Credits

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.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tamao Koike -- Kagami no Naka no Juu-gatsu (鏡の中の十月)


One of the new songs that I was able to hear on that techno kayo album I purchased back around Xmas last year was Tamao Koike's(小池玉緒)"Kagami no Naka no Juu-gatsu" (Automne Dans Un Miroir). It's definitely one of those rare gems since Koike, who was a model, actress and singer, only released one single under her real name, one album under another alias, and a smattering of other songs in various compilations.

"Kagami no Naka no Juu-gatsu" was released in September 1983. While Masao Urino(売野雅勇)provided the lyrics to the breathy vocals of Koike, Yellow Magic Orchestra wove the pensive techno kayo melody in a French pop manner, according to the singer's biography on J-Wiki. Indeed, there is something about her delivery that brought to mind Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)and the New Wave mode of Miharu Koshi(コシミハル).

As for Koike, the singer was born in Tokyo in 1962 and was scouted as a teenager in 1978 to become a model in magazines. Then in 1982, she provided vocals for the B-side of Haruomi Hosono's(細野晴臣)"Sangokushi Main Theme"(三国志メイン・テーマ). According to her bio on J-Wiki, it seems that she dabbled just a bit in acting and singing with modeling being her main gig. However, she is currently retired.


The liner jacket for the techno kayo album.
Really, I just bought it for the songs!

Ayaka Hirahara -- Ohisama ~ Taisetsu na Anata e (おひさま〜大切なあなたへ)


The NHK asadora (morning serial drama) has been a viewing mainstay for my parents since basically forever. Frankly, I've been far more persnickety since I long shed my interest in Japanese dramas. The last drama I caught regularly was "Ume-chan Sensei"(梅ちゃん先生), for instance. However, I've kept more of an open mind toward the theme songs for those 15-minute serials. They have varied widely in terms of hit appeal but I do remember "Haru yo, Koi"(春よ、来い)by Yuming(ユーミン)for the 1994 entry of the same name which has now become one of her classics and "Sakasama no Sora"(さかさまの空), the ever-cheerful theme for the aforementioned "Ume-chan Sensei" from 2012.


In the inaugural episode of "Uta Kon"(うたコン), the new NHK kayo kyoku program wanted to show off some of its new finery by presenting a fairly long segment on those asadora theme songs. "Haru yo, Koi" was featured of course, but then there was this lovely ballad sung by the just-as-lovely Ayaka Hirahara(平原綾香)that got me right here.

The song was "Ohisama ~ Taisetsu na Anata e" (To My Dearest You) which was the theme song for the 2011 asadora from April to October, "Ohisama". That beautiful arrangement and Hirahara's voice were the perfect combination....still gives me shivers when I hear it in my head.


Yoshikazu Okada(岡田惠和), who had written the screenplay for "Ohisama", also provided the lyrics for "Taisetsu na Anata e" while Toshiyuki Watanabe(渡辺俊幸)who was responsible for the show's soundtrack created the theme melody. The interesting thing is that when the serial first premiered that April, "Taisetsu na Anata e" had initially been just a lovely instrumental. However, due to many inquiries from viewers about the song, and Watanabe's comparison of Japan's recovery from World War II which figured in the story for "Ohisama" to the Tohoku region's recovery from the massive earthquake that had just occurred in March 2011, the composer sounded out Hirahara, who was an acquaintance of his, to see if she would be willing to sing a lyricized version. Obviously, she consented. The full title of the song was set once the lyrics were laid down.

"Taisetsu na Anata e" was released as Hirahara's 26th single from June 2011. It peaked at No. 44 on Oricon and was placed as a track on her 10th album "Dokki!" (ドキッ!...Ba-Bump!) from February 2012. Hirahara was also able to perform the full version at the 2011 Kohaku Utagassen. The song also won the Best Arrangement Prize at the Japan Record Awards that year as well.


This is the original instrumental opening for the drama. Hirahara's sung version was used to open only the Saturday morning episodes from the middle of July a few weeks following its release as a single. Try to see if you can get through either version without getting a little misty.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

J-Canuck's Top 5 Favourite Hiromi Iwasaki Songs


It's about time to put up an Author's Picks list as far as chanteuse Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美)is concerned. She was one of the pillars responsible for me finally falling for kayo kyoku, and if Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)and Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)lists are already up here, then Hiromi has to be up pronto. Back in 1981, when I first started discovering this group of young singers whose work strangely hit my heart despite me not really understanding the lingo at the time, I saw Seiko-chan and Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子)as the cute teenyboppers but at the same time, Hiromi struck me as being the classy and more mature older sister songstress with that musical-level voice, not knowing at the time about her own time as an aidoru of the 1970s. Therefore, perhaps not surprisingly, my list reflects her 80s material for the most part.


5. Mahiru no Silver Moon (真昼のSILVER MOON) 1986

Admittedly, this is a bit of a left-field choice and it was never used in an official single, but I still love this track from her 1986 album "Wagamama"(わがまま). And as I mentioned in the article for this album, none of the tracks except for one have representation as a video online, and this song isn't it. Still, I felt like I needed to put this one up although there is only the Tower Records link (Track 1) to provide that 45-second excerpt, and even those three-quarters of a minute amply show how she can lovingly caress the lyrics for this jazz torch ballad. I can't really imagine Hiromi scatting like Ella Fitzgerald but she can do some lovely jazz love songs. The excerpt doesn't include the instrumental bridge but even her humming there can make my hair stand up (sorry, I'm being very biased here :)).


4. Cinderella Honeymoon (シンデレラハネムーン)1978

This is my lone 1970s entry for the list but "Cinderella Honeymoon" takes the cake for that nostalgic disco arrangement and revealing to me that Hiromi did actually boogie it up in front of the camera before she entered that phase as the romantic balladeer. Her 14th single has that mix of disco, drama and triumph, and it just seems to be that song fit for a singer who sings in a lower register. I wonder if Akina ever covered it, then.


3. Madonna Tachi no Lullaby (聖母たちのララバイ)1982

A nostalgic favourite especially since it was the first 45" single that I ever got of the singer. Actually, it was my brother who got it for me after his own Japanese language school graduation trip in 1982, a year after mine (he never caught the Japanophile bug that I did). Even back then, playing it on the original Victor stereo, I could appreciate the violins and that electric guitar accompanying that accomplished voice of hers.


