The first stanza of "Kimi ga Koishi kute" (君が恋しくて) was pretty much the theme song to my time in the northern country's Sapporo.
Finding a record shop in Japan turned out to be slightly easier than expected and I was able to partially strike it off the list just two days into the trip. While exploring the streets of Sapporo, we came across this shopping arcade known as Tanukikoji in the busy Susukino. It was quite a long strip of shops spanning about seven blocks with stores ranging from drug stores to bars depending on which block you are at. There was even this little stall that sold owl-related snacks with a room beside it with few owls (they looked bored) sitting on a large branch! The drug stores, food joints, and souvenir outlets were more on blocks four to seven, while the bars seemed to only show up from block three to two.
These blocks were pretty lively with people milling about and those claw machine arcade music blasting at full volume. Block one, however, was the most... desolate of all, or at least it was when I got there. Ignoring a stall that looked to sell yakitori and beer, if my memory serves, there was only one other stall that was open at that point in time (about 6-ish in the evening). That shop had crates of old records sitting out in the open! BINGO!
Although it's called Fresh Air, the irony is that the air inside the shop was musty and the air outside smelled of oily grilled fish. But that aside, I immediately darted to the crate labelled "Kayokyoku; Male Artists" and running through the various dusty vinyls that were all below 1000 Yen in this one box, I found quite a number of familiar faces, and some with amusing covers.
For Mood Kayo, we've got the Cool Five and Kiyoshi Maekawa with his blooming perm, as well as a slightly more fashionable (by Mood Kayo standards) Tokyo Romantica.
Representing the Ishihara Gundan, we've got the Tough Guy himself and sidekick Tetsuya Watari. And then for enka, we have... um... this:
Well, Hiroshi Itsuki looked kinda spiffy... y'know, kinda. Definitely better now.
As I was looking through this treasure trove, this old lady walked up to my side as I pulled out a vinyl with a young and derpy Takashi Hosokawa (sadly, I lost the photo). She seemed to peer at the records, then at what I took out, then I heard her mutter an "Okashi na...", which roughly translates to "How strange", before she ambled away. Hmm...
Alright, that was outside. Inside, things just got even better despite being rather stuffy and musty with age. In there, there were records of all kinds of seemingly every genre. Naturally, I went to the kayo section again to see what other vinyl covers amuse me. Those were mostly above 1000 Yen, so I'm guessing that they were either not on discount or they are rarer than those outside. Again, I was back to the sifting in the 33 1/3 rpm section. I eventually found one by Michiya Mihashi (三橋美智也). That alone garnered a grin and a "No" that had a mix of disbelief and excitement. But he did look a bit weird standing sideways. I flipped it around and Hachiro Kasuga (春日八郎) was smiling at me. I smiled back. The realization that I found a gem kicked in.
What I took out happened to be a collaboration between two old enka world legends! It was the Double Deluxe "Kogane no Uta Goe Mihashi Michiya Kasuga Hachiro wo Utau" (黄金の歌声 三橋美智也 春日八郎を歌う). I had to listen to it so I asked the owner if he could play a song for me, which he kindly obliged. As he opened it up, I got to see the amazing condition that it's in despite being used and old (the original owner bought it in 1970), as well as the wonderful pictures of the First Enka Singer and the Minyo Superstar being all pal-ly. Then I was asked which singer I wanted to listen to, and I chose Michi. "Aishu Resha" (哀愁列車) played loud and clear as I admired the photos.
With Mom's permission, I bought it at just 2800 Yen despite not having a record player... yet. I had to have this incredible rarity, which I can't even find online, and I shall continue to keep it well, just as the previous owner had.
After Fresh Air, I wasn't able to find anymore record shops in Hokkaido, mostly because we moved on to more remote areas in the prefecture. That was fine and all, but I couldn't wait to get back down to Tokyo where one record/CD shop called my name. It's the enka shop I first read of upon entering the enka world and it's store front is fully decorated with posters of enka singers. It's the record shop I wanted and had to go to. It's Miyada Records.
Located in my favourite haunt in Tokyo, Miyada Records hid in one of the back streets of Asakusa near the Kaminarimon, so it took us a while and quite a bit of walking in alleyways to find it. Here, I wasn't particularly interested in old kayo vinyls as I was in enka singles and posters of my favourite singers, which they had in abundance. Unfortunately, much to my disappointment, the posters, most of which were signed, weren't up for sale... It was also where I first learnt that posters can only be found at a singer's concert, according to one of the sales representatives. I recalled inquiring if they had Mae-Kiyo posters, and when they said no, I asked about Itsuki, and the guy pointed up to the section of wall near the ceiling.
Yes, sir, I see the signed Itsuki posters. I saw them when I came in. Thank you for pointing them out, they look lovely, especially the "Yuhi San San" one (on the right). I don't think he was about to give them to me anyways.Well, even so, I got about seven singles there, adding to my newly-bought collection of six.
As the singles were being paid, I noticed that near the cashier was this container that had plastic folders with enka singers on them, with the one in front having Yoshimi Tendo (天童よしみ). Being curious, I went to check them out. There were also some with Yutaka Yamakawa (山川豊). Then, to my surprise, a Mae-Kiyo one appeared! It was like Fresh Air all over again!
Now, I usually am quite stoic on the outside, only keeping my fan-girling to a minimum on the outside save for the usual wide grin. The elation of finding a folder with a picture of Mae-Kiyo that I like on it was overwhelming, but I kept telling myself to keep under control. The other sales fellow said I could have it for free, and I couldn't help but hug it. So much for control. Dang it, Noelle! That was probably the single most amusing thing those fellas saw that day. Anyways, I now use it to keep the pamphlets and tickets and stuff like that from this trip.
That's it for this article. Next, the Asakusa Star Plaza.