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, June 18, 2017

Saburo Kitajima -- Ginza no Shousuke-san (銀座の庄助さん)

I may have learned how to drink in Japan but that didn't mean I ever became a great lover of imbibing. Therefore, it's a bit of a wonder that I managed to survive the social circuit in my adopted nation all those years, but I'd like to put it to down to a very understanding group of colleagues and friends along with a palate that simply preferred sweets far over alcohol.

Thus, the bars of Ginza barely saw me darken their thresholds. In fact, I barely remember one place in the neighbourhood that I went to, and that was because some of our corporate students had wanted to take a few of us teachers for drinks after successfully completing a course. One of the peppier lads was interested in trying out a Western-style cocktail for the first time, and so one of us suggested a Grasshopper...basically a liquid chocolate mint. He ordered one, gulped it down and the drink basically took him for a spin for the next few hours. Luckily, he wasn't too heavy to carry.

If I'm not in error, this article is the 2nd Ginza-based writing in as many days. But today, I was watching NHK's "Nodo Jiman"(のど自慢)on which one fellow sang one of Saburo Kitajima's(北島三郎)earlier songs from 1963, "Ginza no Shousuke-san" (Shousuke-san of Ginza).

I thought it rather interesting since my whole impression of Sabu-chan was that he was the enka king of all music out in the rough wilderness or ocean. He was the earthy blue-collar guy throwing out nets or hewing wood in the forest. Never thought that the Hokkaido native would sing an enka about the tony district of Ginza, which I had always assumed would be the environment for all things Mood Kayo.

Still, to adapt an old phrase, you can take the guy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the guy. And Kitajima's "Ginza no Shousuke-san" might take place in a very ritzy spot in Tokyo but it sounds like this Shousuke-san still has this country bumpkin air as this interloper from the regions who has made it a habit to barhop all over the area. Not sure through the song how Shousuke has been treated: is he this hail-fellow-well-met or this barely tolerated barfly who spreads out the cash through his visits? But perhaps it is this uncertainty that is the point; it's about Shousuke and his oblivious fun and no one else as long as the flow of booze lasts.

I couldn't find any videos with Kitajima himself singing the song so perhaps the fans may not consider "Ginza no Shousuke-san" as one of his major legacies to enka but I did find the two videos here done by other folks through karaoke or cover versions. Tatsumi Miyake(三宅立美wrote the lyrics while Shousuke Ichikawa(市川昭介)came up with the happy-go-lucky melody under the pseudonym of Yutaka Izumi(いづみゆたか). I'm not sure whether Ichikawa went with the fake name just to avoid folks having to wonder whether the Shousuke in the song was Shousuke the composer, although the kanji are completely different.


  1. Well, this isn't something you'd see everyday... Sabu-Chan in the uramachis of Ginza. Like you, I equate Grandpa Enka to the gruffer side of enka where the sea or a mountain is the focus of the song, and not so much of the Mood Kayo-y drinking in a little bar in the middle of the city.That being said, I was equally as surprised to hear a traditional-sounding score with the jaunty shamisen instead of the lonely blare of the sax.

    At this point in time, I don't think I'll ever be much of a drinker. After that clubbing incident last year (I think), I'm quite afraid to touch any beverage with an alcohol content 5% and over, even if it happens to be chocolate mint, lest I end up going for another unpleasant spin...

    1. Yeah, although I can't really see Kitajima singing about the bright lights and big city of Tokyo all that often, I'm pretty sure that he has personally experienced some leisure time in the Ginza/Akasaka clubs.

      Never became much of a drinker in all my years there. For some reason, I never considered the taste of alcohol to be all that appealing. I can drink down beer...slowly...but if I have to drink something that I would like it will be those cocktails with the cute umbrellas in them. :)

    2. For beer, the maximum I was able to take before turning as red as a lobster was...between a third or half of a 300ml can, and that's already by drinking it slowly. I also found that its taste became revolting after that point.

      I think I'll just stick to a simple juice or mocktails, and I'd like those little umbrellas too!


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