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.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ayako Fuji - Kokorozake (こころ酒)

Like Noelle said at the beginning of her most recent article on the unit Junretsu(純烈), NHK's "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)ended its 23-year run on Tuesday night. I'm not mourning too much, though, since its replacement "Uta Kon"(うたコン)doesn't appear that it will change the content; there was a brief promo by the two new hosts, actor/tarento Shosuke Tanihara(谷原章介)and NHK announcer Naoko Hashimoto(橋本奈穂子), who said that the usual enka, kayo and newer material will be featured which was pretty much what "Kayo Concert" was presenting in any case. However, I will miss the former host Tetsuya Takayama(高山哲哉)who quietly, efficiently and cheerfully steered the ship for the past few years. I was a bit surprised, though, that the very first hosts of "Kayo Concert", tarento Masaaki Sakai(堺正章)and Chizuru Azuma(東ちづる), didn't appear since both of them are still quite active on TV.

In any case, one of the songs I enjoyed during the final broadcast of "Kayo Concert" was Ayako Fuji's(藤あや子)"Kokorozake". Not sure how I wanted to translate this title since stating "Alcohol of the Heart" sounded too ominous while "Sake of the Heart" wouldn't be quite accurate since sake doesn't just allude to the famous Japanese rice wine. Perhaps then I will go with "A Drink of the Heart".

Enough of the title stuff. "Kokorozake" was one of the highlights of the evening for me because Fuji and the music just seemed to sparkle. It sounded like the quintessential enka ballad about a woman who I assumed to be the proprietress of a traditional neighbourhood bar happily serving one of her favourite customers. Created by lyricist Yasuteru Miura(三浦康照)and composer Hiroshi Yamaguchi(山口ひろし), the song easily wove the image of the wooden interior of the bar, the world-weary businessman and the patient and accommodating hostess (it's gotta be Fuji) ever ready to pour another pure splash of Hakkaisan or Kubota into her regular's ceramic cup while having her ear bent.

This appealing song was her 3rd single under her stage name of Ayako Fuji (she debuted in 1987 under the name Manami Murase「村勢真奈美」with "Futarigawa" before taking on her current name), released in September 1992. "Kokorozake" debuted on the Oricon charts at No. 6 which was also its highest position and was Fuji's breakthrough song since it was her first Top 10 hit. Selling more than 800,000 copies, it ended up becoming the 53rd-ranked song of 1992 and it even lasted long enough on the charts to also finish 1993 at No. 60. Not surprisingly, Fuji was able to make her debut on the Kohaku Utagassen at the end of 1992 on the power of "Kokorozake" (she has appeared on the annual NHK special for a total of 21 times up to this point). I guess there will always be something about a good drinking song to bring success.

Just for trivia's sake, Fuji's real name is Manami Fujimura(藤村真奈美)nee Takahashi, and she originally hails from Akita Prefecture. She's also one of the relatively few female enka singers who is also a songwriter, using the pen name of Sai Kono(小野彩).

It will be a few weeks but I am looking forward to the new show.


  1. Hi J-Canuck.

    Ah, nice to see that you've done an article on Ayako Fuji's hit. I recall I had considered writing about it quite a while ago to start the Ayako Fuji label but wasn't able to think of what to write for it.

    "Kokorozake" was a song that I saw whenever I watched videos on the best-selling singles of the early 90's, and I remember that it stood out the most since it was probably the only enka up there - I wonder if that's how enka managed to stay popular in the 90's. It was only much later that I realised that it was by Fuji.

    Speaking of Kubota, I managed to try this sake just last week when the family and I went to this tonkatsu joint called Saboten for dinner. I must say that it changed my initial view on sake being bitter and horrible by being very smooth and quite sweet tasting. The only thing was that the high alcohol content meant that it kinda burned when I swallowed it after keeping it in my mouth for a moment to savour it.

    1. Hello, Noelle.

      Ah, I remember Saboten...enjoyed the tonkatsu there. As for sake, I also had the same impression about the liquor. I had thought it was more along the lines of moonshine or rotgut. However, after getting a bottle of Hakkaisan from a student of mine, I found out that there some really smooth varieties which don't leave you moaning in pain the next morning. It is for that same reason I didn't ever get any of the vending machine brands like "One Cup Ozeki" unless I used it for cooking.

    2. Yeah, Saboten serves up some good tonkatsu. What I like about the joint is that one can get the tenderloin katsu that doesn't have that chewy bit at the end of each piece. Also, the variety sets are quite delicious.

      After trying Kubota, I don't think I'd go for vending machine sake, you know, for the sake of my taste buds.


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