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, March 27, 2016

Frank Nagai -- Ichiman Sanzen Happyaku En (13,800 円)

The late kayo singer Frank Nagai(フランク永井)released a countless (or when it comes to me, too lazy to count) number of singles between 1955 and 1985 of which up Noelle and I have covered 10 up to now in the blog. Most of those 10 are his Mood Kayo contributions such as the classic "Tokyo Nightclub"(東京ナイト・クラブ)of 1959, and that's how I've seen this crooner: as that middle-aged fellow in a suit or a tux singing away in a smoke-filled club with a tumbler of whisky in his hand.

I know that in all likelihood though that Nagai has done his fair share of enka tunes and that is how I see this particular tune, his 7th single from February 1957, "Ichiman Sanzen Happyaku En" (13,800 Yen). Instead of the smoky nightclub and the tux, I see Nagai in something far more casual getting off work at either the office in the concrete building or in some shop in Ueno. With the jaunty down-at-home feeling of Ichiro Tone's(利根一郎)music (I can imagine some Bon Odori being performed to it), Seiichi Ida's(井田誠一)lyrics have Frank singing cheerfully about what to do with the titular amount of money that he now has in his pocket. Does he spend some of it on that drink at the local watering hole or take the family out to the zoo on Sunday? Considering those days, 13,800 yen must have been a very nice sum. Ah...decisions, decisions.

The above version was recorded by a YouTube uploader by the name of Peter Firth (and no, I don't think he's the British actor), and I think he's just fantastic singing his version of "Ichiman Sanzen Happyaku En". The arrangement sounds as if it had been performed by a particularly swinging chindon'ya(チンドン屋)band. These are the traditionally dressed street musicians who often walk around areas such as Asakusa promoting the opening of new shops or some sort of special discount. My hat is off to him!

What did 13,800 yen mean to me back in the day? Well, it used to mean 3 or 4 CDs or perhaps a nice full night on the town with friends at the izakaya followed by karaoke.


  1. What song are chindon'ya playing? It sounds similar to

    1. Hello there.

      You are indeed a winner! The chindon'ya is playing "Seishun Jidai" by Koichi Morita and The Top Gallants.

  2. Thank you for naming the song and for the article! Your site is very comprehensive. It is nice that street musicians can perform 1976 song in 2013. I wonder what 1970s song would Western street musicians play?

    The second song from youku link appears to be 若者たち.
    Is it also a school reunion classic?

    1. Thanks very much for tipping me off to "Wakamono Tachi"; I have yet to put this one up on the blog. Strangely enough, I checked the J-Wiki article about it and found out that it was placed into the songbooks for elementary and junior high school students from the 1970s. So perhaps it might be the tune for school reunions.

      Which 1970s song would Western buskers play? Hmmm...that's a good question, actually. Generally, I think folks in North America are less nostalgic about music than their Japanese counterparts. However, personally, I wouldn't mind hearing some of Billy Joel's old hits on the streets somewhere. :)

  3. Hi J-Canuck.

    Firstly, that's an interesting name for a song. Just 13800 yen. Secondly, I wasn't expecting such a jaunty little ditty like this to be sung by, of all people, Frank Nagai, who was pretty much the King of Mood Kayo during that time. But I must say he is able to pull off this tune well with just the right amount of enka-ness. Hearing the song as it first starts, it sounds like something Haruo Minami might sing, or maybe... I don't know, Ichiro Fujiyama? Someone with a higher voice and usually sings this type of enka.

    As for what 13800 yen would mean for me, well, just like you I'd be buying CDs, and some posters and stuffed toys and possibly video games. Or maybe even a big grocery haul.

    I couldn't help but notice the conversation on what Western street buskers play, and if you don't mind my input, here's what I'd like to hear on the street:Tom Jones' or Elvis' songs.:) Maybe even some classics like "Sh-boom" and "Take the 'A' Train".

    1. Hi Noelle.

      Yup, I was rather surprised to hear this one by Nagai which is why I chose to include it. It definitely doesn't sound like something that would be sung in a smoky may actually require sunlight! Actually, I'm surprised I didn't hear it being sung on "Kayo Concert" but then again, it may have been long before I started watching the show.

      As for Tom Jones or Elvis, I wouldn't mind hearing "It's Not Unusual" by the former and "A Little Less Conversation" by the latter!


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