For years, on our family forays of Japanese TV via videotape, one of the familiar figures on the kayo shows was the enka singer Mieko Makimura（牧村三枝子）. I haven't seen her in decades but on the videos of "Enka no Hanamichi"（演歌の花道）and any of the music shows that NHK put out, she was always out there. Of course back then, I wasn't into enka or Mood Kayo like I am now so it was just the name and the fact that she sang enka tunes that I remember.
So I decided to take a look at her discography on J-Wiki. And I found her 12th single, "Michizure" (Traveling Companion) from October 1978. The Hokkaido native made her debut in 1972 and several years later, she encountered this song that actor Tetsuya Watari（渡哲也）had released a few years earlier. She basically begged him directly for the chance to record it as a single and obviously her efforts bore fruit.
"Michizure" doesn't refer to traveling partners. It's actually a love proposal from man to woman so that they can become partners for life. It certainly hit a soft spot among listeners as it broke the Top 10 to peak at No. 8 and eventually become the 9th-ranked single for 1979. The ballad hung on for another year to finish at No. 62. Not surprisingly, it won a Japanese Record Award for being a long-seller and sold over a million records. The song is quite tenderhearted and I get images of a couple in traditional garb walking slowly over an arched vermilion bridge, and it is there that the man professes his love to his lady.
A few years in 1981, Makimura made her debut on NHK's Kohaku Utagassen with "Michizure". It would be her first of four consecutive appearances on the show.
Written by Kaoru Mizuki（水木かおる）and composed by Minoru Endo（遠藤実）, Watari had released the original "Michizure" in November 1975. His version has a pretty pleasant low and rolling delivery but his voice keeps things within a relatively narrow range compared to the delicateness that Makimura has. So perhaps it didn't quite make as much of an impression, peaking at just No. 55 on the charts. However, sales weren't too bad for him at all; his single was able to sell around 200,000 records.
Ironically enough, Makimura would make her 2nd appearance on the Kohaku in 1982 singing "Kuchinashi no Hana"（くちなしの花）, another Watari original.