I was watching NHK News this morning when I heard that the Yujiro Ishihara Memorial Hall（石原裕次郎記念館）was to be closed as of today. It seems like declining attendance and a building that was starting to feel its age were the reasons behind it. To be honest, I wasn't sure when I would ever get the opportunity to head up to Otaru, Hokkaido where it is located but it's a pity that I definitely will not be able to take a look in it now.
Fortunately, though, one of our collaborators, Noelle Tham, was able to visit it last year so she was kind enough to write an article about it which you can read. I hope that she isn't taking the news too hard.
Today, I will be covering one of the Tough Guy's earlier songs, "Minato" (Port) from 1960. I think Noelle is more of the Yujiro expert than I am, but now that I've been doing the blog and covering some of Ishihara's songs, I've started to form some impressions about his music during the decades from the 1950s to the 1980s.
I got to know Ishihara first through his 1970s balladry with the lush arrangement...his songs then almost seemed to be surrounded by cigarette smoke and whiffs of brandy. But his earlier works when he was still quite the lean and mean guy sometimes tended to smell of cold sea air. "Minato" has that air about it.
I was struck by composer Hiroshi Kuji's（久葱ひろし）determined yet plodding rhythm which kinda takes this Mood Kayo away from the swinging nightclubs to the dark alleyways to the titular port. There is something rather resigned about the feeling evoked here. And Ikuo Shibuya's（渋谷郁夫）lyrics have Ishihara mourning about another lost love while weaving plenty of his own mood ranging from the crushing feelings of love he had to the lowering fog to the hometown that now has nothing for him. This is not a happy man. The whole thing sounds as if he is marching to his own execution...pretty dramatic for a harbour.
Perhaps that may be the collective feeling for a lot of Ishihara fans right now as the biggest institution of their hero closes for the final time. However, although I'm not an optimist by any stretch of the imagination, Otaru isn't exactly the most central location for a museum dedicated to a singer who has fans not just in Japan but all around the world. Maybe if some enterprising fellow opts to build a Ishihara Museum in Tokyo, all those artifacts and fans can still get together happily. In any case, I'm just glad that the memorial hall up in Hokkaido could at least celebrate the 30th anniversary of his passing earlier this summer before the curtains finally fall.