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, September 5, 2016

Hideo Murata - Sugata Sanshiro (姿三四郎)

Happy Labour Day to you folks out there, and my sympathies to the kids who will be heading for their first day of school tomorrow.

I was doing a bit of cleaning in the middle room of our place since I will be placing a homemade 2nd computer in there the day after tomorrow thanks to my old friend. Lo and behold, I was surprised to find a couple of 45"s behind the desk! Apparently, they must have fallen out of the plastic bag filled with my Dad's collection of ancient kayo records. One of those 45s is as you see in the photo above.

To divert briefly, I remember reading on "TV Tropes" regarding Alan Silvestri's amazing theme song for Marvel's "The Avengers" (2012) that listening to it, one would be so pumped up that he/she would be more than willing to head into battle against the monstrous Chitauri that invaded New York City. And I gotta say that I can totally understand that feeling. That scene where the camera rotated around the team as they readied themselves for the final fight as the theme was playing? I was squeeing inside.

Anyways, getting back to the matter at hand, that 45" is one of the many singles by the late Hideo Murata(村田英雄), "Sugata Sanshiro" (Sanshiro Sugata). This one was released in December 1963 for one of the TV versions of the depiction of the fictionalized character who helped launch the martial art of judo in the late 19th century.

The reason I brought up a superhero team and its theme song is that I think Murata and his work here may have had the same effect on his fans. When it comes to the late singer and his arrangements, Murata introduced a lot of masculine brio into the subjects of the songs whether it be the game of shogi or the martial art of judo. I'm convinced that he could have pumped up tiddlywinks into something epic and ancient.

Murata's "Sugata Sanshiro" is another musically grand entrance into the world of judo composed by Sanechika Ando(安藤実親)and written by Shinichi Sekizawa(関沢新一). Sekizawa would also write another pomp-filled song about the martial art for Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)a year later called "Yawara"(柔). In his lyrics for "Sugata", he would relate about the hardships and hell of going up the ranks of not only judo but also life itself. Sentimentalism is one of the quintessential Japanese things that I've referred to now and then on the blog; suffering for one's art is another such feature. The way Murata sings it, it is truly an honour to feel the pain over and over again to finally achieve that well-earned success.

As I mentioned before, Murata's song was the theme for the Fuji-TV drama that lasted from November 1963 to May 1964. However, the adventures of Sanshiro Sugata, who was based on one of the earliest disciples of judo Shiro Saigo, have been shown repeatedly over the decades through 9 movies and 6 TV dramas. There have even been 2 anime versions based on the character.

The first movie was made in 1943 as the directorial debut of the legendary Akira Kurosawa(黒澤明). According to the article on the movie, Kurosawa applied "....many of his directorial trademarks such as the use of wipes, weather patterns as reflections of character moods....", so all of you "Star Wars" fans may want to watch this movie if you can track down a copy. The above video has scenes from the 1943 film although the uploader has thrown up a wall of Japanese script.

The video here may be from the 2007 TV drama. Apparently, the producers thought that Sanshiro should have been a recruit for The Avengers. No, we're not talking about Kurosawa here.


  1. Hi J-Canuck.

    Holy molely your Dad's got a "Sugata Sanshiro" single! Looks aMAzing. It reminds me of the record shop, Fresh Air, in Susukino, where I also saw a whole crate of 45"s with those bright covers. I had wanted to get Haruo Minami's "Otone Mujou", but I felt that I had already gotten too much stuff so I let it go... I will get it though... eventually.

    "Sugata Sanshiro" is one of my favourite tunes from Murata. Short and sweet, and yet packing a punch. Ah, it's such a cool song! It's got that same vibe as "Osho", and it sounds pretty motivational.

    Seeing that you wrote "he could have pumped up tiddlywinks into something epic and ancient.", the thought of Murata giving something like a tea ceremony the "Osho" treatment came to mind... Yeah, I'd listen to that.

    1. Hi, Noelle.

      Yeah, I'm getting surprised all the time at what I find in his collection. There are still a couple of lockers in other areas that I have to explore.

      Rather surprised that I haven't seen "Sugata Sanshiro" recently on the NHK music shows. It will probably get performed in the next few years as the Olympics draw near.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.