2. Sumire Iro no Namida (すみれ色の涙)1981

I may have discovered recently that this Hiromi hit was actually a cover version but I still think she owns "Sumire Iro no Namida". This is the song that introduced me to her and got me lifted onto the Hiromi bandwagon. I've really yet to get off. That video above of her performing one of her most famous songs on that episode of "The Top 10" was an example of the many performances of her I saw on old VHS at my classmate's house soon after returning from Japan in 1981. I remarked at the top that I saw Hiromi as the grown-up older sister compared to the 80s aidorus; well, that image of her in the long ojo-san hair and long dress will always be the default image I will have of her.


1. Ieji (家路)1983

If it hadn't been for this classic, "Sumire Iro no Namida" would have been on the top easily. However, there is something about how "Ieji" launches with that electric guitar and then proceeds with that drama and elegance which makes it my No. 1. It was used as one of the several ending themes for the suspense anthology series "Kayo Suspense Gekijo"(歌謡サスペンス劇場), and it was perfect for that, but even listening to it on its own had me thinking of taking an especially intense walk through the park while deep in contemplation....and risking running into a light pole or something. This could have been the ideal commuting ballad for those middle-aged folks at the section chief level in a company. Time to hit the scotch on the rocks.

Come to think of it, I do have mostly ballads in here. Hiromi has performed some fine uptempo material in her career but I can't help but think of her as having been the master (or mistress) of that lovingly-crafted pop ballad. She just has the voice for it.

EAST END×YURI -- DA.YO.NE


Not a huge fan of rap in general, let alone the Japanese variety, but "DA.YO.NE" (Ain't It So?) by short-lived unit EAST END×YURI has kinda stuck with me over the years. The reason is not particularly because it's one of my favourite songs but it did begat a variety of intra-national dialectical variations and it is believed to be Japan's first hit of the genre.

I saw the release date on J-Wiki and Wikipedia for "DA.YO.NE" which was August 1994, and I had first thought that I must have missed something since my remembrances of the phenomenon surrounding the song were set after I had arrived in Japan for my second tour of duty there from November 1994. But after reading the articles for the song, I realized that "DA.YO.NE" had had an initially slow history before it got a well-needed boost of promotion from a Hokkaido radio station which gave the song some heavy rotation on its turntables and then widespread exposure across the nation.


Seemingly, though, the song and the unit seemed to get real big overnight although I knew next to nothing about EAST END×YURI. However over the years, I learned that YURI was Yuri Ichii(市井由理), a former aidoru from Tokyo Performance Doll(東京パフォーマンスドール)who got into this collaboration with hip-hop group EAST END (consisting of Yoggy, Gaku and ROCK-Tee) to create this safe pop-rap tune (no sex, drugs or alcohol or deep social message) incorporating plenty of Japanese teen-speak. And just like one of those earworms, it was pretty much everywhere for a time including the big music shows such as "Music Station". Just to be specific, the song was written by Gaku and Mummy-D from Rhymester and composed by Yoggy.

"DA.YO.NE" came in at the right time, I think...just between the pop-rock of the early 1990s and the musical tidal wave of the Komuro Boom with Namie Amuro, Tomomi Kahala and trf that would take over a lot of J-Pop for the next few years. It broke into the Top 10 by peaking at No. 7 and it broke through the million barrier. Plus the rap also got EAST END×YURI their invitation to the 1995 Kohaku Utagassen, almost 18 months after the song's release. "DA.YO.NE" would end 1995 as the 33rd-ranked single. Before the song was released as a single, it had already been a track on the unit's debut album "denim-ed soul" which had been released in June 1994.


Ah, I did mention those dialectal variants, didn't I? As a cool reminder to folks not from Japan about the number of regional dialects there are, parody versions of "DA.YO.NE" were whipped up. For example, there was the Osakan "SO.YA.NA" by WEST END x YUKI which came out in February 1995. The WEST END were a couple of Yoshimoto Kogyo comedians, Koji Imada and Koji Higashino(今田耕司・東野幸治), joined by Yukiko Takeuchi(武内由紀子)from Osaka Performance Doll(大阪パフォーマンスドール).

Hearing this version, there was so much Kansai-ben thrown about, it sounded like a lot of the usual banter among my family and friends put down to a musical beat. "SO.YA.NA" actually exceeded the original in the Oricon weeklies by hitting No. 6 although in the yearly rankings, it finished somewhat lower at No. 59.


Then, there was "DA.BE.SA", the version in the Hokkaido dialect which was released a couple of months after "SO.YA.NA" by NORTH END×AYUMI. The NORTH END was Takayuki Suzui(鈴井貴之), who was hosting a late-night TV program in Hokkaido at the time, and Ryusuke Denno(伝野隆介), a local tarento. AYUMI was Ayumi Ito(伊藤亜由美)who was also a local TV personality at the time. This northern take performed a bit more modestly, hitting No. 43.

Following those, there came versions from the Tohoku district, Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. All of the dialectal covers ended up on the album "SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO DA.YO.NE".

After all of the linguistic hoopla launched by "DA.YO.NE", there was still one niggling question from me. Sampling in hip-hop is no surprise but for the life of me, I couldn't recognize the sample in that particular song. My need to have my curiosity sated gradually waned as the song slowly disappeared into music history. But recently, the question popped up again due to the blog. And the smooth piano sample was straight out of George Benson's "Turn Your Love Around", a hit from 1981 that I used to hear all the time on Toronto radio, so I wanted to slap myself upside the back of my head a la Special Agent Gibbs-style for the non-recognition.


In any case, according to the J-Wiki article on "DA.YO.NE",  Bill Champlin of the band Chicago, who had helped create "Turn Your Love Around" along with Steve Lukather of TOTO and producer Jay Graydon, just happened to be in Japan when he heard those familiar notes in "DA.YO.NE". Apparently, there was the point about not getting official approval for using the sample (oops), and Champlin made an issue about it, but in all likelihood, it didn't get nasty since with the proper payment of royalties the following day, all was copacetic. That made for a smoother resolution that a certain other song didn't enjoy.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Junk Fujiyama -- Yuuwaku (誘惑)


Here's some Junk funk at you! I can imagine Sing Like Talking and Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三)clapping their hands most appreciatively at this fellow who could give the legendary Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)a small run for his money.

Junk Fujiyama's(ジャンク フジヤマ)singing style's similarity to that of one of the masters of New Music/City Pop isn't a 100% match but it's still tremendous to hear the fellow bring back some of that old-style R&B. His song "Yuuwaku" (Temptation) has got some of those grunts (thanks, James Brown) and a nice tight horn section with a good thumpy bass. I never really got out all that much to those live houses in Tokyo but would be willing to pay admission to hear this guy play and sing....along with those horns.

