endo's melody does complement the image of such a town well.

    I wouldn't mind going back to the Osaka castle. I'm sure there's lot's more to see around there (including the town around it), but I wonder if the photo shop with the grumpy old lady and her giant husky are still there. Other castles I'd like to see would be the Matsuyama castle in Ehime and the Himeji castle in Hyogo.


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