Credits

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.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Yukari Ito -- SAYONARA


The first time I had heard Yukari Ito(伊東ゆかり), it was through the song "Yakusoku Dake Romantic"(約束だけロマンティック), a mellow pop ballad, via my old radio program "Sounds of Japan" in the early 1980s. In terms of melody, it was far and away from her reputation as a teen aidoru of the 1960s with hits such as "Koyubi no Omoide" (小指の思い出). And since then, through her appearances on television, that's how I saw Ito as she did her old kayo hits.


Well, what I didn't know was that Ito had done at least one pop album which was a mix of City Pop and J-AOR. "Misty Hour" was released in 1982, and according to "Music Avenue", there were a lot of songwriters from the genres helping out including Akira Inoue(井上鑑), Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや), EPO and Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司). In fact, some of them even participated as the backup singers.

I was happy to hear that "Misty Hour" has been given its CD conversion so after listening to some of the tracks, I'm now interested in getting my own copy. So far, the only song that can be heard on YouTube in its entirety is the track "SAYONARA", one of those ballads that conjures up images of Gino Vannelli, Eric Carmen and of those other AOR balladeers from the 1970s and 1980s. Written by Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)and composed by Hayashi, I could easily imagine it being covered by one of those West Coast singers from way back when. The author at "Music Avenue" even remarked that "SAYONARA" stands in as one of his Top 3 favourite ballads created by Hayashi. High praise indeed.


I did find this video talking about the CD release of "Misty Hour" and it features a part of the second track "Koibito-tachi"(恋人たち...Lovers). However, there are also the samples available for the album at Amazon.jp.

Yoshimi Tendo -- Anta no Hanamichi(あんたの花道)


That expression hanamichi has become quite the popular expression in enka songs and their titles. It may have started out as that elevated walkway through the audience in a kabuki performance, and according to jisho.org, it's also been defined as "an honourable end to a career", but I think most people would see it as "the righteous road to glory"...not an end to anything at all.


Kiyoshi Hikawa(氷川きよし)has his "Shoubu no Hanamichi"(勝負の花道)and TV Tokyo had its long-running kayo program "Enka no Hanamichi"(演歌の花道). One of the last Japanese dramas that I enjoyed was even titled "O-Mizu no Hanamichi"(お水の花道).


And on last week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン), I came across Yoshimi Tendo's(天童よしみ)"Anta no Hanamichi" (Your Road to Glory) for the first time. Sheepishly, I have to admit that this is my first Tendo article, and that's while believing that the little lady with the big voice from my ancestral homeland of Wakayama Prefecture is arguably the premier songstress of enka right now.

Her 43rd single from January 2002 is a triumphant enka...as in make-way-for-the-Queen triumphant as Tendo strides proudly on that hanamichi. To explain a bit about the anta part, the word refers to a more intimate use of anata or you as in I'm thinking that Ryutaro Kinoshita's(木下龍太郎)lyrics refer to a wife supporting her husband on that path. Traditionally speaking, perhaps the wife may be walking behind her man but the way the song sounds, I think both of them are walking side by side as equal partners.


Composer Sanechika Ando(安藤実親)makes "Anta no Hanamichi" as jaunty as a summer festival song, and Tendo takes it and runs away with it on the stage. Nothing somber to be experienced here. Life is to be savored and celebrated. In the years since its release, I'm sure that the song has become a true rouser at her concerts.

T-Square -- Big City



I've gotta say that I love the uploader's choice of picture for this video. I found out that this was a dusky photo of Bangkok, and when it comes to photography, I have a soft spot for sunsets and skyscrapers.

Additionally, I also have a soft spot for the song that comes with it. This would be T-Square's "Big City", and yep, the sound belongs to the urban landscape as the cacophony of honking car horns and thousands of commuters walking about.


"Big City" was composed by Masahiro Ando(安藤まさひろ)and is a track on T-Square's 1989 album "Wave". I think this would be the just the tune with which to walk through the big areas of Tokyo including Shinjuku, Roppongi and Akasaka. But of course, we've gotta have the cool sax and the slapping bass.

