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, October 27, 2017

Miku Hatsune/Wagakki Band -- Senbonzakura(千本桜)

Ah, yes...cherry blossom season. It's the beloved time of year in spring when the sakura come out in full bloom, and the populace celebrates it by amassing under the spreading cherry trees in various parks and other natural areas through the custom of o-hanami. Of course, there is the flip side of things which involve the newbies in a company having to clamp down a spot of prime real estate under a tree for several hours in chilly weather before the rest of the folks come after work. Also, o-hanami means lots of drinking which means often enough a lot of angry/overly happy/exhibitionist drunks. I've witnessed examples of some of those.

I had my share of o-hanami experiences during my time in Tokyo. Most of them were fine but in my early years at the Ueno branch of NOVA, the staff and I had to literally swat off several homeless sots from our area in Ueno Park as they tried to cadge alcohol from us by grubbily spitting out greetings like "" It didn't take long before we decided to pack up and hit an izakaya instead.

Anyways earlier in the summer, I wrote about "Tabiji Yoiyoi Yume Hanabi"(旅路宵酔ゐ夢花火), the song with the mouthful of a title by the anime-based band Tsurezurenaru Ayatsuri Mugenan(徒然なる操り霧幻庵)from "Show By Rock". I mentioned that this fusion of enka and rock was an example of wagakki music in which bands populated by artists blast away on shamisen and shakuhachi as much as they do on electric guitars and bass.

Perhaps I may have been a bit premature in my nomenclature. Wagakki Band(和楽器バンド)is the live-action group performing this new Japanese fusion of genres but in J-Wiki, the group has been classified as J-Pop, hard rock, heavy metal, alternative rock, progressive rock, folk rock and heavy metal...but there is no sign of enka in there and no mention of wagakki. From what I've read so far, it looks like Wagakki Band may be the only official unit to shred shamisen.

According to the Wikipedia entry, Wagakki Band launched in 2013 as a group bringing together Vocaloid songs, traditional Japanese instruments and a rock sensibility. Apparently, they exploded on the scene through their video of the song "Senbonzakura" a few years back.

I translated the title into "A Thousand Cherry Trees" but according to J-Wiki once more, senbonzakura refers to the blossoming of cherry trees on Mt. Yoshino in Nara Prefecture and by association, any famous place known for a huge blanket of sakura during the season. Whatever the case may be, although I don't think I will ever become a dedicated fan of wagakki (yep, I did say that the genre may not officially exist but I will still use it here), "Senbonzakura" is pretty magnetic especially seeing Wagakki Band perform. It's almost like listening to the most traditional of enka music injected with a high-octane action film.

The song was a track on Wagakki Band's debut album from April 2014, "Vocalo Zanmai"(ボカロ三昧...Vocaloid Samadhi)which peaked at No. 5. Up to this point, the band has released 5 singles and 3 albums. You can learn more about the 8-piece group at Wikipedia and at their own website.

However, Wagakki Band's "Senbonzakura" is a cover of the original released in September 2011 by Vocaloid Miku Hatsune(初音ミク), done up as a straight pop-rock number. It is available on the album "jubeat (jubeat saucer)". The song was written and composed by Vocaloid music writer Kurousa-P(黒うさP).

For a few years now, my anime buddy has been mirthfully telling me that enka singer Sachiko Kobayashi(小林幸子)has been surprising and/or delighting everybody from enka fans to anime enthusiasts recently due to her participation in the various sub-cultures. She performed "Senbonzakura" to mark her return after 4 years to the Kohaku Utagassen in 2015 in a special guest capacity. The above, though, is not the Kohaku.

Well, whether wagakki does become its own genre or not, it will be interesting to see if some form of it gets into the Opening Ceremonies for the 2020 Games.


  1. Speaking about Enka, how surreal/incomprehensible can the lyrics be? Because until now most of Wagakki Band's songs, or a lot of Vocaloid songs for that matter, have very strange lyrics to them - it is like they are celebrating madness, hysteria, and emptiness.

    1. Hi again!

      It would depend on the individual songwriter of course, but from my experience, I've usually seen enka lyrics as something describing emotional events such as recovering from a lost romance or battling the weather while manning a fishing boat at sea. For something like madness and hysteria, that would sound like something more punk.


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