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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Taro Shoji/Mika Shinno/Kiyoshi Hikawa -- Tabigasa Dochu (旅笠道中)

Even before the Japanese started getting that reputation of traveling in group tours while armed with cameras back in the 1970s and 1980s, they did and still love to travel even within the country, it seems, at least according to the enka genre. There is a large legacy of regional enka paying tribute to a certain city, prefecture, river or other geographical feature but ballads of traveling for the pure heck of it have also abounded, often with history in mind involving nomads during the feudal era of Japan.

One hit song with that them in mind was released in 1935 titled "Tabigasa Dochu" (Traveling Hat Journey) as originally sung by Taro Shoji(東海林太郎). I read Noelle's write up of his "Meigetsu Akagiyama"(名月赤城山)and the description of the late singer which was confirmed when I actually saw ancient footage of him on a TV show singing "Tabigasa Dochu" on tonight's "Uta Kon"(うたコン). With those round glasses and tailcoat that Noelle described, along with that very earnest delivery, Shoji reminded me of a dusty university professor who had literally spent years in a classroom but was going to make the most of his 15 minutes on the stage.

Regrettably, I couldn't find any footage of Shoji singing "Tabigasa Dochu" but here are a couple of far more contemporary enka singers to fill in. One is Mika Shinno(神野美伽)who hails from Osaka and debuted back in 1984. I've seen her often on "Uta Kon" and its predecessor program "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)so I was surprised that she hadn't been covered by either Noelle or me. She has also appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen twice in her career, in 1987 and 2003.

Going back to the song itself, "Tabigasa Dochu" was written by Masato Fujita(藤田まさと)and composed by Nosho Ohmura(大村能章), and it's a jaunty song of vagabonds who go where the wind takes them while they live on the fringes of society. They don't mind the journey but they also hope someday to settle down. However, Ohmura's melody as arranged for Shinno's performance above seems to carve out a certain pride in this trek of itinerants which alternates between a romantic sweep during the sung portions while the intro, bridge and outro contain a certain manly staccato which may represent the proud don't-hold-me-back steps of the travelers.

(I'm sorry but the video got taken down.)

The other singer is the Prince of Enka himself, Kiyoshi Hikawa(氷川きよし). I found the arrangement for his take on "Tabigasa Dochu" as being a lot softer and more wistful although Hikawa puts in a good amount of brio for his performance.

Well, whaddaya know? I did find a video with Shoji's original take via this old 78 rpm. In contrast to those earnest performances by him on stage, his recorded version of "Tabigasa Dochu" sounds quite serene. Plus, I can make out an interesting plucky guitar in the background there...or is it a Japanese instrument?

Finally, you can take a look at this empty karaoke version of the song since the movie here can give some illustration to the lyrics.


  1. Hi J-Canuck.

    I've seen "Tabigasa Dochu" often online being tackled by a myriad of enka singers, but where I first heard it (at long last) was on "Uta Kon". It also surprised me that Taro Shoji, whom I always thought looked kinda unhinged (mad scientist sort of unhinged), was behind the original. Somehow I find it strange to associate this sort of jaunty, ronin enka to him - Haruo Minami is a better fit appearance-wise. That doesn't mean Shoji's version was bad though - sounds pretty good and the vagabonds being sung about sort of reminds me of Dick Mine and "Tabi Sugata Sannin Otoko".

    About Mika Shinno, she's one of those singers whom I had considered covering since there was no article on her until now. A couple of songs I'd heard from her are decent and I think she's quite cool with that forceful delivery of hers, but I just didn't know what to write in those articles. So it's nice to see that you've given her a place on the blog.

    By the way, could you tell me what went down during the first 15 minutes of "Uta Kon" if you remember? I missed that bit as I came home later than expected, and I have a feeling that the stuff I had looked forward to may have been in that time period.

    P.S. Wow, Hikawa's hardly moving! Rarely see that nowadays (when it comes to this sort of song).

    1. Hello, Noelle.

      Yeah, I was surprised that Mika Shinno had yet to be represented on this blog considering how often I've seen her on the various kayo shows. I'll have to take a look at some of her own material.

      The first 15 minutes of "Uta Kon" was the show trying to be different again by bringing in some of the feudal era stage comedies from the late Korokke kayo program, "Gokigen Kayo Shogekidan". Some of the guests including Hikawa did the Edo Era thing while performing a couple of tunes.

    2. Thanks for the info, J-Canuck... Dang, the addition of Korokke's "Gokigen..." sounded fun. Really miss that show.

      Oh, regarding the string instrument in the background, I'm not entirely sure myself what it is, but I have a feeling that it could either be the electric guitar - the Yoshio Tabata type - or the koto. Maybe even a mix of both?


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