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, February 23, 2017

Kyu Sakamoto -- Ano Ko no Namae wa Nanten kana (あの娘の名前はなんてんかな)

I've spoken a number of times about some of the so-called long-lost songs in the mists of my memories...those old kayo that I used to hear but never knew their singers or titles. However, certain excerpts of it have stuck in my brain since forever. Well, last night, another mystery was solved after decades, and all I had to do was flip the side of a 45" which has one of the most internationally famous songs from Japan.

I found my father's old single record of the "Sukiyaki" song from 1961 by the late Kyu Sakamoto(坂本九)and played it on the TEAC. Of course, all the nostalgia and wistfulness flowed through me like The Force in Luke Skywalker. Then, I flipped it to the B-side and saw this really long title "Ano Ko no Namae wa Nanten kana" (What is the Name of That Woman?) before giving this one a chance.

Well, as soon as the needle hit the vinyl, and those first bars came through, my long-term memory engrams exploded in recognition. It was one of my lost boys coming back to roost in my brain. I remembered those frenetic violins and the rest of that old-style brassy orchestra flying away as this high-pitched voice collaborated to create what sounded like a really upbeat song that could have been a showstopping Broadway piece midway through the musical.

Instead "Ano Ko no Namae wa Nanten kana" was a short comical number partnered with one of the most famous if bittersweet kayo in Japanese music history. It was definitely a tough act to follow which might explain why it hasn't gotten much attention all these years. But it was still Sakamoto, it was still created by the same songwriters behind "Sukiyaki", Hachidai Nakamura and Rokusuke Ei(中村八大・永六輔), and it's still fun to listen to.

Basically, Kyu is singing about a fellow who falls for some lady while seeing the back of her from a distance, presumably in some department store for reasons that will become evident within a few sentences. As those hearts flutter around the suddenly heads-over-heels lad, he starts wondering what she would way at any courtship attempts and, more importantly, he also takes a shot at figuring out what her name is. Is it Hanako? Midori? Misasa? The sky's the limit. And by the end of the song, he finally gets the gumption to approach the lass...only to find out it's a mannequin! Hey, I'm not judging here.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any actual stage performances of "Ano Ko no Namae wa Nanten kana" on YouTube but I would think that it would have had to have been performed on TV since I could easily envision a comical rendition with matching choreography. When I still just had that excerpt of the song in memory all those years, I had assumed it was actually Kiyoko Suizenji(水前寺清子)because of the sharp high voice and just the really happy nature of the song.

Now I can happily cross another long-lost song off my list and proudly consider it found.😃


  1. I understand about the memories; I remember pestering my mom to play "Sukiyaki" over and over in the diner jukebox :) Question: a lot of Japanese wax is colored; I have red, dark red, white, picture discs ....... even "Valentine Kiss" on yellow (never seen it on - hello - RED ?!). Do you know what the philosophy was as to what and when to issue on colored vinyl? A lot of Kayama Yuzo was issued as colored, and kids records / anime (a bit more understandable). Any thoughts as to the significance ?

    1. Hello, T-cat.

      The copy of "Sukiyaki/Ano Ko no Namae wa Nanten kana" that I have is actually red. And from what I read on J-Wiki about Kokusho's "Valentine Kiss" is that it even said that the first edition of the single came out on yellow without any reason given.

      I actually tried to find the reason and apparently one such reason is that record companies wanted to have their artists' works stand out more, although like you, I don't quite understand why "Valentine Kiss" would come out in yellow instead of red. You can take a look at the article here:

      So far, among the 45" collection, I've got mostly black but a few reds (wine?).

      Good heavens! Did your local diner jukebox have "Sukiyaki"? That would be amazing!

    2. The early 60's were a good time for music: we had Sukiyaki from Japan, Millie Small from Jamaica, everything from England, Motown, and still "oldies". Sukiyaki got a lot of airplay down here by New York. Got to say the finest picture disc I've seen is もしもタヌキが世界にいたら・ユミ not to mention a very soothing listen (both versions).

    3. Motown is definitely one genre that has been a fine legacy from the 1960s. I still remember hearing "Stop in the Name of Love" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" as a toddler.

      Japan embraced some of the US bobbysoxer pop and country during the 1960s, and of course Group Sounds were all about following The Beatles and other bands from American and England.


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