"Yuuwaku" was originally a track on his 6th album "Junk Space" from March 2013 which was his first full major album. However, I've got it as part of his BEST compilation "The Best of Junk Fujiyama: Kazemachi" from 2014. His albums may not have flown up the charts but there is plenty of fandom for him.


TUBE -- TUBEst


Gotta admit that the title is cute and clever. Well, summer is indeed here and it has become a "Kayo Kyoku Plus" tradition to bring in a TUBE song to herald the hot season. I had actually thought about writing about one of their many singles when I figured that it has been a while since I brought in a BEST article so here is "TUBEst". Released in December 1989 (I guess the boys are not lacking in irony with that release date), it was the band's very first BEST compilation.

1. Best Seller Summer (ベストセラー・サマー)
2. Sentimental ni Kubittake (センチメンタルに首ったけ)
3. Season in the Sun (シーズン・イン・ザ・サン)
4. Because I Love You (ビコーズ・アイ・ラブ・ユー)
5. Summer Dream
6. Dance With You 
7. Beach Time
8. Remember Me
9. Summer City
10. Stories
11. Nagisa no Merry Boys * (渚のMerry Boys)
12. Be My Venus*
13. Day in Vacation*

As for the asterisked entries finishing up the album, they are actually the products of the Nagisa no All Stars(渚のオールスターズ), an informal summery supergroup consisting of TUBE, two of their songwriting contributors Tetsuro Oda and Tomoko Aran(織田哲郎・亜蘭知子), and a whole bunch of other musicians. I will take care of those songs in another article but "Be My Venus" has already been covered.


"Sentimental ni Kubittake" (Sentimentally Head Over Heels) was the band's 2nd single from October 1985 when they were still known as The Tube. As with their debut entry, "Best Seller Summer", the song had more of a 1950s rock-boppy beat along the lines of early 1980s acts such as The Chanels or The Checkers, although lead vocal Nobuteru Maeda's(前田亘輝)delivery was already in there. It was created by the same duo behind "Best Seller Summer", Kisaburo Suzuki and Yoshiko Miura(鈴木キサブロー・三浦徳子). It peaked at No. 64 on Oricon and is also a track on The Tube's 2nd album, "Off Shore Dreamin'" which got as high as No. 62 on the LP charts.

As for the lyrics....just like a lot of TUBE songs, they all have to do with frolicking on the beach!


"Because I Love You" was TUBE's 4th single from September 1986 and their first ballad out as a single. It makes for a nice sunset song for the young lovers just walking on the beach. Written by Tomoko Aran and composed by Daiko Nagato and Masatoshi Nishimura(長戸大幸・西村麻聡), it peaked at No. 13 and was the 78th-ranked single of the year. It is also available on TUBE's 4th original album, "Boys on the Beach".



Then there is the even better ballad "Remember Me" although it's much more bittersweet since it deals with reminiscing over a past romance. TUBE's 8th single from December 1988, that piano intro reminded me of an old Boz Scaggs tune. This was Maeda's first foray into writing lyrics for an official TUBE single while Seiichiro Kuribayashi(栗林誠一郎)took care of the music. "Remember Me" jumped up to No. 12, and I think as long as the young lovers don't listen to the lyrics too hard, it should also still make for good strolling-along-the-beach-at-dusk music. It belonged to TUBE's 8th original album as the title track.


Back to some fun in the sun with "Summer City", the song that triggered me to write about TUBE today. I was surprised to realize that I had yet to write about this one into the blog considering that I enjoyed the song after it came out in June 1989, about a couple of months before my arrival in Japan for the JET Programme. That intro which was the musical equivalent of a bunch of delirious surfer dudes racing to be the first one into the ocean before Maeda yells out "SUMMER CITY!" could be the clarion call for all to hit the beaches. Maeda took care of both words and music with this single which peaked at No. 11 and ended up as the 87th-ranked single of the year. It was also the title track for TUBE's 9th album which came out just a few weeks after the release of the single. The album itself topped out at No. 6 and was the 59th-ranked album of the year.

"TUBEst" itself peaked at No. 5 and became the 75th-ranked album for 1990, going Double Platinum and selling over 600,000 copies. And the good times would still keep going for TUBE with 5 more BEST albums into the 21st century.

Monday, June 27, 2016

B'z -- LADY NAVIGATION


Ooooh...can't believe it's almost been a year since I actually put up a B'z single, and I can't believe that I hadn't put up this particular single. But "LADY NAVIGATION" isn't in my Top 3 favourite B'z songs truthfully although the song is familiar to my ears.

However I'm probably in the minority with that opinion since B'z's 8th single from March 1991 became their very first million-seller (although "Taiyo no Komachi Angel", their 5th single, became their first Oricon No. 1 hit), and it would start a streak of consecutive million-sellers up to their 20th single in 1996, "Real Thing Shakes".


Created by the B'z boys, Koshi Inaba and Takahiro Matsumoto(稲葉浩志・松本孝弘), "LADY NAVIGATION" has got all the B'z tropes: Inaba's uniquely sultry yet near-Banshee voice, Matsumoto's famous guitar licks (sometimes they remind me of Prince) and those stop-start notes in their early works. Going into the lyrics, it seems like Inaba has got the major hots for some lady almost to the point of being labeled a stalker. But I'm not sure where the NAVIGATION part of the title comes in. For me, the song is OK but not quite on the same level of "Bad Communication", "Love Phantom" or "Be There"....but again, that's just personal opinion. Your opinion mileage will vary.

Some more statistical achievements on "LADY NAVIGATION". It hit No. 1 for 3 weeks (2 of them in succession) and went Triple Platinum. The single also got used for a Kanebo Cosmetics commercial. By the end of 1991, it became the 7th-ranked single of the year. B'z were indeed buzzing.


The folks behind Miku Hatsune(初音ミク)came up with a different interpretation of the melody here...more R&B/dance. And to be honest, I actually like this version better. Please be kind.

Wow! Inaba actually does wear a shirt
from time to time!

Yumi Arai -- Hitomi wo Tojite (瞳を閉じて)


I was looking over all of the "Kayo Kyoku Plus" entries for Yuming(ユーミン)and noticed that there hadn't been an article for one of her very early songs since February 2015 under the singer's maiden name of Yumi Arai(荒井由実). And since this particular article will end up being my 70th entry for the Queen of New Music, I think it's time to remedy the situation.


