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, December 11, 2016

Hanko Kagurazaka -- Geisha Waltz (ゲイシャ・ワルツ)

On a recent episode of NHK's "Uta Kon" (うたコン), I saw a guest perform a song called "Geisha Waltz" whose title struck me as something somewhat off-the-wall. A European dance was about as far as it could get culturally from the rarefied atmosphere of the world of the geisha.

And the impetus for its creation simply came from the songwriters' interest in coming up with a song that would counter as the kayo version for "Tennessee Waltz" which had come out in January 1952 as Chiemi Eri's(江利チエミ)debut and became a huge success. As much as that song was soaked in country music, "Geisha Waltz" was about as enka as one could get.

The songwriters were lyricist Yaso Saijo(西条八十)and composer Masao Koga(古賀政男). One night, the two of them were invited to a geisha house in Kagurazaka, Tokyo (rather nice hilly area close to the current Japanese Self-Defence Force HQ) to watch a performance and there they met a young geisha who had been born Tamako Suzuki(鈴木玉子)in 1931. The J-Wiki article didn't mention where she had said it but apparently Ms. Suzuki was bold enough to blurt out "I absolutely hate being an artist!". Her upfront personality cut through to Koga and she was soon scouted into Columbia Records, much to Ms. Suzuki's parents' dismay.

A few singles into her new career as a kayo singer, Suzuki was now Hanko Kagurazaka(神楽坂はん子)and she released "Geisha Waltz" which was indeed created by her two benefactors, Koga and Saijo. The song and the singer became overnight hits. Afterwards, there were other hits and two appearances on the Kohaku Utagassen in 1953 and 1954, but then in 1955, she suddenly retired for some reason...something about personal guarantorship on J-Wiki but I couldn't quite get the meaning.

There was a successful comeback several years later in 1968 but after the 1970s, Kagurazaka left show business for good and lived a very quiet life until her death in 1995 at the age of 64 from liver cancer. A search of her residence following her passing revealed a lot of empty shochu bottles scattered all over the place. Again, I'm translating this info from J-Wiki.

However her legacy has lived on through "Geisha Waltz" and her other hits. Sayuri Ishikawa(石川さゆり)has provided a cover of the song.

And former Onyanko, Sanae Jounouchi(城之内早苗)also gave her version of "Geisha Waltz".

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