Gentle Forest Jazz Band -- Otokotte, Otokotte(おとこって おとこって)


Back in the winter this year, I discovered and wrote about the Gentle Forest Jazz Band led by the dapper yet clownish Gentle Kubota(ジェントル久保田), and their work based on the beautiful music from almost a century ago.

Yes, it's almost been 100 years since a number of nations had first entered the Jazz Age. I'm not sure if there are any enterprising companies who will also be aware of this part of music history and start releasing the jazz from the 1920s and 1930s through special collections, but if not, no worries. There is at least one band in Japan which has kept that part of the genre alive and well.

"Otokotte, Otokotte" (Men Are, Men Are) is a gently swinging number that was released as a downloadable single in May 2012. Led by the Gentle Forest Sisters, the song seems to be a "can't live with them, can't live without them" treatise on the male animal. If there had been speakeasies in Taisho Era and early Showa Era Japan, this could have been played in front of the guys and gals.

The video has the band performing in the middle of a quiet river. Some of the scenes even remind me of Toronto's Don River. Of course, it couldn't be the Don since if that had truly been the case, there would have been the smoke of dissolving legs and feet. One of the jokes about what was once one of the world's most industrialized waterways is that the Don River never froze in winter...it gelled.

Anyways, if you're not one for downloading singles (and that is me, for now), then no need to worry. "Otokotte, Otokotte" is also a track on GFJB's 2nd album "High Present"(ハイ・プレゼント)from June in the same year.

Hiroshi Itsuki & Fuyumi Sakamoto -- Last Dance(ラストダンス)


(karaoke version)

Watching last week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン), I wasn't quite sure whether the theme of cover songs came off all that successfully. However, when the singers went into their own works, things stabilized a lot better.

Case in point, the duet between kayo vets Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)and Fuyumi Sakamoto(坂本冬美). Itsuki's latest single as of this writing, "Last Dance" from February this year, is a snazzy collaboration with Sakamoto whose general theme of love in a nightclub is a well-trodden Mood Kayo trope. However, what gives the brio to "Last Dance" is a nice shot of downtown soul thanks to an enthusiastic brass section that sounds as if Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)had kindly lent it to the two singers (coincidentally, he was also a guest last Tuesday).

(short version)

Give thanks to lyricist and composer Yoshiki Mizuno(水野良樹)and arranger Masayuki Sakamoto(坂本昌之)for this nice update to the Mood Kayo genre. Nothing like a nice stroll down in Ginza or Akasaka in 2018 with "Last Dance". Incidentally, Sakamoto was the arranger behind Ayaka Hirahara's(平原綾香)hit "Jupiter" back in 2003.

Good golly! The video has backup dancers and even hand gestures from the singers. Maybe there's even a bit of AKB48 in there. 😆

Moonriders -- Jealousy(ジェラシー)


Going into the Canada Day long weekend, summer is definitely beating us with a large stick. I'm keeping the blinds and windows closed as the outside temperatures hit 36 degrees with a 42-degree Humidex. Supposedly, the Middle East today has lower temps.


Anyways, listening to the latest purchase in the "Light Mellow" series, "Wing", I found the Moonriders'(ムーンライダーズ)"Jealousy".  Seeing that outside of nikala's article on them performing the bizarre technopoppy "Jub Up Family" (ジャブ・アップ・ファミリー), there hadn't been any article featuring the band itself (although they are represented on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" for a few other articles as songwriters) until today, I think it was time to put in their second feature as musicians.

nikala's article mentioned that Moonriders delved into a number of genres such as technopop, disco and New Wave. However, "Jealousy", the band's 2nd single from 1977, is none of those. Actually, it kinda fits hand-in-glove with breezy American 1970s pop which was probably considered to be in Japan's New Music category then. Vocalist Keiichi Suzuki(鈴木慶一), who also composed "Jealousy", also operated the Yamaha synthesizer CS-60 (according to the "Wing" liner notes) whose sounds kept things going at a brisk pace. Younger brother and bassist Hirobumi Suzuki(鈴木博文)was also behind the lyrics.