And I believe I have found the ideal song wrapped up in this heartwarming story of someone trying to help out a group of students. To explain, when Yuming was DJ'ing the late-night radio show "All Night Nippon" back in the early 1970s, there was a segment called "An Image Song Just For You" during which she read out a letter from a group of female students from the Naru Island branch of Nagasaki Prefectural Goto High School. The students requested an official song for their alma mater.

Initially, singer-songwriter Kazuhiko Kato(加藤和彦)was supposed to have created the song but his only recording somehow got lost, and so Arai took over the songwriting duties instead. And the result was "Hitomi wo Tojite" (Close Your Eyes) which she starts singing in the above video a little past the 1-minute mark. However, I was also quite happy to see the interview before the performance since it isn't everyday that I see Yuming give interviews especially so early in her career. If that video was made at around the time of the song's release, then she would have been close to 21 at the time. I'm not a profiler by any means, but looking at her back then, I could tell that she was already quite self-assured and knew where she was going.


The song was completed in October 1974 as a track on her 2nd album "Misslim". Hearing the original recorded version, there is something that is so Yumi Arai about it: mellow, breezy and calming...quite therapeutic, actually. And her lyrics made it sound like the ideal graduation song for the high school...get the tissues out.

Here is my translation of those lyrics:

When the wind dies down, let's take a ship out into the open waters
We'll bring the message in a glass bottle

To our friends who have gone far away
So that the sound of the ocean will reach them
Let's place it in the sea now

To our friends who have gone far away
So that the sound of the ocean will reach them
Let's place it in the sea now

When the fog lifts, let's stand on the small hill
Perhaps we'll be able to see the unknown islands

And if we're visited by small children
So that the blueness of the ocean will be relayed to them
Close your eyes now
Close your eyes now


I believe along with Yuming's mellower vocals back then, what sold the song to me were the keyboards which brought up images of seagulls flying off the coast of Naru Island.

A couple of years after the release of "Misslim", the school actually was split into two separate entities so that the island branch officially became Nagasaki Prefectural Naru High School. There was some consideration about whether to make "Hitomi wo Tojite" the official school song, and although it didn't become so, it has remained all these years as an aikouka(愛唱歌), or a beloved school song. In fact, an NHK documentary was filmed about the situation.

In 1988, the alumni of Naru High School donated money so that the lyrics of Yuming's ballad could be inscribed onto a monument. The singer herself came to the unveiling ceremony. The song was not only used indeed to commemorate the graduation ceremony, but it was also used whenever any of the island's citizens left port permanently or for an extended time. Finally just last year in 2015, Yuming returned to the island to join others in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the school's founding which culminated in a joint rendition of "Hitomi wo Tojite" with the students.

Aiko Hirano -- Minato ga Mieru Oka (港が見える丘)


Last week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)had its tribute to the wonderful city of Yokohama and during its 45 minutes which I enjoyed thoroughly, there was also another song that I was happy to discover.

"Minato ga Mieru Oka" (The Hill Overlooking The Harbour) was sung that night by enka chanteuse Yukino Ichikawa(市川由紀乃)in this quiet nighttime jazzy tone which always has had a soft spot in my heart. So I was quite enchanted. And happily enough, in looking up this song online, I found out that there was an interesting story behind it.

The song was originally released in April 1947 as one of the early postwar ryukoka流行歌...literally, popular song)by Victor. Sung by then-newbie Aiko Hirano(平野愛子)and created by Showa Era composer and lyricist Tatsuzo Azuma(東辰三), the original version had that sweet music orchestra sound surrounding the lyrics regarding a young couple in love admiring the view of a harbour from the top of that hill. It became that huge hit for Hirano who followed up with a number of other hits and soon earned the title of "The Young Blues Queen".


However, after the sudden passing of her mentor, Azuma, in 1950, Hirano didn't enjoy another major hit and would change recording companies a couple of times. In her later years, she started a music school in her home before she passed away in 1981. She did appear in the 2nd and 3rd Kohaku Utagassen in 1952 and 1953 but not for the song of this article.

As was illustrated during the Yokohama tribute on "Uta Kon" last week, "Minato ga Mieru Oka" has been seen as one of those old songs celebrating the city of Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama Bay and Chinatown. Plus in 1962, the Minato-ga-Mieru-Oka Park was even opened with a stone memorial inside pointing out its musical lineage. However, there has been a tiny controversy over whether that was actually true. Apparently, Azuma may have created the song in tribute to his hometown of Kobe which also has that wonderful view of the port from up above. But his son, famed lyricist Michio Yamagami(山上路夫), calmed the few ripples that may have resulted and wondered aloud whether the song had been created in tribute to both cities, and for that matter, any of the port cities in Japan.



Nonetheless, it's a lovely song, and considering the melody, I believe it could have one of the great proto-Mood Kayo tunes. To cement its classic standard status, it's been covered by a whole range of singers/musicians (including City Pop maestro Toshiki Kadomatsu/角松敏生...too bad, his version isn't online). Naomi Chiaki(ちあきなおみ)is one of those artists and she gives a slower and slightly smokier jazz cover here.


Masako Mori(森昌子)provided her own mellow Big Band cover, and although the video footage looks a few decades old, her version is on a 2007 album titled "Ano Koro"(あのころ...The Old Days).


And then there is Rumiko Koyanagi(小柳ルミ子)with a sunny and relaxed version that could have had her performing it from a chaise lounge on Long Island. Her take on "Minato ga Mieru Oka" is on her massive 2002 6-disc collection titled "Rumiko Koyanagi CD-BOX"....on CD 4, if you were wondering.

The one last piece of trivia that I found on the article for the song, though, is that "Minato ga Mieru Oka" had also been the inspiration for Hiroshi Miyagawa(宮川泰)to create The Peanuts' "Teami no Kutsushita"(手編みの靴下)which later became Mari Sono's(園まり)hit "Aitakute, Aitakute"(逢いたくて逢いたくて)in the 1960s. That would explain the Follow-Up tag in the Labels.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/11250735@N07/8268716495/?ytcheck=1
Thank you, zaimoku_woodpile

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Haruomi Hosono -- Tokyo Shyness Boy (東京Shyness Boy)


OK....in perfect honesty, Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)has never had the prettiest of voices. "Tokyo Shyness Boy" doesn't break that streak in "Kayo Kyoku Plus". But with my usual random foray into the wilds of YouTube especially when I threw in that "Japanese City Pop" into the search engine, this is what I found.

