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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Masao Suzuki/Michiya Mihashi -- Tankō Bushi(炭坑節)

This article is a sequel of sorts to my talk with my new friend, Aja, who has been practicing Japanese dance for years, Yesterday, she sent me a list of various songs that she has known, and one of them was "Tanko Bushi" (Coal Mine Melody). Now that song rang a whole lot of memory bells since I've not only heard the classic minyo but I've actually danced to it.

Let me explain. 30 years ago when I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, the Japanese-Canadian Students' Association (as it was called back then) had just begun its time at the St. George Campus in downtown Toronto. Not long after its genesis, we heard an advertisement for some cultural festival that was to be held, and I believe one of the components was a demonstration of the world's dances. So, one of our more effervescent members, Yoko, who had experience in dance, wanted to get a small group together to demonstrate Japan's "Tanko Bushi". My good friend, Laura, (who introduced me to Aja), myself and a few others decided to take part and so we learned how to dance it in the large common room of the residence where Yoko had lived. And the dance was practiced as how you see it above in the training video.

Somehow our motley crew got our act together and when the dance demonstration was done at the main auditorium of the Medical Sciences Building, we not only did it but we did it a second time inviting members of some of the other dance troupes. It worked out pretty well but I distinctly remember (and felt) the participating member of the Jewish Students' Union accidentally smacking me in the knees during the second run. No offense taken, though, obviously.

"Tanko Bushi" was originally recorded back in 1932. According to Wikipedia, the most popular version was the one recorded by minyo singer Masao Suzuki(鈴木正夫), although it didn't state whether Suzuki's take was the very first recording (his career lasted from 1931 to his death in 1961). It is, though, the recording that our JCSA group followed.

The minyo is known as a folk song from Fukuoka Prefecture and at this time, it is said to have originated in the city of Tagawa with the lyrics referring to the old Miike Coal Mine. As for those lyrics and the melody, I couldn't find any record of who created the song unfortunately.

From what I've read, there have been a number of variations on "Tanko Bushi", so I'm sure enka and other kayo singers over the last century and into this one have given their renditions. The legendary Michiya Mihashi(三橋美智也)gave his contribution in 1956 according to the description under the above YouTube video with Kikutaro Takahashi(高橋掬太郎)providing some more lyrics and Toshiro Yamaguchi(山口俊郎)giving perhaps a more mellower enka-like feeling to the proceedings. Perhaps it can still be danced to.

Anyways, I'm providing the translation for the song below. It comes straight from the Wikipedia article on "Tanko Bushi".

The moon, has come out,
Oh, the moon is out, heave ho
Over Miike Coal Mine has the moon come out.
The chimney is so high,
I wonder if the moon chokes on the smoke...
Heave Ho!


  1. I made it into the blog!

    IMO, the Masao Suzuki version is the best to dance to.

    1. Welcome aboard! And yep, I would agree with that.


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