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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Masao Sen -- Yuuyake Gumo(夕焼け雲)

Jokyo(上京)...heading up to the capital, namely Tokyo. I don't think it has quite the feelings now that it had some 40~70 years ago (Bullet Trains and planes decreased the feeling of distance and time, and then later on, things such as Skype). Back then, it was all about young people, even teenagers, going to Tokyo from all parts of the nation to find work and start making a life of their own while helping to get Japan onto its feet again. All sorts of wistful scenes come to mind: getting onto the trains, mothers waving tearfully to their now-independent children, arriving at Ueno Station, and perhaps looking wide-eyed at their new urban surroundings.

Although jokyo is more of a within-Japan thing, I can understand the feeling as well. In my case, it wasn't so much a train ride of hundreds of kilometres to Ueno Station, though; it was more a plane ride of thousands of kilometres to Narita Airport, shortly after (barely) graduating from University of Toronto. It was quite the thing to enter Tokyo on that steamy summer day in July 1989 on a limousine bus with the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku all around us as we approached the Keio Plaza Hotel.

Tonight's theme on "Uta Kon"(うたコン)was, as you guessed it, jokyo. It's a topic that was so beloved in kayo kyoku that I'm surprised that the expression jokyo kayo wasn't really coined in the language. Of course, the big representative of that little corner of old Showa Era pop music is "Ahh, Ueno Eki"(あゝ上野駅)by Hachiro Izawa(井沢八郎), and indeed that song was performed.

However, I also encountered another song that perked my memory engrams due to the familiarity of its melody although I wasn't able to peg the singer or the title until both were revealed to me tonight. Veteran enka singer Masao Sen(千昌夫)released his 24th single in March 1976, "Yuuyake Gumo" (Clouds in the Afterglow), an encouraging song of keeping at the new life in Tokyo and not heading back home until you succeed. Hiroshi Yokoi and Noboru Ichidai(横井弘・一代のぼる)took care of words and music respectively. Hearing Sen sing out "Kaere~nai~"(帰れない...I can't go home)in that anthemic way is one of the aural memories I have of kayo kyoku in general.

Sen released a new version of "Yuuyake Gumo" in May 1983 as his 35th single although I don't think the arrangement was all that different from the 1976 original. The singer performed this song for the first time on NHK's Kohaku Utagassen in 1983 during his 11th appearance on the New Year's Eve program.


  1. My jokyo was from the US in August 1976, arriving at Haneda. I remember the fierce humidity and the sea of black hair. Sen Masao... natsukashii. Hadn't thought of him in years!

    1. Hello, Sara.

      By chance, did you stay in Tokyo? My jokyo lasted for just 5 days before I was shipped to the mountains of Gunma Prefecture for the next two years.

      Fierce humidity would be the perfect way to describe the weather during a Tokyo summer. I remember becoming a human sprinkler when I walked out of the Keio Plaza for just 5 minutes to make an international phone call at the nearby booth.

      Yup, Sen is just the guy to bring back some old memories!

    2. After I landed at Haneda in 1976, I went on to Kyoto for the year. It was a junior year abroad type of program. After I graduated from university I returned to Kyoto in 1978 and stayed for about 4 or 5 years, then moving up to Tokyo and returning to the States around 1990. Kyoto summers are even worse than Tokyo summers.

    3. I did the JET Programme for those 2 years (1989-1991) in Gunma, then returned to Toronto for 3 years to get my TESL certificate. Went back to Japan and stayed in the Tokyo area for another 17 years before coming home for good in 2011.

      Ah, yes. Kyoto is in that valley, isn't it? In 1981, I went to Japan as part of the graduation trip in July from my Japanese language school. I was in Kyoto for a couple of days and remember standing in a huge crowd watching the Gion Matsuri. I now know how I got even thinner!


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