"Tokyo Shyness Boy" is a track from Hosono's 3rd studio album from 1976, "Bon Voyage co."(泰安洋行). And I will give my regards to Wikipedia and provide the direct description of the album:

This album continues the tropical style of Hosono House and Tropical Dandy (which would continue later on with Paraiso) while showing influence from the music of New Orleans and also features performances from Tin Pan Alley and Happy End (excluding Takashi Matsumoto. The album's Japanese title was influenced by a Nagasaki convenience store of the same name that Hosono met while on Tin Pan Alley's "First & Last Concert Tour". This album was re-issued as part of a box set with the single version of the Tropical Dandy song "Peking Duck" (which was coupled with a song from this album) and an interview Hosono gave on a Tokyo Broadcasting System radio show.

(the introduction from "Bon Voyage co." on Wikipedia)

I've seen the album of the cover in the book "Japanese City Pop", and I think listening to even this one track, it's pretty interesting since I know that Hosono would become one of the big three in the totally different Yellow Magic Orchestra. He may not have a great voice but I have been interested in his discography pre-YMO.

"Tokyo Shyness Boy" has that City Pop edge since I can't help but feel that this would be something which I could hear in some sort of live house in Shinjuku or Harajuku of the 1970s. Plus the fact that this can never be identified as anything conventionally Japanese puts this squarely into New Music territory. There is that down-and-dirty brass sound in there which reminded me of the house band on the various incarnations of "Saturday Night Live" over the decades.

One other piece of trivia about "Tokyo Shyness Boy" is that Hosono whipped this up as a bit of a tease against Keiichi Suzuki(鈴木慶一)of the Moonriders. Apparently, Suzuki was the type of person who would blush at the drop of a hat. As for "Bon Voyage, co.", it made it as high up as No. 76 on Oricon.


P.S. There was quite the lineup of musicians on the album: old Happy End bandmates Shigeru Suzuki and Eiichi Ohtaki (guitar and backing vocals respectively), Akiko Yano (piano), Taeko Ohnuki (backing vocals) and Hiroshi Sato (piano and clarinet) among others.

Seiko Matsuda -- Ruriiro no Chikyuu (瑠璃色の地球)


I borrowed Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)13th album, "Supreme" from a university friend back in the mid-1980s, and I think it was still the time when Seiko-chan was away from the spotlight. And of course at that time, it wasn't nearly as easy to find out about the latest news about Japanese aidoru as it is now so I was wondering whether the Queen Aidoru of the early 80s was going to make her retirement permanent.

The one song that I remembered from that album was the final track, "Ruriiro no Chikyuu" (The Bright Blue Earth). Takashi Matsumoto's(松本隆)lyrics were all about love of humanity and about what a wonderful blue ball we all live on (let's try to remember this now in the era of Brexit, ISIS and potential President Trump). Still, I couldn't quite help thinking that this ballad with all of the heartrending strings and delicate piano could have been the swan song for Seiko-chan.


Shinji Kawahara(川原伸司)was the composer behind the music here although he used his pen name of Natsumi Hirai(平井夏美)for "Ruriiro no Chikyuu". With the grand scale of the melody, I think this would have been one of the final tunes at a Seiko concert with the proverbial darkened stage and one lonely spotlight on Seiko. In keeping with the feeling that this could have been made into the goodbye song for the lass, "Ruriiro no Chikyuu" would have been to Seiko-chan as "Sayonara no Mukou Gawa"(さよならの向う側)was to the premier aidoru of the previous decade, Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵). An epic pop ballad for the young woman who was no longer an aidoru and was on the cusp of motherhood. The audience would have been going through the collective box of tissues like a hot knife through butter.

Incidentally, the above video has Seiko and daughter Sayaka Kanda(神田沙也加)doing a duet version of "Ruriiro no Chikyuu". According to J-Wiki, the ballad had been recorded during Seiko's pregnancy. Sayaka has mentioned that whenever she listens to this particular song, she gets this rather odd feeling. In any case, it is still the song that struck me as being the coda to Seiko's pure aidoru period.


Kohmi Hirose -- Groovy!


I actually have this song on Kohmi Hirose's(広瀬香美)BEST album "Love Winters" which came out in 1998 but had no idea that it had also been the first ending theme for the anime "Card Captor Sakura"(カードキャプターさくら). A few days ago, I wrote about how much I loved the second ending theme "Honey" by chihiro and then came my discovery of Hirose's contribution to this apparently iconic show.


"Groovy!" was Hirose's 13th single from September 1998, and all I can say is that "Card Captor Sakura" really liked to boogie with its music. I'm now convinced that Hirose can cure the common cold with that voice of hers. She came up with both the words and music, and as for the latter, it really does groove with that sound that had me hearkening back to another Japanese singer with cheer and voice, EPO, and some old-style poppy R&B. It's just a shame that it got no higher than No. 67 on the charts.


And look here...even Miku wants to get into the mix! Can't say I blame her! That piano and the Santana guitar gets me every time.


Tatsue Kaneda -- Hanamachi no Haha (花街の母)


It's been a fairly washoku(和食)weekend for me. Well, I have Japanese food all the time at home but what I meant was that the past couple of days have been spent with friends and colleagues enjoying the fare outside. On Friday, I met up with my fellow translators for dinner at a Okinawan-style izakaya known as Ryoji in Little Italy before going up College St. a few blocks away for further drinking at another izakaya named Hapa. I think it was the first time in over 4 years that I've actually done any sort of hashigo (barhopping...literally translated as "ladder") where J-watering holes are concerned...mind you, Friday's affair was just one rung on the ladder.


The earnest hashigo that I experienced regularly was back in my Gunma days over 25 years ago. The teachers back there could really knock them back...and I guess teaching junior high school kids can bring its own share of stress. Anyways, barhopping in the wilds of the Japanese Alps usually meant the main dinner and then a drink at an izakaya or nomiya followed by a late-night slurp of ramen or ochazuke. One time, we even went 5 stages...I don't remember much from that. However, karaoke would somehow inevitably slip itself among the rungs at one of the bars.

"Hanamachi no Haha" (Mother of the Hanamachi District) would be one of those enka songs sung at the bars. Because the teacher group on the hashigo would mostly be in their thirties and older, enka and Mood Kayo were often the genres of choice. The thing about "Hanamachi no Haha" was that it wasn't my first choice for a Tatsue Kaneda(金田たつえ)song tonight. Earlier this afternoon, I was watching NHK's "Nodo Jiman"(のど自慢)weekly song contest and heard one of the citizens try out what was probably a much later Kaneda single but couldn't find any information about it at all. So, looking at the singer's J-Wiki discography, I did see one song that picked up attention and that was "Hanamachi no Haha". And as it turned out, it is an enka that I have heard over the years without knowing the original singer or title.

