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.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Hiroshi Itsuki -- Noren (暖簾)

It seems that being completely idle is not something I enjoy doing, even though it's well-deserved after three years of school (Polytechnic). I always feel that I should be doing something productive and not rolling around at home 24/7, and so I finally accepted the offer to work part time at the local Marutama (Dining) after a couple of weeks since my school's attachment ended.

With this being the first time working in the F&B line, I have to say that it was definitely unnerving during the first few days. On the plus side, I feel like I'm beginning to settle into the working environment, and encountering strange characters who patronize the restaurant is particularly amusing - I've yet to see those with more, as my coworkers say, "patterns" though. The most exhausting bit, however, would have to be working the full day shift with about two hours of break time splitting the lunch and dinner shift, and I have learnt to heed the advice to have some shuteye during that period. While doing so I would plug in some enka/kayo to wind down, and one song I've been going to for that is Hiroshi Itsuki's (五木ひろし) "Noren".

Noren refers to those little curtains that hang at the entrance of shops. There aren't any noren at Marutama, but there are noren at the izakaya featured in the song. Written by singer-songwriter Ryuun Nagai (永井龍雲), "Noren" is your typical enka where a lonely fellow drinks away his pain at, as J-Canuck would say, at the local watering hole. But as to how the curtains come into play here - it could be that it represents the gateway to a place of solace and comfort to those down in the dumps. The music that accompanies is mellow with an oriental touch from the husky shakuhachi and the tinkling of the koto, then there's those smooth but sometimes dramatic strings that gives a nice and cozy feeling - like being in a warm, hole-in-the-wall bar? Finally we've got Itsuki's tender vocals to make "Noren" a comfortable tune to calm those frazzled nerves.

In the video above is the acoustic version of "Noren" on an "Enka no Hanamichi" special that looks quite recent. It's also where I first discovered it - despite the intimidating kanji, a thumbnail with Itsuki playing the guitar in an izakaya set on "Enka no Hanamichi" is good enough a reason to check it out. Over here, "Noren" is a little more folky than the original, but it sounds like what you'd actually hear at the bar from a lone performer.

"Noren" was released on 13th September 1989 and in that same year he performed it on the 40th Kohaku. A new version came out about a year later in 1990. While it was featured on the Kohaku, "Noren" didn't occur to me as one of Itsuki's smash hits that would often be sung on TV, so I was really glad to hear it on "Uta Kon" a couple of weeks ago.

Here's the creator's own version of "Noren". Nagai's voice is delicate, but objectively speaking, I prefer Itsuki's rendition with a deeper voice.

Well, there isn't an Itsuki calendar for this year - so no bombarding you guys with monthly Itsukis, and I didn't get the Mae-Kiyo one either. However, I did get a normal (for once) one featuring the 18th generation Mamesuke (豆助), a black and tan shiba inu puppy, as a birthday present last year.


  1. Hi, Noelle. I hope the job has been going well for you. Let's say that my few days in the food service industry did not go very well for me so I have a lot of respect for any veterans there.

    Listening to Itsuki's rendition and reading your article, the old American sitcom "Cheers" came to mind...that place where everyone knows your name. The reason I enjoyed and cherished "Enka no Hanamichi" so much was that no matter whether the setting was a rustic hole-in-the-wall or a high-class skyscraper bar, the designers made the drinking establishment very comfortable and inviting for the singers to perform. Hopefully, Marutama is that sort of place as well.

    Such a place for us was Kuri, that old karaoke joint from my time in the 80s. I don't get out nearly as much as I used to so I don't really have such a place anymore.

    Yep, I would go with Itsuki's rendition. His delivery has got the same body as a fine bottle of wine.

    Oh, by the way, looks like you've gotten a couple of admirers according to the last couple of comments to you. :)

    1. Hi J-Canuck.

      Thanks; the job's been going OK for now and the staff are generally nice people. But dang, it can get quite dizzying when the weekend crowd or the working crowd swarm - and we only have 14 tables! I can only imagine what it's like to work those large restaurants - probably hell. Where did you work at during those few days in this line of work?

      Actually, you could say that this Marutama outlet I'm in is a place where everyone knows your name. There's lots of regular customers - both local and Japanese - and I've already begun to remember their faces... not names though.

      Admirers? Cool. :) But just making sure that I've checked out those comments - they're from C&A's "LOVE SONG" and Nissy's "Mada Kimi..." articles, right? I tend to not be able to notice comments on older articles unless I have the time to look through those posts.

    2. Hi, Noelle.

      I'm sure things must have been fairly hairy for you in the first few shifts but it sounds like you've been getting nicely accustomed to your job.

      Back in 1985, I was asked to help out at this teppanyaki place for a few days at least. But I simply wasn't very good at it and didn't enjoy myself at all. Plus it didn't help that the management was also not particularly well versed in the trade either. Not surprisingly, it didn't last too long.

      I also found a comment for your "Memorial Hall Visits Part 2: Takashi Hosokawa" article. You received a pretty long and happy comment from a fellow Hosokawa fan. :)

    3. Hi J-Canuck.

      Thanks for the notice and for sharing your work experience.

      For the former, I enjoy getting comments like that. They kinda assure you that you're on the right track, and also you get to see others who have that same passion towards the music/singer as you... It's nice. I do hope the commenter gets to see my late reply though.

    4. Exactly why I started up the blog in the first place, and I've been able to meet with some very nice people from all over the planet because of it. :)

      Oh, I'm pretty sure that Francium has gotten some notice about your reply. I don't think it's even been a week since she first made the comment.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.