The other notable thing is Keiichi's voice which to me sounds like 10% Joe Cocker and perhaps 90% Boz Scaggs. Both his vocals and the electric guitar periodically seem to take things into a slightly more rock direction. "Jealousy" is also a track on Moonriders' 3rd album "Istanbul Mambo" which was released in October 1977.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Tetsuwan Miracle Babies -- TALK SHOW


Ah...The Tunnels(とんねるず). Back in my JET days, Thursday nights were almost always Tunnels nights. The comedy duo of Takaaki Ishibashi and Noritake Kinashi(石橋貴明・木梨憲武)was just thrilling, entertaining and terrifying viewers and guests (sometimes even themselves) alike with their insane antics whether it be knocking down really expensive TV cameras live or frankly harassing the aforementioned guests...especially the female ones (although I remember one scene where Ishibashi was even molesting Hiromi Go!) .


My main source of Tunnels craziness was Fuji-TV's "Tunnels no Minasan no Okage desu"(とんねるずのみなさんのおかげです)on Thursday nights at 9pm. The show was an amalgam of movie/TV parodies and wacky challenges (which may have been partially responsible for Westerners' idea of a Japanese game show) with regular tarento such as Onyanko Club(おニャン子クラブ)graduate Marina Watanabe(渡辺満里奈)helping out...or enduring. I loved the show so much that I taped a lot of the episodes onto VHS and brought them home with me. They're still stored somewhere and I've still got the VCR.


However, late Saturday nights for 7 years between 1987 and 1994 was also another Fuji-TV and Tunnels collaboration of a different type. This was "Neruton Beni Kujira Dan"(ねるとん紅鯨団...Nelton Red Whale Party) or "Nelton Club" which was the matchmaking show in Japan years before America's "The Bachelor". It was a whole lot more innocent, too. 

To be honest, I wasn't all that much into "Nelton Club" despite its popularity since I thought the idea of watching young folk wooing each other awkwardly on the small screen was...bleaugh! But the show did attract a lot of famous folks as guests as you can see above.


But even I can remember the theme song that started off each and every episode of "Nelton Club". It was this mix of dance-pop and Latin that I would find out was titled "TALK SHOW" and was performed by a group of women called Tetsuwan Miracle Babies(鉄腕ミラクルベイビーズ...Strong Arm Miracle Babies).

I had never heard of this trio but according to this one site, vocalist Satoko*(倫子)and bassist Taeko(妙子)who had been members of the band Hot Rod joined up with their old schoolmate, drummer Kumiko(久美子), to form Tetsuwan Miracle Babies, perhaps in 1986. One other member had been recruited through an advertisement in a music magazine but left within a year. Their 15 minutes of fame came in 1987 when Masaya Ozeki(尾関昌也)wrote and composed the spicy "TALK SHOW" for them, and the ladies exhorted the guys to get off their duffs and get romancin'.

"Nelton Club" may not have been my cup of ocha, but that theme I will always remember. Plus, one commercial tune that got played on the show weekly has become thoroughly embedded into my memories as one very natsukashii song of my time in Gunma.

*The kanji for the name has a lot of readings so that I'm purely guessing. I just chose the first name at the top at jisho.org.

Soichi Noriki -- Noriki


Often glad when I'm proven wrong...at least when it comes to the supposed rarity of albums. I was entranced by pianist Soichi Noriki's(野力奏一)"Do What You Do" with the vocal assist of Yurie Kokubu(国分友里恵). The song was included in his debut album "Noriki" which was released in November 1983 according to the liner notes, and I had lamented that the album was most likely so obscure that it was never put to CD. Well, as you can see above, it was actually very much purchasable...and for the low, low price of 1,000 yen! In a way, I kinda felt badly, though, since I think the album should have gotten a better and more respectable price.


Most of "Noriki" consists of instrumental tracks except for the aforementioned "Do What You Do" and the opening track here "You Need Me" whose lyrics were written by Dwight Waldron with the melody by Noriki. Once again, the bright vocals of Kokubu come into play. Not funky as was the case with "Do What You Do" but some nice sunny AOR nonetheless.


