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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mieko Takamine -- Kouhan no Yado (湖畔の宿)

I'm not all that big into traveling since my comfort zone outside of home isn't all that wide. However, having said that, I'm always appreciative of any sort of accommodations that provides the minimum of clean and comfy sleep. The urban hotels whether they are the high-end Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku (my orientation venue on the JET Programme in 1989) or the medium-priced Toyoko Inn (where I stayed late in 2014) chain have been fine with me.

But there is also something about the rural ryokan that has managed to provide its charms. During that same trip in 2014, my anime buddy, his friend and I stayed at the Daitokan(大東館)in the city of Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture. As you can see above, it was Japanese-style, the bedding and futon were neatly arranged all in a row, there was the alcove with two seats and a small table to enjoy the view of the city, and there were the hot spring facilities down below. I also had plenty of opportunities to enjoy the ryokan scene during my time on JET when the teachers often took overnight trips in the nearby resort areas of Gunma Prefecture at the end of the year.


Over the last 18 months, I've been involved in translating short travel articles from Japanese into English, and so mention has been made of some of those countryside inns such as Daitokan. And a couple of weeks ago, on an episode of NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン), there was a performance of a very old enka ballad titled "Kouhan no Yado" (Lakeside Inn) which was originally sung by the late actress-singer Mieko Takamine(高峰三枝子)in 1940. I've translated at least one article which involved one of those exclusive hotels beside a lake; I think one of them was situated right on the shores of Japan's largest inland body of water, Lake Biwa, and certainly that had me thinking about my time at Daitokan a couple of years ago and all of the ryokan back in 1989-1991.

Midori Oka's(丘みどり)performance of "Kouhan no Yado" was quite jazzy so I was slightly surprised when I heard the original version above and the later performances by Takamine, and found it quite melancholy, thanks to the melody by Ryoichi Hattori(服部良一). Sonosuke Sato's(佐藤惣之助)lyrics describe a woman arriving at that lakeside inn all by herself just to try to recover from the end of a relationship. It seems as if there have been a lot of enka tunes which portray a woman heading out into the regional areas to attempt to forget heartbreak (admittedly, a good onsen does soothe). For me, a good dinner with lots of protein does the trick. But I digress.

One of the interesting rumours that I've picked up over the years about Japan is that management at some of the old-fashioned ryokan tend to decline reservations by solo travelers out of fear that one of these guests may decide to end it all in his/her room due to some sort of depression. Still not sure if that is true or not.

In any case, although the J-Wiki article on Takamine (1918-1990) is long, there is barely anything about her singing career aside from the fact that a few of her songs are mentioned in passing.

Unfortunately, I don't know whether this had been released as an official single or not but I have to say that actress-singer Chieko Baisho(倍賞千恵子)does a masterful job at this cover of "Kouhan no Yado". It's too bad that I can't find out when it came out. That voice of hers really resonates.

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