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.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Yuko Hara -- Hanasaku Tabiji (花咲く旅路)

When I wrote about that huge group effort spearheaded by Tomita Lab for "Kono Yo wa Fushigi" (この世は不思議) the other day, I hadn't realized that this was the first time to have singer-songwriter-musician Yuko Hara(原由子)in the blog as a soloist. She was always in there as a member of Southern All Stars with her husband, vocalist Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐)but not on her own. And I know that she did have at least one tremendous hit back in my Gunma days.

And it all started with a series of JR Tokai ads from the beginning of 1991. The ads had people doing their everyday things but with the soothing narrator suggesting about taking that relaxing trip at somewhat unusual times or days such as heading out in the afternoon or coming back home on a Monday. Of course, the good folks at Japan Railways were more than happy to lend a hand. But what brought everything together was the campaign song crooned by none other than Hara herself. I remember those commercials very well.

The song is "Hanasaku Tabiji" (A Journey of Blossoms) which was written and composed by Kuwata for Hara's solo album "Mother". Released in June 1991, it had quite the lead-in single with this song which had a bit of Okinawan in there. The only thing was that to my surprise it had never been released as a single; it was included as a mere track albeit a track that had already gotten its fair share of acclaim.

For "Hanasaku Tabiji", the comforting and countryside vocals of Hara and that hint of Okinawan music must have provided the tonic for a lot of ears, and perhaps JR made some good money out of the venture in terms of ridership. It even earned the singer an invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen that year.

"Mother" was a Double Platinum album getting as high as No. 4 on the Oricon weeklies and ending up as the 20th-ranked album of the year. The Japan Record Awards also gave it a Best Album prize.

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