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.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Ichiro Fujiyama & Keiko Arai -- Olympic no Uta (オリンピックの歌)

Although I do like my enka tunes, I can't say that I am an experienced observer of that genre in the Japanese music industry. However, my feeling is that singer Kohei Fukuda(福田こうへい)is looking more and more like the heir apparent to the late great Haruo Minami(三波春夫), and perhaps others are, too. Fukuda has been on the Kohaku Utagassen 3 times as of this date, and the last couple of times including the broadcast a few nights ago, he sang "Tokyo Gorin Ondo"(東京五輪音頭), a staple in Minami's long discography. And I fully expect that he will do so again at the actual opening ceremonies of the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

Of course, there have been other Olympic-themed kayo over the decades. One other example is "Olympic no Uta" (The Olympic Song) as sung by Ichiro Fujiyama(藤山一郎)and fellow singer Keiko Arai(荒井恵子)who had her 15 minutes in the spotlight during the 1950s. It's a proud march that I could see the former doing in his sleep.

I've often called lyricist Yu Aku(阿久悠)the Irving Berlin of Japanese songwriting but I remember when Berlin himself appeared in the 1943 movie "This is the Army" as this lowly private singing "Oh, How I Hate To Get Up in the Morning". Berlin gave his humourous take on the army life but there was no doubt about how much he loved America. Whenever Fujiyama sang tunes like his trademark "Tokyo Rhapsody"(東京ラプソディ)and "Olympic no Uta", I also got that same feeling from him about Japan that Berlin had about the USA.

"Olympic no Uta" was released in 1952 and was created by Kazuyuki Yamada and Shinichi Takata(山田千之・高田信一). When I saw that release date, I was a bit confused since Fujiyama was quite clear about his hopes of a Tokyo Games in the lyrics but as it turned out, the song was used as part of the campaign for Japan's participation in the 1952 Helsinki Games. Tokyo wouldn't get official approval to hold its own Olympics until 1959 with the actual Games being held in October 1964.

Unlike "Tokyo Gorin Ondo" which has all the raucous fun of a Japanese summer festival, "Olympic no Uta" is more in the "let's-stand-up-straight-and-tall" vein of being proud of the country. If Fujiyama were still around today and performing on the Kohaku, he would be standing dead centre on the Shibuya stage with a hundred-strong high school chorus backing him up. I couldn't quite imagine anyone quite encapsulating his persona right now but perhaps Kiyoshi Hikawa(氷川きよし)might thanks to his earnestness. As it was though, Fujiyama did have his opportunity to sing "Olympic no Uta" at the 2nd Kohaku Utagassen in that same year of 1952.

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