Noriki's jazzy, summery piano provide the backbone for "Anyway" with Haruo Sakai(酒井春雄)putting some extra meat on the bones with his saxophone. This is sitting-on-the-patio-overlooking-the-beach type of music. When I was once interested in the soundtracks for Japanese dramas, this would have been the sort of music that I would have relished as a character or mood enhancer.


Speaking of mood-enhancing, the final track "Go Over The Hill" starts off with a wonderfully creamy piano intro before going into a number reminiscent of going over that hill and seeing your beloved home with friends and family in the backyard getting ready for that end-of-week barbecue. Noriki makes such a welcoming melody for a goodbye track. Some fine sax and guitar solos as well. Get the cold beer ready!

No doubts here. "Noriki" is more than worth the yen I paid for it.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Morning Musume -- Memory ~ Seishun no Hikari(青春の光)/ Never Forget


As I mentioned on the BEST article for Morning Musume(モーニング娘。), the peak time of my interest in the Hello Project group was between 1999-2001 starting with their mammoth hit, "Love Machine"(LOVEマシーン). Before that 7th single, I knew about the Asuka Fukuda(福田明日香)years of Morning Musume when they started out with the original 5 members soon to expand to 8 with the addition of the 3 2nd-generation members.

However, when I think about the big heyday going into the 21st century, there is that figurative haze surrounding those first 6 singles and their videos...perhaps something like the sepia tones that fill ancient photographs. So when I have seen any of those early entries such as "Morning Coffee", it's usually interesting for observing how the group was trying to take those baby steps into grabbing for some sort of representative identity and sound.


Of course, that also includes "Memory ~ Seishun no Hikari" (The Light of Youth), Morning Musume's 4th single from February 1999. Honestly speaking, tonight was the first time that I actually saw the video from beginning to end, although it showed up often on the ranking shows when I was living in Japan. From remembering those early MM days, I felt that the group was going for that sultry R&B...perhaps even hip-hop...sound, and the official video for "Seishun no Hikari" is one of the common images that I had of Yuko Nakazawa(中澤裕子)and company: nighttime settings, party dresses, sighing voices and strutting dances.

Tsunku(つんく)was the writer and composer of "Seishun no Hikari", and when I compare all 6 singles from the early days, this particular single is the one that I like the least due to the fact that I don't think the harmony in the refrain worked all that well among the members. It's too bad, too, since Natsumi Abe(安倍なつみ)and Asuka Fukuda were the singers here and this was the final single for Fukuda after she had decided to leave the group.


"Seishun no Hikari" managed to reach No. 2 on Oricon and sold a little over 400,000 copies. It is also included on MM's 2nd album "Second Morning"(セカンドモーニング)which came out in July 1999 and peaked at No. 3 on the album charts.


One other track from "Second Morning" that was also one of the accompanying numbers on the "Seishun no Hikari" single was "Never Forget" which has become the graduation song for any of the members leaving the flock, starting with Fukuda herself. In fact, she was the main vocalist on the original recorded version.


Not a dry eye in the concert hall, I take it. I never went to a Morning Musume concert but I remember when the first leader Nakazawa graduated from the group a few years later. There was a rather huge TV special for the event with all of the members giving a tribute in song to her. Of course, copious amounts of tears were shed, and I believe that "Never Forget" was sung there, too.


Well, how about that? Almost 20 years after leaving Morning Musume, Fukuda has begun a solo career under the name of asuka and released a mini-album in March called "sing" which includes a cover version of "Never Forget". Back in 2010, she became part of a vocal group called PEACE$TONE that is still continuing, and for about a year (2017-2018), she was part of Morning Musume 20th, the alumni group consisting of the original members.

Uwanosora -- Natsu no Kyakusen(夏の客船)/ Uwanosora '67 -- Shelley ni Kubittake(シェリーに首ったけ)


As much as I've loved the kayo of the past, there's been a goodly amount of contemporary music that I've come to enjoy in the past few years, thanks to the blog. Bands such as microstar and Lamp have garnered their followings although I think they can stand to get some more love.


