Back in 1990, midway through my 2 years in Gunma Prefecture, some of the staff at the town hall decided to take a trip through North America and for some reason, they wanted me along although there was a perfectly fine and professional bilingual guide who stayed with us throughout. All expenses paid and it was basically an order from the boss, so how could I complain? Plus, one of the highlights was visiting the city of San Francisco, a metropolis that I had always wondered about, mostly because it was the site of Starfleet Headquarters from the "Star Trek" franchise (yeah, I really needed to get a life back then), but also because of the wonderful sight of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The problem with a corporate Japanese trip is that folks seem to want to cram in a ton of cities within a period of a week. By the time we hit Vancouver just before San Francisco, all of us were exhausted. We couldn't even enjoy what would have been a hearty meal in a French restaurant because we were just kept moving all the time. However, at least our stop in San Francisco down the Pacific Coast was slight more yukkuri, thankfully. Mind you, we only had that total of one full day and one full night in the City by the Bay before we had to drive out to Sacramento in the centre of California. Still, I was happy to walk around Fisherman's Wharf, climb up Lombard Street, see those famous streetcars and even catch sight of the Transamerica Building. What we ironically couldn't view was the Golden Gate Bridge due to a massive amount of fog which rolled in, but that was made up by one of the finest Chinese food dinners that I ever had inside or outside of my hometown of Toronto, and my hometown has never been any slouch when it comes to good Chinese fare.
All that prelude to introduce another Hitomi Tohyama（当山ひとみ）song. This is my fourth article on the singer, and as with two of them, "Door Goshi no Good Song"（ドア越しのGood Song）and "Rainy Driver", "SFO-OAKLAND" is from Penny's first album, "Just Call Me Penny" from 1981. To be honest, from listening to her BEST compilation, I've so far found her material to be hit-or-miss sometimes, and "SFO-OAKLAND" is somewhere in the middle. It's not quite a barnburner but it's happy enough to have me reminisce about those few days on the West Coast, and like a lot of City Pop songs, I think it did have some listeners in Japan thinking about that exotic life on the other side of the Pacific thanks to the sunny sounds and arrangements. I couldn't track down who was responsible for music and lyrics although I think it may have been Yoshihiro Yonekura（米倉良広）. Well, it would serve as incentive enough for me to get the album if it isn't out of print.
In any case, the sunny "SFO-OAKLAND" was also the B-side to Penny's debut single of "Door Goshi no Good Song".
by Patrick Smith