Tatsue Kaneda was born and raised in Sunagawa City, Hokkaido Prefecture in 1948. And a few years following her win at a minyo-singing contest when she was an early teen, she made her way to Tokyo in 1965 at the age of 17 and ended up marrying the president of the company representing her in the same year! A couple of years later, she made her debut as a minyo singer.


However, Kaneda decided to make the genre shift to the more popular enka for which she debuted with "Hanamachi no Haha" in June 1973. Written by Shohei Mozu(もず唱平)and composed by Toshi Miyama(三山敏), the sad song is about a geisha performer who longs to be with her daughter after so many years but cannot do so due to the demands of her profession. The hanamachi mentioned in the title, by the way, refers to the geisha district of a city or town (believe me, I am no expert on the life of a geisha but this is what I've been able to pick up online so if there are any errors in the above, please let me know). Despite the gentle melody by Miyama, the lyrics gradually make it clear that the geisha has resigned herself to her lot in life and can only imagine what her daughter may be doing.

According to Kaneda's biography on J-Wiki, the lyrics also hit the singer hard in the heart. Originally, "Hanamachi no Haha" was only meant for release in the Osaka area but Kaneda felt that the story in the song resembled elements in her own life so she pushed the people around her to have this released in a much wider area. It gradually became known nationwide and 6 years later in 1979, it finally became a hit (although Kaneda had also released 18 or 19 other singles by that time) and even got her an invitation to appear on the Kohaku Utagassen for that year for the first time. By 1988, the single managed to sell over 2.5 million records.

Memorial Hall Visits Part 1: Yujiro Ishihara


Finally managed to pull myself away from the manga "Berserk" after finishing the Golden Age Arc. While I enjoy the story line and the complex main characters, I can't deny that Kentaro Miura has created something that's graphic in all sense of the word, and he seems to like drawing eyes popping out of the sockets of victims of vicious violence. It's either that or that's what really happens if one gets sliced down the head with an obscenely huge sword.

Alright, eyes flying out of eye sockets aside, I would now like to touch on the items that were of high priority on my Japan to-do list: visiting the memorial halls of Yujiro Ishihara (石原裕次郎) and Takashi Hosokawa. I've decided to split them into articles of their own since I think they may be quite long, and I'll start with the former since I went there first.


I don't remember how I came across the Ishihara Yujiro Memorial Hall, but the moment that I saw it was in Otaru, and that we would be dropping by the canal town somewhere along our itinerary, I was determined to go. After all, I wouldn't want to miss a chance to see a whole building dedicated to everyone's favourite Tough Guy.


Despite the day being rainy and starting off on the wrong foot, all the negativity got erased the moment I stood at the memorial hall's entrance and saw the words "石原裕次郎記念館". It really cheered me up. All the more when the first thing that greeted me upon entering was Hiroshi Tachi (舘ひろし)... 's cut-out. Dang, while my smile was not as wide as anticipated, my hands were grabbing on to my grey newsboy cap so tightly I thought would have torn it!

Dandy Takayama! Oh, wrong franchise...
Um... Bad-ass Hato! Oldbutstillhot.
As to why there's a "Tachi" sitting on a the "Hato bike": there's a "Seibu Keisatsu" (西部警察) area in the hall's foyer that displayed some of the show's popular character's vehicles. Standing by the iconic vehicles were cut-outs of the actors that played the respective characters. So there were also cut-outs of the cool Tetsuya Watari (渡哲也), a.k.a. Yujiro's right-hand man, beside a crazy weaponized car, and the man himself beside something sporty and more normal. Unfortunately, I don't remember the names of the vehicles as I was too enamored by their drivers/rider. Plus, other pictures of Ishihara and the gift shop had me buzzing around just this one area alone.



As mentioned, this was only at the entrance, there was a huge area in the back (that required the purchase of tickets) that showcased the popular singer-actor's professional life and personal life. No photo taking was allowed there - being the idiot I can be sometimes, I immediately forgot about that and took some photos, but deleted them out of guilt after seeing a "No Photos" sign halfway through - so I'm not able to show you guys the incredible effort that was put into documenting his life, but I can say that they even displayed his swim trunks and the labels and corks of champagne he used to drink. There was also a section that told of his love for sailing, which stemmed from his childhood, and a section on his life in Hawaii. Oh, and Yu-chan in his early days was cute.


While I do like Yujiro and hold a great deal of respect for him, somehow I wasn't as moved as I thought I'd be when wandering around his memorial hall. Poignant, yes. But not emotional. On hindsight, perhaps it was because my main motivation of going there was actually to see the Tachi cut-out, as crazy as that sounds - if you've read my articles on Mr. Dandy, you'll know why.


However, there was one part where I did sort of feel moved. And that was when I heard "Yogiri yo Konya mo Arigatou" (夜霧よ今夜も有難う) at the start of the "No Photo" zone where they were playing clips of a handful of Tough Guy's movies along with the respective movies' theme songs in a theater-like environment. Of course, there were other tunes I enjoy like "Arashi wo Yobu Otoko" (嵐を呼ぶ男) and "Ginza no Koi no Monogatari" (銀座の恋の物語), but it was "Yogiri..." that had ninjas attempting to cut onions. I guess it's as close as I could get to hearing one of my favourite songs being sung by the original singer.


When all was said and done, it was time for souvenirs at the gift shop. It was something I had been looking forward to as well because firstly, it was quite big and well-stocked, and secondly I had eyes on a cap that had Ishihara's name on it. I did get the black one, and while it is actually rather large for me despite being the smallest size, heavy, and made of a thick material, I love it. Besides that, I got a key-chain with a black and white photo of Tough Guy that I'm currently using as a bag accessory, and the "Yogiri..." single (y'know, just 'cause). Just some physical souvenirs to accompany the incredible experience.

All aboard the S.S. Yujiro!

Epilogue: While not much time was spent in Otaru, we did also visit the that iconic canal that's a must-see for those visiting the place. Well, to be frank it was kinda underwhelming; I thought it was bigger but it was rather quite picturesque. And it wasn't a complete waste either as along the waterway were 2 music plaques: the first featuring "Otaru no Hito yo" (小樽のひとよ) by Tokyo Romantica, and the second featuring "Ore no Otaru" (おれの小樽) by Yu-chan

Yeah, yeah, it's the cliche picture of the canal.





