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, November 20, 2016

Ichiro Toba -- Casablanca Goodbye (カサブランカ・グッバイ)

It has been quite a long time since I've posted articles regarding Ichiro Toba (鳥羽一郎) and, for that matter, Yutaka Yamakawa (山川豊). It has probably been more than a year since so I've decided to do just that, starting with the older of the enka siblings.

In terms of appearance and demeanor Toba is the gruff and scrappy one;  as I've said in one of my earlier articles on him, I find that he looks like a surly old bear that got rudely woken up from its nap - it amuses me every time I see him on stage. Complementing his looks is his type of enka - the manly man, and quite often the sea-faring sort that would showcase his roots as a gritty fisherman. With that in mind it seems as though he wouldn't deviate from his usual shtick, and yet there is "Casablanca Goodbye" to prove me wrong - that Toba is able to pull off something softer and elegant.

What makes "Casablanca Goodbye" stand out to me is that, for starters, it is written in all katakana, which is a rare sight in Toba's discography. And rather than the raging sea or a boat or a location in Japan, this kayokyoku revolves around a white lily (Lilium Casa Blanca) - nope, not the romantic drama film with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Playwright and author Makiko Uchidate (内館牧子) penned the lyrics about what I think tells of both sides of a breakup. The man parts from his lady who seems to have feelings for someone else. But rather than talking things out or getting into a heated argument, the disappointed fellow simply throws a Casablanca lily at her doorstep and walks away without a word, leaving the woman to realise that their relationship is over once she sees the abandoned flower (ouch).

As for the melody, Takashi Miki (三木たかし) had put together something rather European with the forlorn strings, and the rhythmic beat and what I think could be the high-pitched twang from the mandolin gives "Casablanca Goodbye" this ballroom dance music feel. Speaking of dancing, you can watch Yamakawa providing an accompanying dance routine as Toba sang. He didn't seem particularly amused though at his brother's endeavor though.

"Casablanca Goodbye" was released on 21st August 1996. I'm not sure how well it did on the charts, but since Toba still sings it from time to time, and that he performed it twice on the Kohaku (once in 1996 and again in 1997), I'm guessing that it fared quite decently.

Here's Hiroshi Itsuki's (五木ひろし) attempt at "Casablanca Goodbye". Itsuki is actually the one whom I felt this tune would fit better, especially in terms of the music. But then when it comes to the lyrics, I find that the "leaving without a word" sort of breakup fits Toba more - assuming he's not in his pugnacious mood.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down)

To round things up for this write up, since I've been talking about Toba being able to channel his soft side, I've recently found out from the video above that this grumpy-looking enka singer that many fear enjoys lazing around on a Hello Kitty mat that's lined with hearts... Toba Jr., Ryuzo Kimura (木村竜蔵), brought this hilarious habit to light in his parody of "Road" (ロード), aptly renamed "Ichiro", on one of Sanma Akashiya's (明石家さんま) variety shows. It was also later revealed that Toba bejeweled his cell phone under the influence of his daughter, whom he has a soft spot for. Well, so much for the fearsome man of the sea. I can never see Toba the same way ever again...
Deco Kitty-ro...

Image result for casablanca lily
Casablanca Lily by David Pomfret


  1. Hi, Noelle.

    That is one lovely and fascinating song. You're absolutely right in that I wouldn't have imagined someone like Toba tackling this form of European enka (would love to hear some more of these in the current day); this would be something that would befit Itsuki and either of the former members of Alice: Shinji Tanimura or Takao Horiuchi.

    Thanks also for pointing out the significance of that Casablanca flower. I would have naturally assumed that the song was referring to the famous movie.

    1. Hi J-Canuck.

      I do wonder if Toba will do more European enka - "Casablanca Goodbye" seemed more like a short foray into the softer side of things. At this point in time, it looks like Toba is still sticking to what he knows best, but who knows? He could surprise his fans with something different again. I actually kinda want to see a rock-themed song from Toba - that'd be exciting.


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