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.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Katsutaro Kouta & Issei Mishima/Kiyoshi Hikawa -- Tokyo Ondo (東京音頭)

What a wonderful combination: Yonin shu and "Tokyo Ondo".

With the theme of this week's "Uta Kon" featuring the metropolis that is Tokyo, I figured that there may be a couple of tunes that, without a doubt, would have been sung on the Shibuya stage. The first of which being one of Ichiro Fujiyama's (藤山一郎) evergreen hit "Tokyo Rhapsody" (東京ラプソディ) and the other being "Tokyo Ondo" - not to be confused with "Daitokyo Ondo" (大東京音頭). I came home late from work that evening so I only caught the later half of the episode but it was enough to confirm the former. As for the latter, I looked up the song lineup on the "Uta Kon" site and it was nowhere to be seen.

Why I anticipated "Tokyo Ondo" to be sung was due to it being a rousing and festive Bon dance tune that features the different parts of the bustling city like Ginza and Ueno, plus Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし) was present. He is one of the many enka singers who have tackled it with his 2016 rendition being in the C-type version of "Miren Gokoro" (みれん心), and the only time I've heard it was at his album promotion event in Ikebukuro a few months ago. So I was hoping to hear more of this extremely catchy song again rather than just the short stub in the MV above - bummer. That settles it, I'm gonna get myself that C-type single - about time for my annual online CD shopping anyways.

Moving on, "Tokyo Ondo" goes way back to the 1930's. Lyricist Yaso Saijo and composer Shinpei Nakayama (西條八十 . 中山晋平) had originally created it in 1932 for a Bon dance event in the Hibiya park and was titled "Marunouchi Ondo" (丸の内音頭).Victor Records then decided to turn "Marunouchi Ondo" into a commercial record and was marketed as a "destination song"; it had minyo singers Fumikichi Fujimoto 's (藤本二三吉) version on the A-side and Issei Mishima's (三島一声) on the B-side.

The really long version with Mishima's nasally delivery and Kouta's piercing vocals.

A year later in 1933, "Marunouchi Ondo" turned into "Tokyo Ondo" when the lyrics were changed to include more areas in Tokyo, and it became a duet between Mishima and Katsutaro Kouta (小唄勝太郎) - Kouta is a lady, by the way, with her real name being Katsu Makino (眞野 かつ). It was then when it's popularity exploded and eventually it became a long hit that stayed popular over the decades. By 1971, it was said to have sold around 20 million copies. Kouta became synonymous with ditties that had her going "Haaa...", a.k.a. "Ha Kouta", after the success of "Tokyo Ondo".

"Tokyo Ondo" isn't just a minyo track as, much to my surprise when doing my research, it is used as a fight song for two Tokyo-based sports teams: the baseball team Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and FC Tokyo from the J-League (football/soccer). Never thought I'd see such a combination: sports and minyo. The fight song version has a quicker pace and definitely has a more rah-rah spirit to it than usual.

Here's Masako Mori (森昌子) in a cool kimono-dress hybrid cheering on the Yakult Swallows at one of their games. Hikawa had done something similar too recently.

Since I've been saying that "Tokyo Ondo" is the backup tune for a Bon dance, here is how the dance goes to wrap things up.

Yaa-to-na sore yoi yoi yoi
YAAAaa-to-na sore yoi yoi yoi

Oh geez this is gonna be stuck in my head for the next few weeks...


  1. Hi, Noelle.

    Nothing like a rousing ondo to liven people up. And it's definitely interesting to hear "Tokyo Ondo" used as the fight song at baseball games. I don't think I could ever imagine such a thing in Major League Baseball. :)

    Usually my image season for the various ondo is summer since that's when all of the festivals are held but it wouldn't be too bad to hear one in the autumn as well...or even winter if there isn't too much snow on the ground.

  2. "Tokyo Ondo" (Kiyoshi Hikawa's 2016 version) is great! Everytime I listen to it I can do a Bon dance!

    Tatianna Raquel (from Brazil)


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