Usually after the broadcast of "Uta Kon"（うたコン）here on TV Japan, there is a 10-minute segment originally shown on NHK called "Ano Hito ni Aitai"（あの人に会いたい...I Want to Meet That Person）which features notable Japanese people from all walks of life who have left this mortal coil. Last night was focused on the actor Hiroki Matsukata（松方弘樹）who had passed away last year at the age of 74.
I was surprised and saddened when I heard about Matsukata's death since his face was a very regular one on TV for the years that I had lived in Japan and even before that on rental videos. He played one of the most ferocious-looking mobsters in the "Battles Without Honor or Humanity" yakuza series but I also got to know him as the wise hotel manager of the oh-so-80s drama "Hotel". And of course, there are the many commercials he starred in.
One of the interesting things that I got from the tribute to Matsukata on "Ano Hito ni Aitai" was through one interview he did in which he spoke about his early years in the 1960s. He had initially wanted to become a pop singer and actually trained under songwriter Gento Uehara（上原げんと）. The actor had thought that he wasn't too bad a singer compared to some of the other young up-and-comers of the time but then, one day, the appearance of one particular man and his talent brought Matsukata's confidence down like shattered glass. From that point onward, he decided to head on the path of the thespian.
Still, although he would never be a full-time professional singer, Matsukata did put out singles now and then over the decades, including this one in 1993 which was created by enka singer Ikuzo Yoshi（吉幾三）. "Hana no Uchi ni" (Among the Flowers) was the ending theme song for a long-running jidai geki TV show titled "Mei Bugyo: Tohyama no Kin-san"（名奉行 遠山の金さん...Famed Magistrate: Kin-san of Tohyama）that Matsukata starred in for about a decade as a heroic peace officer with a penchant for disguises.
"Hana no Uchi ni" certainly sounds heroic in itself with the urgent strings although a lot of the melody is quite gentle with the shakuhachi (?) and Matsukata's delivery. Perhaps the ballad is reflecting the two sides of the title character with Kin-san not resorting to the rough stuff unless absolutely necessary. Hmm...quite Jedi-like.
Although I didn't ever become an ardent follower of Kin-san, I remember his signature move which was to expose his tattooed right shoulder. Kinda reminds me of the inevitable scene in "Mito Komon"（水戸黄門）when the jig is up and that amazing crest is shown to the bad guys' awe and horror.
Ah, before I forget...as for that young lad who scared Matsukata away from singing back in the 1960s? He would have a very long and successful career as Hiroshi Itsuki（五木ひろし）! Heck, "Ano Hito ni Aitai" even showed the two of them together performing a duet on a music show. Too bad I can't find any of that footage on the Net.