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, February 8, 2016

Saruganseki -- Shiroi no Kumo no You ni (白い雲のように)

My YouTube browsing habits (and it is a bit of a bad habit, I have to confess) have now included a late-night variety show originating on Kansai TV called "Ariyoshi Hiroiki no Daretoku!?"(有吉弘行のダレトク!?)starring tarento Hiroiki Ariyoshi(有吉弘行)and announcer Maasa Takahashi(高橋真麻). Being broadcast at 11pm on Tuesday nights means that the humour can get pretty raunchy, often at the expense of poor Maasa. The other observation is that Ariyoshi has become quite the well-known TV emcee over the past several years. I rather see him now as the second generation of the legendary Tamori(タモリ)who also has a somewhat similar style of bawdiness in his banter.

However, I first got to know Ariyoshi when he was with his comedic partner Kazunari Moriwaki(森脇和成)as the manzai duo Saruganseki(猿岩石)back in the 90s. The two of them have known each other since their elementary school days back in Hiroshima and came up through the ranks from regional celebs to the national stage. Along with their routines, what also helped them climb the ladder to fame was an extended stint on the NTV variety show "Susume! Denpa Shonen"(進め!電波少年...Forward! Radio Kids)when the two were drafted to hitchhike all the way from Hong Kong to London. Yep, I did say hitchhike. The running segment became so popular that the two of them were "asked" to do the same thing starting from Bangkok to Ankara. Tarento definitely have to pay their dues on their way to the top.

One of my other memories of Saruganseki is in the form of their music career which lasted 10 singles for a little over 2 years. Their debut began with "Shiroi no Kumo no You ni" (Like A White Cloud) which came out in December 1996 after the producer of "Denpa Shonen" and other folks working at the duo's representing agency had found out that Ariyoshi and Moriwaki did possess better-than-average sets of pipes for comedians (I guess there were a few joint visits to the karaoke boxes during the hitchhiking).

"Shiroi no Kumo no You ni" was written by former Checkers' vocalist Fumiya Fujii(藤井フミヤ)and composed by his brother Naoyuki(藤井尚之)who had been the saxophonist for the band. The lyrics rather fit Saruganseki's adventure to a T as they related about aiming for that goal off in the distance despite the obstacles in the way.

What helped the laid back guitar-based melody was the music video which had the duo languidly singing in the middle of a dreamy gently undulating field. With their jackets and Moriwaki's toque, I just thought there was some Canadiana in there. They should have been made honourary citizens of Saskatchewan!

The song was a big hit for Saruganseki as it soared up to No. 3 from an entry level ranking of No. 23. Initially selling 20,000 copies, "Shiroi no Kumo no You ni" eventually broke the million barrier and became the 11th-ranked song for 1997.

After a decade together, Ariyoshi and Moriwaki decided to break up the act in 2004 citing different ambitions. The former, as mentioned before, has found further success in the geinokai while the latter decided to go back to civilian life. That was what I had known up until I decided to write the article; from what I've read in the J-Wiki articles covering him and Saruganseki, Moriwaki had a tough time working as a regular businessman and after a divorce, he has started to get back into show business although there hasn't been any news about Saruganseki re-forming.

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