If you're wondering why Yujiro's museum is situated in Otaru rather than his birthplace of Kobe, it's because he spent his childhood in this seaside city. And I think he really liked the place as he could sail in his Yachts, one of them being the Hale Contessa, if I'm not wrong.

"He was strong-willed & innocent.
He shall give us beautiful dreams and hopes forever."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Kobukuro -- YELL (エール)


I remember when I first saw the duo Kobukuro (コブクロ) on TV. It was when they came out with their huge hit, "Tsubomi"(蕾)in the latter half of the last decade. I just saw these two fellows with a huge height differential and remarked "That guy is no singer...he's a basketball player!".

That tall fellow is Shunsuke Kuroda(黒田俊介)at 193cm or 6'4" according to Wikipedia. Nope, compared to some of the guys in the NBA or the NHL, he would be seen as just one of the guys but on Japanese telly, he might as well be Gulliver on the island of Lilliput. But digressing, his partner is Kentaro Kobuchi(小渕健太郎)and the two of them formed Kobukuro at the end of the century when they met up as street buskers in Osaka.

Kobukuro paid their dues on the indie scene for their first few years but then hit pay dirt with their first single as a major act. That was "YELL" from March 2001 and listening to it for the first time recently, the song further confirmed my impression of the duo as mellow but passionate musicians who never quite left the street despite their current fame. Thousands may be in their comfy stadium seats surrounding Kuroda and Kobuchi but I still get that feeling of a few passers-by suddenly stopping in front of the pair and giving them a good listen.


According to the J-Wiki article on "YELL", their debut single was a big hit as it peaked at No. 4 on Oricon and went Platinum in sales. Kobuchi wrote and composed the song which was used as a theme for a couple of variety programs and as a commercial tune for an insurance company. Ultimately, it became the 77th-ranked song for 2001 and it was also placed on Kobukuro's debut album "Roadmade" which was released in August that year. It hit as high as No. 6 on the album charts.


Akira Kobayashi -- Mukashi no Namae de Deteimasu (昔の名前で出ています)


It had been about 2 weeks since I caught "Uta Kon" (うたコン) since the week before I was watching a movie and getting a nice if slightly pricey yakitori dinner with a couple of old friends. But I was back in front of the screen on Tuesday night and I was quite fortunate since the partial theme for that "Uta Kon" happened to be about Yokohama. And a lot of songs about that port city are old kayo.

One song under that theme was one that I had never heard before. Titled "Mukashi no Namae de Deteimasu" (Under My Old Name), I found out that this a single by former 50s young turk Akira Kobayashi(小林旭). Now, my image of him has always been of him during his appearances on shows like "Uta Kon" as a middle-aged guy built like a proverbial wall (I'm thinking a J-Robert Mitchum) instead of his early heartthrobbing movie-star turns, and musically speaking, the song that I always associate with Kobayashi is his "Atsuki Kokoro ni"(熱き心に)from 1985.


As I mentioned in that article, "Atsuki Kokoro ni" was quite unusual in that it was neither fully enka nor fully pop. Singer-songwriter Eiichi Ohtaki(大瀧詠一)crafted this song to sound somewhat like a heroic cowboy theme for the big guy Kobayashi and it turned out to be another melodic feather in his ten-gallon cap. However, "Mukashi no Namae de Deteimasu" which was released a decade earlier in January 1975 has turned out to be his most successful song.

Written by Tetsuro Hoshino(星野哲郎)and composed by Gendai Kano(叶弦大), "Mukashi no Namae de Deteimasu" is a more traditional enka or Mood Kayo song compared to "Atsuki Kokoro ni". Again, it's one of those tunes that I couldn't really peg down to a single genre. Kobayashi sings it from the point of view of a woman...a club hostess, to be exact...pining away for a long-gone flame after years working in Yokohama, Kobe and Kyoto under different aliases. And perhaps she is saying this just to herself but she is letting her love know that she is back under the name that he had known her as.

The pining away for a lost love is a typical enka trope but it is enveloped in this Mood Kayo arrangement including the sorrowful chorus of Singers Three (I automatically thought of Yujiro Ishihara). And kayo singers crooning from the view of the opposite sex is nothing new but I'm sure a few pairs of eyes were raised when the burly Kobayashi took on this singing role.


"Mukashi no Namae de Deteimasu" was a slow burner after its release in 1975 but Kobayashi performed it in a lot of the country's various cabarets and other establishments, whether they were in the big cities or in the smaller regional towns. As a result, its fame gradually grew to the point where the song finally broke the Top 10, reaching No. 6 at its highest. In fact, it became the 5th-ranked song for 1977, 3 years after its release, and hung for another year, becoming the 60th-ranked song for 1978. It even broke the 2-million-record barrier in sales and got Kobayashi his first appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen.

To be honest, I'm starting to actually like this song even more than "Atsuki Kokoro ni" just because I'm a Mood Kayo softie at heart. As for the final video above, I just had to let viewers see Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)perform a nice version of "Mukashi no Namae" in front of the master himself. Imagine the premier aidoru of the early 80s performing a shibui Mood Kayo. Will wonders never cease?


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Yoko Kuzuya -- True Lies


I picked up this compilation CD titled "Smooth Vintage" back in 2003 just from looking at the lineup. There were indeed some smooth and groovilicious tracks including Toko Furuuchi's(古内東子)"Distance" and Masayuki Suzuki's(鈴木雅之)"Misty Mauve". It's been a long, long time since I listened to this one and a few days ago, I was happening to return one other disc back to its rightful place when I saw "Smooth Vintage" again and pulled it out. There were quite a few songs and singers that I had to re-acquaint myself with.


And that included the first song, "True Lies" by Yoko Kuzuya(葛谷葉子). Listening to it again, I mentally smacked myself upside the head, wondering why I would ever forget something this sultry and slow funky. This was Kuzuya's debut single from August 1999, a song that she composed and wrote and a song that I should be equating with some of the soul-good material from divas such as Misia, bird and Momoe Shimano(嶋野百恵).

Right from the introduction percussion and Kuzuya giving that soft howl (also love the bass, by the way), "True Lies" had me strutting my shoulders for a nice little workout in front of my computer. Her lyrics talk about a woman who's caught between a jerk boyfriend and a hard place...she hears about these terrible things about him that are most likely true but she is really hoping that they are not. It's a pretty cool way to listen to romantic distress. The song was also in her debut album "MUSIC GREETINGS VOLUME ONE" which came out in September 1999.


