by Ippei and Janine Naoi
As one of my translation assignments, I actually worked on a site that has been recognized as part of the collective UNESCO World Heritage site in Japan known as the "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range." Known as the Kumano Kodo (Old Kumano Trails), these are ancient pilgrimage trails which lead to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano. The trails are all over the Kii Peninsula which occupy a good chunk of Wakayama Peninsula, the home of my ancestors.
So of course, something this grand just had to be given its due tribute via an enka song. And no genre covers the geography of Japan like enka! Plus, as Noelle mentioned in the first article for this particular singer, who better to sing the enka tribute to Kumano Kodo than the Queen of Geography Enka herself, Kaori Mizumori（水森かおり）?
My parents seem to appreciate her so much for singing "Kumano Kodo" that I had thought that Mizumori had actually been born and raised a Wakayaman. Actually, she was born and raised in Kita Ward, Tokyo. However the sentiment is still there with my folks, and Mizumori's vocals have a similarity to another enka singer that they like, Sachiko Kobayashi（小林幸子）.
And I gotta say that the melody by Tetsuya Gen（弦哲也）stands out a bit from the usual enka song. The immediate intro starts things off as if it were a celebratory song but then quickly takes on a slightly more solemn but no less majestic song. Nothing less for a UNESCO site! Plus, there is that electric guitar that I would have heard usually in one of those manly-man enka by George Yamamoto（山本譲二）or Saburo Kitajima（北島三郎）. Still, overall, "Kumano Kodo" has that feminine touch to it, with Ryutaro Kinoshita（木下龍太郎）providing the lyrics.
"Kumano Kodo" is Mizumori's 14th single from April 2006. It went up to No. 5 on Oricon and proved to be enough of a hit for the singer that she received another invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen that year. In fact, Mizumori has been on every Kohaku since 2003. When it comes to our family at least, this particular song will be her trademark ballad.