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, May 2, 2016

Ichiro Fujiyama -- Nicolai no Kane (ニコライの鐘)

I'm not a religious person by any means although I visited my fair share of temples and shrines in Tokyo and at one point, I even went to a Catholic church near Shibuya to attend a Xmas concert featuring a fellow teaching colleague from an old school.

However, I never got to see the church featured in this song although I have to say according to the visuals in the above YouTube video, it's a pretty impressive structure. This is the Holy Resurrection Cathedral which also goes by the name of Nikolai-do. It's located in the Kanda district of Tokyo where it was completed in 1891 and founded by the founder of the Japanese Orthodox Church who would become known as St. Nicholas of Japan. Continuing on from the Wikipedia description, the church was built to look over the Imperial Palace but over the many decades, it has become inundated by the tall skyscrapers.

Yesterday, I caught the latest episode of NHK's "Nodo Jiman"(のど自慢)in which one of the local citizen singers came up to sing this old chestnut called "Nicolai no Kane" (The Bells of Nicolai). I thought it was resonant enough for me to write about it today. The original singer was Ichiro Fujiyama(藤山一郎)and the song was released in December 1951 with the music by Yuuji Koseki(古関裕而)and words by Yutaka Kadota(門田ゆたか). "Nicolai no Kane" was way before my time but I was still attracted by its melancholy yet proud arrangement. The first verse spoke about this fine church in the valley as the sun set but then the second verse got to the crux of the ballad as Fujiyama crooned about finding out about the loss of a love and then praying for some help. I couldn't say that this was made as an enka tune but there was plenty of emotion flowing from it to make this a Mood Kayo that didn't take place in a bar...far from it.

Hideo Narumi(鳴海日出夫)performs the song on stage here and I couldn't ask for a better person to sing it than him. His voice has got the right type of vibrato to sing this with the ideal amount of melancholy. Fujiyama actually was able to perform "Nicolai no Kane" on the 6th edition of the Kohaku Utagassen at the end of 1955.


  1. Hello J-Canuck.

    Glad that you added Niinuma's version in the article. I think it's this very performance where he introduced this melancholic piece to me, and yup, couldn't ask for a better person to sing this indeed!

    Huh, I had assumed that the featured Nikolai church was in Nagasaki, for obvious reasons. Never did it occur to me that it's found in Tokyo. It's one imposing, colonial-looking building and I think it stands out from all the modern stuff around. I should go check it out if I have the time.

    1. Hi Noelle.

      Yeah, all those years in the Tokyo area and I never came across this church although I may have simply passed by it and never paid attention. It just goes to show how big and variegated the Big sushi is!


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