from Mr Hayata
I distinctly remember seeing those grand floats slowly going down the street from my particular vantage point deep in the crowds on the sidewalk as I valiantly took photos on my dinky little camera. Being the middle of summer, and a Kyoto summer at that, it was a miracle that I didn't end up being transported to a hospital due to heatstroke. Still, I survived although I also remember taking a long nap in my hotel room afterwards.
The song for this article, "Gion Kouta" (Ballad of Gion), is one that I first heard on a recent "Uta Kon" (うたコン). Elegantly performed by Misaki Iwasa（岩佐美咲）, formerly of AKB48, I was intrigued as to its origins, so I did a bit of investigation and found that it had first been sung all the way back in 1930. Not only that, it was performed by a geisha by the name of Fumikichi Fujimoto（藤本二三吉）(1897-1976). Born in Tokyo, the singer was born as Fumi Fujimoto（藤本婦美）and became an apprentice geisha in 1909 under the name of Hanko（はん子）before getting her official geisha name of Fumikichi in 1915. From 1924, she began recording songs in a number of the traditional genres such as min'yo with her first hit being "Naniwa Kouta"（浪花小唄...Ballad of Naniwa）in 1929.
However, her huge hit was "Gion Kouta" which was recorded in 1930 as the theme song for the movie "Ehigasa"（絵日傘...The Decorated Parasol）.Written by Mikihito Nagata（長田幹彦）and composed by Kouka Sassa（佐々紅華）, Fujimoto sings descriptively about her love for the Gion district in Kyoto. Instead of importing the video directly, I have left the link above since going to it, you will find an English translation of the lyrics by the uploader.
Now to be honest, I am very hazy about some of the very old genres of Japanese music but apparently along with min'yo （民謡...folk songs）and the early examples of enka, there were other genres including hauta（端唄...short love songs）, zokkyoku（俗曲...another form of folk song）and kouta（小唄...ballads）. I was going to categorize this ballad as a min'yo but seeing the title, I can only surmise that fans of this song would probably want me to place this in the correct category of a kouta although I would need some education in differentiating these genres. Good grief. And here I thought it was just the various techno genres that I needed help with.
"Gion Kouta" has probably been covered by just about every enka singer and I was able to find this version by the late Keiko Fuji（藤圭子）which has that more familiar enka arrangement.
Well, whaddaya know? Here is that performance by Misaki Iwasa.
Heck, even The Peanuts（ザ・ピーナッツ）contributed their own very slightly jazzy take on "Gion Kouta" as a single in 1963.