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.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Miyako Otsuki -- Haha Koi Shamisen (母恋三味線)

Enka singer Miyako Otsuki(大月みやこ)is most likely recognized as one of the grande dames of the genre but there is surprisingly not a whole lot of information about her on J-Wiki outside of her discography. There is a nice website devoted to her, though.

From what I've read is that she was born Setsuko Wakita(脇田節子)(although that first name has a number of different readings) in 1946 in Osaka. Her stage name originated from a famous record shop in that city called Otsuki Gakkiten(大月楽器店...Otsuki Music Shop)with someone throwing in the first name of Miyako. She's been releasing records since 1964 up to the present day but it wasn't until 1986 that she finally got her chance to get onto the Kohaku Utagassen, and this was for a single that had become a hit for her three years earlier, "Onna no Minato"(女の港...The Harbour of a Woman).

However, let's go back to the beginning here. I was going through my Doraemon's Pocket that is the Canada Dry bag of enka 45s when I came across the original record of Otsuki's debut from June 1964, "Haha Koi Shamisen" (Shamisen of a Mother's Love). She had just turned 18 when she sang this very sad song about a young woman, perhaps not that much older than Otsuki herself, working somewhere on the back streets of Tokyo, while her mother is pining for her back in the ol' hometown.

Written by Yukio Tanaka(たなかゆきを)and composed by Eiichi Kawakami(川上英一), perhaps the song could be relatable to anyone who had left their homes in the countryside to work in the big city in the 1950s and 1960s. And maybe looking at the karaoke video below, the woman of note in the lyrics didn't necessarily have to be a shamisen performer but someone working in any of the establishments within those back streets. The feelings of loneliness and pangs for family and home are pretty strong. Incidentally, in the video above, it is Otsuki and Ichiro Toba(鳥羽一郎)doing the duet of the song.

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