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.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Music Plaques, Music Plaques Everywhere

As mentioned in my Wakadaisho museum article, I was also in Japan for about a week and a half in the earlier half of this month. During that span of time, I managed to visit a few plaques dedicated to kayokyoku, and so I would like to share what I got to see.

Could only get that one bit of it on camera.
I shall begin with the first location, the millennia-old Yatate no Sugi (矢立の杉) in the mountains of Kuronoda Village, somewhere in Yamanashi's Koshu region. I can thank Ryotaro Sugi (杉良太郎) for the tip via his song of the same name for this attraction that's far off the beaten track. Well, it fulfilled Dad's hopes of natural environments, peace and quiet, and no rowdy tourists, that's for sure. In fact, we were the only people there. It was quite refreshing to take in the crisp, fresh air there, and it was a magnificent sight to see this enormous tree standing above its friends that were all tiny and skinny in comparison. That makes me wonder how does this compare to the Jomon Sugi in Yakushima much further down south. There is a legend about how samurai would shoot arrows into the tree for good luck in battle eons ago which I've talked about in my article on the song a while back, so you can check it out here.

For the plaque, there was a crank machine beside it that you had to turn 20 times to get background information on it (in Japanese) or Sugi's "Yatate no Sugi". I went for the latter to get the beautiful song reverberating through the forest. There were quite a bit of emotions bubbling around in me when Sugi sang the lines from "Tabibito yo..." to the end of the stanza. I suppose it was because I was actually there and, well, I am a traveler from foreign lands who had made it all the way to Koshu's Sasago Toge, to the tree that Sugi had recommended to visit when one was drained... I was glad to have gone there. Would've loved to hear the whole song there as the second stanza is what I can better relate to, but the machine was on the temperamental side - oh well. The video above shows what it'd be like to be there.

Alright, before I get too sentimental, let's move on to the next area on the itinerary, Amagi in the onsen haven Izu, Shizuoka. Following our stop at Yuzo Kayama's museum, another place that I had recommended, considering we had nothing else planned for the day, was Joren Falls in Amagi, North of Dogashima and on the way back to Yamanashi. We'd spend a few hours at the museum, and it being winter and all, the sun was setting by the time we headed to one of Japan's Top 100 waterfalls. There was a bit of worrying as to whether we'd make it on time to see the other natural landmark at last light, but thankfully we did - barely. People were leaving by the time we got there, but I was bent on getting a close up look at the waterfall and the plaque of one of the most iconic enka songs, Sayuri Ishikawa's (石川さゆり) "Amagi Goe" (天城越え). And so, I trotted all the way down to the plunge pool behind Dad to see it and the wasabi plantations. My brother followed eventually, but Mom, knowing her limits, stayed up on the hill.

Well, there weren't much sentiments there as compared to the Yatate no Sugi, mostly because I was exhausted upon reaching the destination. T'was a pretty waterfall, though, and I'm sure it would've been a more spectacular view if there were more light.

The "Amagi Goe" plaque was on the faded side and it was difficult trying to decipher what chunk of the song was etched into the metal on the mossy rock, but it begins at "Nemidarete kakure yado tsuzura ori Joren no taki..." all the way to the titular "Amagi goe". Even Ishikawa's picture was barely visible.

I was satisfied with seeing the plaque and playing that portion of song in my head, but the absolute nightmare was climbing back up the horrendous amount of uneven stairs. My athletic younger brother and Dad, who's still in the midst of an exercise and diet streak, thought it'd be a great idea to race each other to the top. Needless to say, the unhealthy person that I am was left behind. Alone. In the semi-darkness. In the forest. Presumably left for the kappas to feast on. I saw a sign around Amagi. Didn't know what it said but there was a kappa on it, so there must've been one or two skulking around the wasabi. I mean, I know these river yokai like to eat children, but I was still 3 days away from turning 20; a non-picky kappa might not have minded sinking its teeth into something on the tougher side. Eventually, after an arduous climb, I made it up alive with no kappa gnawing at my ankles, albeit on the verge of falling face first into the rocks. Most cardio I'd done in a long, long time.

Wasabi field.
Anyway, those have been the plaques that I had managed to wheedle my way into seeing during our time in and around Yamanashi - well, again, not like we had any other thing to visit, so it was a win-win situation for me. The next couple were impromptu visits as I only remembered one of its existence and happened upon the other while in Ginza.