Maiko Ito -- Yasashii Kizuna (優しい絆)


When I was in the midst of writing up the article for that City Pop album, Makoto Matsushita's(松下誠)"The Pressures and the Pleasures" the other day, I came across this YouTube video of 1980s aidoru Maiko Ito(いとうまい子). She was performing her 6th single, "Yasashii Kizuna" (Gentle Bond) from June 1984 (almost exactly 32 years ago...those gray hairs are just growing in as I write), a song that was arranged by Matsushita. When he was not strumming away and making these urban contemporary wonder songs, he was also helping out aidoru with their tunes.


And "Yasashii Kizuna" had quite the songwriting pedigree behind it. Not only was Matsushita in there, but veteran lyricist Masao Urino(売野雅勇)was providing words and Anzen Chitai(安全地帯)vocalist Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二)made the music. Especially with Tamaki and Matsushita involved, I guess it was no surprise that the song had that certain downtown feeling along the lines of anything by Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司). In fact, there was one part of the song that sounded a bit like an old tune by Donna Summer. Nope, Ito wasn't exactly the greatest interpreter of the song but, hey, she was an aidoru and sounding a bit off-key was almost essential to be identified as that perennial Japanese teenybopper. Still, comparing her vocals to the ones she gave the only song that I had identified her with, "Aki no Hohozue"(秋のほほづえ), she did drop her voice and gave it a bit more velvet. Not bad at all.

I didn't see any Oricon rankings for the song so it probably didn't make much headway, and Ito never threatened anyone's position on the top of the aidoru leaderboard such as Seiko and Akina. However, I am glad to make the acquaintance with this particular tune and add the 2nd Ito entry to the blog.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Yosui Inoue -- Jenny My Love (ジェニーMy Love)


There was one song that I hadn't included on my article for Yosui Inoue & Anzen Chitai's (井上陽水・安全地帯)collaborative concert album "Stardust Rendezvous" and that was because I felt (and still do) that it deserved its own entry. I just thought it was that good. Having Inoue and good buddy Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二)throw out a cool blues tune sealed the deal for me.


The song is "Jenny My Love" and it wasn't an official single but a track on Inoue's 7th album, "Sneaker Dancer"(スニーカーダンサー)from September 1979. Inoue wrote and composed "Jenny My Love" seemingly as if he were truly in thrall with a lass named Jenny. The song does this slow simmer throughout its time punctuated with a few roiling boils when the line "Just walking in the rain" gets delivered and then that guitar solo sends everyone into the night sky. This would probably be a challenge for any Inoue fan/karaoke singer but the payoff would be excellent. As for "Sneaker Dancer", it went as high as No. 3 on Oricon.

I'm kinda surprised that no YouTuber has placed this song onto a video collage of Jennifer Lawrence yet. :)


Kokichi Takada/Miyuki Kagajo -- Meigetsu Sataro Gasa (名月佐太郎笠)

It may have been about 10 degrees cooler today than yesterday but I was still sweltering in my tiny room so I activated the old electric fan as I tackled my usual translations. After lunch, I decided to pull out one of the ancient 33 1/3 records and put it on the turntable. It was a set of 4 songs by Harumi Miyako(都はるみ)after which I learned that they were covers by other singers.



The last song on Side B was "Meigetsu Sataro Gasa" (Sataro in the Bamboo Hat Under the Harvest Moon...a bit long-winded, I know). There was a surprising dearth of information but what I could find out was that the above title first belonged to a historical novel written by Tatsuro Jinde(陣出達朗)in 1955 and apparently the novel was so well received that the story was adapted into a movie which came out later that same year in November. The theme song also took on the same title and was written by Naomi Matsuzaka(松坂直美)and composed by the famous Masao Koga(古賀政男).

As I said, even the J-Wiki article on "Meigetsu Sataro Gasa" which had information on the cast and technical staff had pretty much bupkiss on the actual story. But from what I could glean from Matsuzaka's lyrics, it was the ballad of that lone wolf warrior of the Tokugawa Era, Sataro, walking through the countryside and his adventures.

The star of the movie was the late actor/singer Kokichi Takada(高田浩吉)from Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture. Starting his film career in 1930 at the age of 19, he was called "The First Singing Movie Star" and so, not surprisingly, he recorded the title song for his 1955 movie. From what I could gather from the gentle melody was that he may have had a few run-ins with ruffians but otherwise, Sataro's life wasn't exactly the most traumatic of experiences.

Although his list of movies is a fair bit longer, Takada did release several songs as official singles between 1935 and 1957, and he even appeared as a performer on the Kohaku Utagassen in successive years in 1957 and 1958. He passed away in 1998 at the age of 86.


There probably have been a number of covers of the song "Meigetsu Sataro Gasa" such as by the aforementioned Miyako (which I unfortunately couldn't find on YouTube). However, I did find a cover of the ballad by enka singer Miyuki Kagajo(加賀城みゆき)who originally hailed from Ishikawa Prefecture. I don't know when her version was released although her career began in 1966 under Japan Columbia. Her version does remind me a bit of the cover that Miyako provided on that 33 1/3 record today.


Tatsuhiko Yamamoto -- Summer Holiday


It may have been "Martini Hour" on the cover but boy, the guy looks like he missed out on it by about a minute. All dressed up and now nowhere to go is how Tatsu looks.

But I digress. City Popster Tatsuhiko Yamamoto(山本達彦), who I first introduced in the annals of this blog last month with his debut single "Last Good-Bye", is really pulling on his inner Junichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一)with this peppy tune from his 2nd album "Martini Hour" from 1983 (which peaked at No. 3). In fact, I hope I'm not offending him, if in the unlikely event that he ever comes across "Kayo Kyoku Plus", but he sounds like he's doing his own version of Inagaki with "Summer Holiday".

With a melody by Yamamoto in there that seems to have popped in from "Hey Nineteen", Masami Sugiyama's(杉山政美)lyrics talk about a couple spending that wonderful and romantic time at some seaside bar with those martinis in hand. The only thing missing from this City Pop tune is the iconic plane jetting off into the sky. Considering how hot today was here in Toronto, I think "Summer Holiday" is the ideal song in the blog to commemorate the first day of the season, but the high temperature is dropping about ten degrees tomorrow. Predictably unpredictable, Toronto weather is.