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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ai & Aki/Hiroshi Kano & Hiroko Hattori -- Roppongi Atari (六本木あたり)

The above photo shows the escalator heading up to Roppongi Hills. I think it's been about a decade since this huge commercial complex made its presence known as this huge hunk of modernity in what was once perceived as a somewhat faded area of bars, clubs and discos. Since then, another major mall has opened up not too far away called Tokyo Midtown and so there have been some new visitor streams flowing into this particular area of the megalopolis.

I've been to both malls fairly often, especially Roppongi Hills since I used to teach one of my students in a 4th floor cafe on Mondays there and also because there's a major cineplex. There is also a major bookstore that I dropped in on as well and I used to frequent the Burger King in the basement below that store. Sometimes in the evenings, my friends and I also went down into the Old Roppongi area on the main drag to have dinner at the Tony Romas or the Hard Rock Cafe. And no, I never hit any of the clubs or discos there (and that includes the notorious Gas Panic) since drinking was never my thing and I hung up my dance shoes years ago. Halloween was always interesting since there were plenty of costumed folks walking up and down the street, and that was even before the holiday became the huge event it has now become.

Considering how I've seen Roppongi over the last several years, I simply can't see the neighbourhood as being conducive for Mood Kayo now. Maybe there's a bit more of a rock vibe or even classical music when it comes to Roppongi Hills, so I guess the song I'm going to talk about here is a time capsule of sorts since it hearkens back to an age when the old nightclubs and bars held sway during the really good ol' days of Japan's economic boom.

Earlier tonight, I caught the usual episode of "Uta Kon" (うたコン) on TV Japan after which I started perusing for some Mood Kayo that I hadn't heard, and after sampling a number of songs, I came across this frisky number. And providence was indeed smiling upon me. It just happened to be a song that I had once taped on one of my cheap and ancient Canadian Tire Mastercraft cassettes from an episode of "Sounds of Japan" on CHIN-FM only to stupidly erase the thing by accident. I never remembered the title or the singers behind it. But the melody stayed with me all these decades and I amazing re-acquainted with it. The same happy re-discovery occurred with a Kenji Sawada(沢田研二)single from that same tape a few years ago.

The title is "Roppongi Atari" (Around Roppongi), and the original version was released in 1981. Further intriguing me was the fact that there has been some mystery surrounding the song as I've discovered. For one thing, it apparently never became a huge hit but it's remained a popular tune to tackle at the karaoke boxes. And why not? As I said, it's an especially perky Mood Kayo composed by Hikaru Taketani(武谷光)with a nice combo of twinkly keyboards and purring guitars. Plus the lyrics by Sanetomo/Maya/Machi/Minori Ikeda池田真知 many readings for that given name)and Katsumi Mineo(峰尾勝己)have the young lovers painting the town red in the titular area.

But that's not the main mystery. I thought it would just be a simple matter of identifying the singers in this duet. However, I could barely find any information on the duo of Ai & Aki (あい&AKI). There was nothing listed in J-Wiki and it took me a number of minutes through the search engines before I could get even a smidgen of data on who these folks were, and even that wasn't absolute concrete. However, according to this Japanese-language blog, Aki is supposedly this actor Akihiro Shimizu(清水昭博); he does have a J-Wiki entry but there is no mention of him recording "Roppongi Atari". The female half of the duo is a singer, Ai Mizugi (みずぎあい), who had debuted in 1977 with Japan Victor. The blog entry also states that Mizugi had been in a race alongside her contemporaries including Mizue Takada(高田みづえ)and Ikue Sakakibara(榊原郁恵)for Best Newcomer.

A couple of years later in 1983, the duo apparently re-recorded "Roppongi Atari" under a new name, Ai & Yu(あい&優).

Its staying power was such that another duo gave it another try in 1994. This time, it was a couple of enka singers Hiroshi Kano(加納ひろし)and Hiroko Hattori(服部浩子)who sang "Roppongi Atari" with a slightly different arrangement although the energy of having a crazy time in the titular area was still there.

With less than a week to go before I reach the 5th anniversary of "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I had been wondering about why I've been continuing all this. Solving the mystery of this song gave me one prime reason right here. And there are still a few other long-lost songs that I've yet to unearth from my memories again. The adventure continues!

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