The last time we were in Ginza was 7 years ago during part of a package tour. Not much of the posh part of Tokyo was explored then as such tours only bring you to tax-free department stores where you'd spend your 2 hour time limit. A then 13 year-old me was more into looking at toys too - I mean, I still kind of do like looking at toys because, come on, TOYS - and as such, the rest of Ginza, save for a tiny fraction of its main street with the recognizable Wako clock tower, was left unexplored. Fast forward to now with a considerably more adventurous spirit that still isn't that all that enamored with shopping (non-grocery/music/book stuff), I was game to see what more Ginza had to offer. After all, I'd been hearing a lot more than just Burberry Blue (I think the label's been changed already) or Mitsukoshi in Mood Kayo songs.

Ginza, Ginza, Ginza, Tasogare no Ginza~
One thing that fascinated me more than it probably should've was the presence of willow trees. I had never noticed it on my previous trips there, but the MK songs kept mentioning them, so finally seeing Ginza Hacchome (銀座八丁目) or something like that lined with said foliage thoroughly amused me - yes, I think I've already established somewhere in KKP that I'm very easily amused. 

Something else that intrigued me was that the moment you turned into a side street, the number of tourists dramatically decreased. Perhaps the branded shops there didn't boast the tax-free sticker on their front windows. This, I realised, was Ginza's slightly less glamorous side where all the bars were. Strangely, I felt a different air there than on the mad main street. 

Coming back to the music plaques. How I remembered that there was an iconic MK plaque somewhere around this district was seeing this one song carved into a block of stone a little further down Hacchome. I don't know what song it showed; perhaps someone could shed some light on it? Looks like "Ginza Yanagi" to me, but I've never heard of anything like it.

It then dawned on me that Yujiro Ishihara's biggest hit "Ginza no Koi no Monogatari" (銀座の恋の物語), a duet with Junko Makimura (牧村旬子), was immortalized in the area. It's a song that had been stuck in my head many times and I had sat through the terrible movie just to see what all the fuss was about. In other words, I had to check out it out. I wasn't sure where it sat, all I knew was that it was somewhere around Nishi-Ginza's Chance Center, all the way on the other side of Ginza from where we were (the plaque above). With that, Mom and I slowly crawled back the way we came. 

It got a bit disorienting at the Chance Center as there were tonnes of people lining up for the 10 billion yen jackpot prize - that day was considered to be a lucky day - and we had some trouble locating the "Gin-Koi" plaque. However, the bonus that I spotted on Google Maps and easily found in the same area, was the rock that etched in Frank Nagai's (フランク永井) "Yurakucho de Aimashou" (有楽町で逢いましょう). Personally, I'm not a big fan of this hit, but it was nice to have found it and to have found out that Yurakucho was that close to Ginza. 

Yeah, I couldn't really see what was on it as it was dark by then. Even the camera's flash couldn't pick up much, but written in the stone was the song's first stanza, if I'm not wrong.

After a bit of walking back and forth and wondering if the plaque was being blocked by the mountain of people trying their luck at the prize money, Mom found it in front the center's department store.

Written on it was the first stanza of "Ginza no Koi no Monogatari", easily one kayokyoku most synonymous with Tokyo I know - and yet I (ironically) forgot about it until I was there. For some reason, I found it cool or, I suppose, shibui, reading the lyrics standing in Ginza. I'm such a music nerd. And that marked the end of my kayo plaque hunt. Quite fitting, I must say.


  1. Hi, Noelle.

    I think you and your family had a lot more physical stamina that I'd had on my own trip. And definitely you were able to put up an interesting angle in your article regarding those music plaques. I had no idea that they were this numerous.

    1. Hi, J-Canuck.

      Oh yeah, I too was surprised by the energy we had. The most hectic day I remember was on our 3rd day in Tokyo when we went to Nakano and Yotsuya (to check out prospective universities), the Imperial Palace, and Shibuya (for a short while). Don't know about my other family members, but I was definitely running on adrenaline and curry udon.

      As for the music plaques, there are so many more around. It seems as though that for every popular destination song, there's a plaque/statue/thing for it at the specified location.


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