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.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Masao Sen -- Miso Shiru no Uta (味噌汁の詩)

Tonight, another group of folks and I rode the bus all through the suburbs outside of the city limits of my fair city to head to an elite sushi restaurant that is in the middle of a bunch of industrial parks. The place is called Zen and it used to be just a general Japanese restaurant in the east end of town in what is frankly a pretty seedy area (it was located next to a lot whose building had burned down). However in the past several months, the management moved the place to a much safer, albeit less accessible, neighbourhood, and streamlined and upscaled its operations so that it basically specializes in sushi now. We went for the most expensive kaiseki and were not disappointed. Of course, having a good soup with that meal was important, too.

Seguing somewhat clumsily then to an NHK program that I saw last week via TV Japan, "Utau! SHOW Gakko"(歌う!SHOW学校...Sing! SHOW School)stars enka legend Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)as the comically amiable teacher of a singing variety program shaped as an old-fashioned elementary school in which comedians and other singers appear as students to demonstrate their prowess (or not) in singing the old kayo.

Enka darling Kohei Fukuda(福田こうへい)earned his gold star in that "class" for performing an old 1980 enka tune originally sung by Masao Sen(千昌夫). Starting off with the necessary "Brrrrr" to illustrate the winter setting, Fukuda launched into "Miso Shiru no Uta" (The Song of Miso Soup) which had his classmates and audience swooning and perhaps reminiscing.

Masao Sen had sung what is probably his most famous ballad, "Kita Kuni no Haru"(北国の春)from 1977 on the Kohaku Utagassen three straight years. The enka song about the longing for home in the old countryside away from the big city had that much of an impact on a listening public who love their nostalgia spread thickly on their toast like peanut butter. But then in May 1980 came his 33rd single, "Miso Shiru no Uta" which was another musical reminiscing of home, represented by Mom's miso soup. As Sen sings in his song, the son might act all big and tough for striking out on his own as a cog in his company but once the winter rolls in and visions of that hot soup materialize, he just turns into jelly and can't wait to head back on the Bullet Train for his hometown.

Mom's home cooking, indeed. Written and composed by Daisaburo Nakayama(中山大三郎), J-Wiki apparently pointed out that "Miso Shiru no Uta" was a cover of a song written in a slightly different manner(みそ汁の詩)which originated in 1976. However, that is the only information of its origins; no mention of who the artist was or even if it had been officially released. Still, it really doesn't matter since the song has basically become another beloved Sen tune. In fact, it sold around 600,000 records. Plus, Sen was once again able to appear on the 1980 Kohaku Utagassen but instead of singing his homesick-inducing "Kita Kuni no Haru", he sang his homesick-inducing "Miso Shiru no Uta" for the only time. I wonder whether fathers and sons watching the program at the time suddenly demanded Mommy to whip up some miso shiru after seeing Sen's performance, especially regarding those families in the cold north country of Japan.

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