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.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Yoshio Tabata -- Kaeri Bune (かえり船)

Out of all the songs in Yoshio Tabata's (田端義夫) discography, I'm confident in saying that "Kaeri Bune" is his most popular and well known single, and it sold about 1.8 million copies. It's the Batayan song that's often sung on the music shows at this day and age by a myriad of enka singers, and even Tabata himself performed "Kaeri Bune" on his second (out of two) appearance on the Kohaku in 1989. Ironically, though, I can't say I'm a big fan of it (yet?) especially when compared to his other tunes I've covered on the blog.

"Kaeri Bune" comes in at the 10:18 mark.

What made me finally decide to put up an article for "Kaeri Bune" was hearing it on a "Shin Nippon no Uta" episode a couple of weeks back. I thought it was high time the song deserved a write-up. This time it was the enka brothers, Ichiro Toba and Yutaka Yamakawa (鳥羽一郎 . 山川豊), who tackled this hit during the Special Stage show. The first half of the segment was dedicated to their late mother who loved Haruo Minami (三波春夫), Koichi Aoki (青木光一), and Tabata - Mrs. Kimura sure had good taste in music. According to Toba, Batayan was Mrs. Kimura's no.1 favourite so naturally the haunting intro of "Kaeri Bune" began to play. At that point in time, I was reminded of a black and white clip that is usually associated with the song. It had dozens of people at the harbor enthusiastically receiving their loved ones who are on board the docking ship. This then kick-started the brain's thinking mode.

A little summary of enka singers who have sang this song.

With "Kaeri Bune" being released in post-war Japan (1946), I found out from the description in the video at the very top that the lyrics are about soldiers returning (by ship) to Japan after the war. I'm pretty sure that it can be applied to folks who are coming home from working/studying abroad as well. That being said, one would think that the melody would be a jaunty one to celebrate the joyous reunions, but it's not. Instead it's solemn and leans to the melancholic enka side, plus the resonant twang of Batayan's electric guitar makes it all the more unsettling. Perhaps "Kaeri Bune" is trying to highlight the sadness and bitterness beneath the happiness felt by those on the boat; possibly caused by being away from home for a long time.

Minoru Shimizu (清水みのる) had written the lyrics and Haruo Kurawaka (倉若晴生) had composed the music. Together with Batayan, the three had spawned a number of other hits like "Wakare Bune" (別れ船) - probably the opposite of "Kaeri Bune" - and "Shima no Funauta" (島の舟唄) - his debut single.

With the extra number of times I have listened to "Kaeri Bune" while writing this article alone, I feel it slowly latching on to me... I think. Wonder if it'll have that "Wakare no Ippon Sugi" (別れの一本杉) effect. (Noelle from 30/12/16) Yup, it's finally latched on - it was only a matter of time.

Oh my goodness, it's Batayan without his trusty guitar! He looks so incomplete without the instrument - it's as if he lost an arm or something. 

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Noelle.

    "Kaeri Bune" has that poignant tone that probably had quite a few listeners from that era misting up during any reminiscings. Perhaps the reunions were less a joyous affair and more of relief that people survived.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.