A couple of weeks ago, I had been indulging in numerous episodes of the classic music program I wish was still a regular thing, "Enka no Hanamichi", as well as somewhat recent (within this decade) editions of "Nippon no Uta" on YouTube. Some were watched/listened to at work during lunch time to wind down or during times where repetitive admin work was done to prevent my face from slamming into the keyboard due to a mix of boredom and drowsiness. Others were watched and listened while training hard-to-level-up Pokemon in my second attempt at the new Pokemon Sun. Both kayo shows allowed me to revisit evergreen hits of yesteryear and uncover a few gems that I would have never known otherwise. The most notable are an obscure single by actor-singer Ryotaro Sugi, and the B-side to Harumi Miyako's (都はるみ) comeback single from 27th June 1990, "Otaru Unga" (小樽運河).
I came across "Sen'nen no Koto" from a 2010 edition of "Nippon no Uta" that featured Hiroshi Itsuki (五木ひろし) and Miyako for its "Special Stage" segment. If I'm not mistaken, the topic of love for one's hometown and the thought of warm reunions when returning was brought up, and that was subsequently used to introduce the songs the pair would be singing at that point. Since Miyako hails from Kyoto, her choice was none other than "Sen'nen no Koto", which translates to something like "City of A Thousand Years".
For a tune that revolves around Japan's former capital and that is steeped in history, I found it rather peculiar to be greeted by languid strings and horns which sounded very Western. I was expecting some shamisen or shakuhachi or koto. The koto did kick in later to add that Japanese element, but it felt more like it was sitting in the backseat of Tetsuya Gen's (弦哲也) melody when the strings and horns became more robust and eventually raucously grand. Osamu Yoshioka's (吉岡治) lyrics then has Miyako softly crooning about what could possibly be memories of growing up in Kyoto. This all gently builds up to a triumphant and almost anthem-like chorus where she proclaims about how her beloved home prefecture has remained the same despite all those years. Now that's the right song to round things up for the Red team during the 41st Kohaku. It also fared decently on the charts that would've been filled with 90's J-pop by then, peaking at 13th place on the Oricon weeklies. What a way to come back into the music scene!
While I love the contrast within "Sen'nen no Koto", one of my favourite bits of it is Miyako's vocals as it adds sentimentality to the mix. The non-enka side of her voice she uses in enka-pop songs like this and full on J-Pop tunes is actually smooth and delicate and very welcoming to my ears. It's something I hope Miyako can use a little more often so I can look forward to something more than just her as cute character alone. In the mean time, I'm slowly (ever so slowly) getting used to her trademark enka trill (at long last!).
Here is Korean enka singer, Kim Yeon-ja's (キム・ヨンジャ) take on "Sen'nen no Koto" on Itsuki's music show to wrap things up. It was during a tribute segment that featured Miyako and Kim did an amazing job... but I'm still a fan of the original. In my opinion, another singer that could most likely carry this song well also is Kaori Mizumori (水森かおり).