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.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fumiko Yotsuya -- Ginza no Yanagi (銀座の柳)

It's a pity that I couldn't get any photos of Ginza in the daytime during my last visit to Tokyo a couple of years ago but it was only just that one Saturday night I went to that expensive neighbourhood. When I was living there, I often visited the area a couple of weekends per month and perhaps even fit in a visit sometime during the weekdays if I had a good amount of free time between classes.

Yeah, there are establishments there (dining, shopping, etc.) that will make your credit card roll up into a fetal position. However, like any other area in the Big Sushi, if you get to know Ginza well and long enough, you will find some pretty reasonable places. Heck, Ginza has a McDonalds! Visiting Ginza on the weekends was great when the weather was good since vehicular traffic would be stopped for a period of 5 hours starting from about noon so that folks can enjoy the hokoten  (pedestrian paradise) with tables and chairs set up all along the main drag of Chuo Dori.

I've already written about a couple of favourite places in Ginza such as Ginza Yamano Music and Genkatsu on Chuo Dori which serves some fine tonkatsu. However, there is also the stationery shop Ginza Ito-ya (Japanese site only) with the huge red paper clip as its landmark; I used to go there to pick up calendars and greeting cards. I wasn't much of a department store purchaser but right on one corner of the main intersection of 4-chome, there is the Mitsukoshi Department Store which added a few more floors in the last couple of years of my stint in Tokyo for some pretty nice restaurants. But before then, I often went there to make use of their spic n' span washrooms (Yamano Music only has one set of washrooms and the ones at Ito-ya are surprisingly least back then). And of course, just a little out of the way there is the Sony Building closer to Yurakucho.

Back on Monday, I was watching one of those myriad NHK documentary half-hours on TV Japan, and the theme for that show was on Ginza with the focus on some of those venerable shops that have managed to survive and thrive into the 21st century. There was one song that was playing during those 30 minutes called "Ginza no Yanagi" (The Willows of Ginza). Originally released in 1932 as the theme song for a movie with the same title, it was sung by Tokyo-born singer Fumiko Yotsuya(四家文子). The song became a huge breakthrough hit for Yotsuya and was created by lyricist Yaso Saijo(西條八十)and composer Shinpei Nakayama(中山晋平). It was a song in dedication to the willow trees in Ginza which had burned down in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. And if I got my translation correct, I think it was also a reboot of sorts of the song "Tokyo Koushin Kyoku"(東京行進曲...Tokyo March)from 1929 as sung by Chiyoko Sato(佐藤千夜子).

Although I couldn't see the song listed on any of her singles, Mina Aoe(青江三奈)gave her own swingy version of "Ginza no Yanagi". Unfortunately, I couldn't track down exactly when she sang her cover although from listening to the arrangement, it was most likely sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

Finally, here is Chiyoko Shimakura(島倉千代子)performing "Ginza no Yanagi" on stage.

There are no huge clumps of trees in Ginza, at least, certainly not along Chuo Dori aside from some individual trees placed at periodic intervals. This is too bad since having a good amount of green could alleviate some of that horrifying heat and humidity of a Tokyo summer especially since most of it is reflected from the concrete. Still, if you can just avoid the summer (I'll leave it up to you whether you decide to go over for the 2020 Olympics), it's a nice entertaining walk through Ginza.


  1. I first heard this song in the film 'Memoirs of a Geisha' (2005). It's very discreet background music in the scene where Chiyo/Sayuri first enters her geisha house. It's not on the official soundtrack yet the crackly song snippet has never left my memory. Beautiful tune.

    1. Hi there.

      I also saw "Memoirs of a Geisha" but didn't notice the song but as you said, it was discreetly played, and at the time, I didn't have the level of interest in the really old kayo that I do now. It would be interesting to find out what other songs were used that are on the soundtrack.


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