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.