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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Hiroshi Itsuki -- Nagaragawa Enka (長良川艶歌)

Whaddaya know, the Itsuki picture for September
matches the song for today.
For the past three and a half months I had been busy with my school's internship - hence fewer write-ups by me - the last leg of my tertiary education - I've still got about a month left. It's got some highs and lows, but the Thursday to Sunday a couple weeks ago was probably the most harrowing experience thus far. Volunteering with a friend to help out at our workplace's (AVA... Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority) booth at an ornamental fish competition seemed exciting enough. However, with this poorly organised event lacking a number of important necessities like two categories worth of competing fish, and as such, the people, the both of us were wonderfully underwhelmed with having to tout free fans to a sparse crowd and literally counting the number of people who simply took a glance at our booth - 19 on Thursday but things picked up somewhat on Saturday. But even doing nothing is tiring if you have to do it for 6-8 hours. Kudos to this friend who stayed throughout the entire duration.

The absolute worst, however, has got to be the terrible, nonstop Christmas music blasting away. By Sunday we must've fallen too far into the rabbit hole as we imagined an idiotic "mix tape" that combines the instrumental version of "Silent Night", this hilariously awful song that has the singer going "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!" at the chorus, and last but not least the whine of the hedge saw we heard when coming back from lunch. Imagine how that train wreck of a "mix tape" turned out to be. This horrific nightmare before Christmas made me miss enka a whole lot, and believe me I've been trying to use that to drown out the madness.

A good remedy would be "Nagaragawa Enka". It's a destination song featuring Gifu's Nagara river, renowned enka songwriters Chiaki Oka and Miyuki Ishimoto (岡千秋.石本美由起) put it together, and sung by Hiroshi Itsuki (五木ひろし), the genre's top veteran (in this current decade at least) in a kimono. Can't ask for anything more enka than that.

Rokyoku Itsuki
"Nagaragawa Enka" has got a traditional-sounding score as composed by Oka. What I find the main attraction of this melody is the haunting notes from the koto, which feels like the dark, rolling waves over the river at night, and is reminiscent of Takeo Fujishima's classic, "Otsuki-san Konbanwa" (お月さん今晩は). It's actually quite therapeutic, especially when combined with Itsuki's mellow delivery. Ishimoto's lyrics, which is set during the Ukai period in Gifu city, tells of whom I'm going to assume is a woman being reminded of a one night stand while watching the age old tradition of cormorant fishing along the river. The affair seemed to be a passionate one and the parting not on mutual terms as she seems rather sour about its end. Such is the sad fate of at least 90% of the enka characters.

"Nagaragawa Enka", from 21st April 1984 and later, 25th August, is Itsuki's biggest hit when it comes to the destination song department. It sold over a massive 10 million copies - a feat that only 6 other acts, including Momoe Yamaguchi (山口百恵) and Shinichi Mori (森進一), have accomplished - and won the singer First Prize at the 26th Japan Record Awards, the 15th Japanese Music Awards, and at the 13th FNS Music Festival. That is one decorated song. "Nagaragawa Enka" did well on the Oricon charts, coming in at 10th place at its peak before dropping to 14th by the end of 1984. It still managed to maintain its popularity in 1985 as it came in 61st for that year.

He looks good in grey suits.
With stuff like "Nagaragawa Enka" and "Jinanbo Garasu" (次男坊鴉... perhaps an article for another time), the madness of the exhibition's terrible music has mostly been exterminated. But things like the "Idiot Mix Tape" and memories from this experience will be in my mind for a long time, I reckon. What a way to end the already crazy year. Makes me wonder what next year will be like. Not as bumpy or bi-polar as this year, please. Anyways, hope you guys will have a good year ahead, and for surviving 2016... (the picture below)

Gokurosama deshita. :)


  1. Hi, Noelle, and Happy New Year!

    I hear you about 2016. Most people will probably want to forget about it as quickly as possible.

    Sorry to hear about your experience at that competition and about the Xmas music. I actually enjoy Xmas music but if handled tastefully and at the appropriate time.

    "Nagaragawa Enka" would be just the tonic for you then, and I think it's the ideal song to hear in a house in Japan on New Year's Day...with a nice tokkuri of sake.

    I have to say that Itsuki is one of the few people in showbiz who looks good in a tuxedo and not as if he's a tarento in an "extra-special" episode of a variety show.

    1. Happy New Year to you too, J-Canuck!

      With passing of many iconic figures, I'm sure 2016 will leave it's mark on humanity whether we like it or not.... Kinda makes me paranoid especially when seeing lists of aged stars that survived last year.

      Tasteful Christmas music, say, Jazz renditions of classics at an appropriate volume is tolerable, sometimes I even willingly accept it. But I guess the competition could only afford the crappy stuff on infinite loop, like kids sounding like they're being choked and adults pining in an oddly sensual manner for Santa to come down their chimneys. Well, out with the Xmas songs, in with the Chinese New Year ones - oh boy.

      As for Itsuki's tuxes, he's got a good tailor, that's for sure. Ain't got the looks but his spiffy dressing definitely makes up for it.


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