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, June 27, 2016

Aiko Hirano -- Minato ga Mieru Oka (港が見える丘)

Last week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)had its tribute to the wonderful city of Yokohama and during its 45 minutes which I enjoyed thoroughly, there was also another song that I was happy to discover.

"Minato ga Mieru Oka" (The Hill Overlooking The Harbour) was sung that night by enka chanteuse Yukino Ichikawa(市川由紀乃)in this quiet nighttime jazzy tone which always has had a soft spot in my heart. So I was quite enchanted. And happily enough, in looking up this song online, I found out that there was an interesting story behind it.

The song was originally released in April 1947 as one of the early postwar ryukoka流行歌...literally, popular song)by Victor. Sung by then-newbie Aiko Hirano(平野愛子)and created by Showa Era composer and lyricist Tatsuzo Azuma(東辰三), the original version had that sweet music orchestra sound surrounding the lyrics regarding a young couple in love admiring the view of a harbour from the top of that hill. It became that huge hit for Hirano who followed up with a number of other hits and soon earned the title of "The Young Blues Queen".

However, after the sudden passing of her mentor, Azuma, in 1950, Hirano didn't enjoy another major hit and would change recording companies a couple of times. In her later years, she started a music school in her home before she passed away in 1981. She did appear in the 2nd and 3rd Kohaku Utagassen in 1952 and 1953 but not for the song of this article.

As was illustrated during the Yokohama tribute on "Uta Kon" last week, "Minato ga Mieru Oka" has been seen as one of those old songs celebrating the city of Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama Bay and Chinatown. Plus in 1962, the Minato-ga-Mieru-Oka Park was even opened with a stone memorial inside pointing out its musical lineage. However, there has been a tiny controversy over whether that was actually true. Apparently, Azuma may have created the song in tribute to his hometown of Kobe which also has that wonderful view of the port from up above. But his son, famed lyricist Michio Yamagami(山上路夫), calmed the few ripples that may have resulted and wondered aloud whether the song had been created in tribute to both cities, and for that matter, any of the port cities in Japan.

Nonetheless, it's a lovely song, and considering the melody, I believe it could have one of the great proto-Mood Kayo tunes. To cement its classic standard status, it's been covered by a whole range of singers/musicians (including City Pop maestro Toshiki Kadomatsu/角松敏生...too bad, his version isn't online). Naomi Chiaki(ちあきなおみ)is one of those artists and she gives a slower and slightly smokier jazz cover here.

Masako Mori(森昌子)provided her own mellow Big Band cover, and although the video footage looks a few decades old, her version is on a 2007 album titled "Ano Koro"(あのころ...The Old Days).

And then there is Rumiko Koyanagi(小柳ルミ子)with a sunny and relaxed version that could have had her performing it from a chaise lounge on Long Island. Her take on "Minato ga Mieru Oka" is on her massive 2002 6-disc collection titled "Rumiko Koyanagi CD-BOX"....on CD 4, if you were wondering.

The one last piece of trivia that I found on the article for the song, though, is that "Minato ga Mieru Oka" had also been the inspiration for Hiroshi Miyagawa(宮川泰)to create The Peanuts' "Teami no Kutsushita"(手編みの靴下)which later became Mari Sono's(園まり)hit "Aitakute, Aitakute"(逢いたくて逢いたくて)in the 1960s. That would explain the Follow-Up tag in the Labels.
Thank you, zaimoku_woodpile

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