May Day today! Therefore in Japan, it's the middle of the annual Golden Week holidays so once again the world's longest traffic jams are in play, and over here it's been an unseasonably cold start to the fifth month but what else is new in Toronto? I took the parents out to the local Eggsmart (a breakfast/brunch restaurant chain) for brekkie as an early Mother's Day present and I'm back here to hopefully enjoy a quiet Sunday.
If I recall correctly, I have been to the ancient capital of Kyoto three times in my life with the first time being in 1972 that I have no memory of. The second time was in the summer of 1981 and I remember being really deep in the crowds watching a parade of mikoshi (portable shrines) trundle by during the city's annual Gion Festival. And being July, it was tremendously hot and humid so it was a minor miracle that I actually survived the experience. I also recall being completely conked out in my bed in the hotel for most of the afternoon afterwards. My love for vending machines continued to grow.
Last week's "Utakon" (うたコン) featured an old kayo associated with the city called "Kyoto no Koi". Although literally translated as "Kyoto Love", the official English title is "Kyoto Doll" for some reason. This was another song contributed by The Ventures for Japan along with "Kyoto Bojou" （京都慕情）and the earlier "Futari no Ginza"（二人の銀座）. Released by the band in February 1970, although it goes along at a fairly brisk pace, there is that certain melacholy wa-fu feeling to it. It peaked at No. 19 on Oricon. What is also notable about that The Ventures created the song in commemoration of the 1970 Expo in Osaka.
However, the version that I like even better is the cover by Yuko Nagisa（渚ゆう子）with the lyrics by Haruo Hayashi（林春生）, both of whom would also cover "Kyoto Bojou" a few months later. Nagisa's version came out 3 months after The Ventures' original, and what I like about it is that although it basically has that same dramatic pace, there is a certain appealing tenderness in the sung version thanks to Nagisa's vocals. Of course, Hayashi's lyrics about the heroine mourning the loss of what seemed to be the love of her life certainly adds to the sadness. Compared to the relatively lighter feeling of "Kyoto Bojou", "Kyoto no Koi" is bittersweet at best.
Nagisa's "Kyoto no Koi" was a huge hit. It got to No. 1 and stayed there for 8 consecutive weeks, selling more than 850,000 records. And along with the fact that it won a Grand Prize at the Japan Record Awards, it was No. 10 in the annual singles rankings for 1970 and still hung on in 1971 to become the 27th-ranked single. All those accolades and apparently it didn't get onto the Kohaku Utagassen that year.