I found another group that pleasantly tickles the ears just so in the form of Uwanosora(ウワノソラ). The band first came into being in 2012 through the meeting of guitarist/songwriter Hirohide Kadoya(角谷博栄), lead vocalist/lyricist Megumi Iemoto(いえもとめぐみ)and Tomomichi Oketa(桶田知道)at a university in Osaka. And according to the music site WebVANDA via J-Wiki, Uwanosora has been influenced by pop spanning the 1960s~1980s, AOR, City Pop, soul and Música popular brasileira, a form of Brazilian fusion.

Oketa left the group in July 2017, but the remaining duo has come up with their 2nd album, released in October titled "Hidamari"(陽だまり...Sunny Spot). One track is the supremely mellow "Natsu no Kyakusen" (Summer Passenger Liner) which fits the season well, especially on a sunny afternoon in a beach chair. I especially like Iemoto's voice here.


Interestingly, Uwanosora created another persona for itself called Uwanosora '67(ウワノソラ’67). This incarnation has the same lineup but the music here has a much narrower focus, being inspired by the works of Phil Spector, The Beach Boys and the late singer-songwriter Eiichi Ohtaki(大瀧詠一). Uwanosora '67's first single "Shelley ni Kubittake" (Head Over Heels for Shelley) from April 2016 is a breezy number that got me thinking of both Spector and Ohtaki, especially with that brass. Plus, the music video looks like it came out of an episode of either "American Bandstand" or "Shindig".

Uwanosora has released 2 albums and a single while Uwanosora '67 has an album and a single under that incarnation. Will be interested in looking at some of their other creations in the days to come.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hiroyuki Okita -- Moete Hero(燃えてヒーロー)


I don't follow soccer except for the World Cup competition. Perhaps it's just the spectacle of it all; being a sports event that is even bigger than the Olympics will do that to you, I guess. Toronto is a multicultural city so the World Cup gets folks here even more excited. The various restaurants and bars in the various hubs in town such as Koreatown and Little Portugal have had customers extremely lit for the past couple of weeks, and I remember walking through the central business district via the PATH system (the world's largest underground shopping complex...yeah, even bigger than the ant nest under Tokyo Station) four years ago during that tournament and seeing a whole mix of corporate suits and casually-dressed people in one marble food court yelling and screaming at the myriad TV screens. It was nice to see them as much as it was to see the actual action.


So I figure that it was about time to pay tribute to this year's World Cup in Russia through one of the most popular cultural touchstones for soccer in Japan. Even I have heard of "Captain Tsubasa"(キャプテン翼), and some of my students were ardent followers of the original manga and subsequent anime. I think my current English student probably read the manga when he was a kid since he played the beautiful game in junior high school (would like to hear his thoughts about the tournament this weekend).

Anyways, I found out that there have been a number of incarnations for "Captain Tsubasa" on the small screen with their own theme songs. Why not put up the very first opening theme then? "Moete Hero" (Get All Fired Up, Hero) was actually the B-side to Hiroyuki Okita's(沖田浩之)November 1983 single "Fuyu no Lion"(冬のライオン...Winter Lion)which was the ending theme for the first season of "Captain Tsubasa".


Ahhh...the nostalgia of that rumbling electric guitar and tight horn section. Yes, a lot of anison had that sort of arrangement back in the 1980s, didn't they? Not sure if any of the current members of the Japanese team had gotten fired up by this theme....but then again, most of them were probably not even born then.


Osamu Yoshioka(吉岡治)took care of the lyrics while Hiroshi Uchiki(内木弘)came up with the rumbling music. I read that "Captain Tsubasa" did have its fans overseas as well so I wonder if there are soccer fans all over the world who remember "Moete Hero".

So Nice -- Love


I first wrote about the band So Nice back in 2015 through the song that I found by them on YouTube, "Kousoku Douro"(光速道路), and I was so charmed by its resemblance to Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)and Sugar Babe that I wanted to hear more. Well, I got to hear more through another song that came from their album "Love" (1979), "Love Sick", and then and there I decided that if I could ever track a CD version of this album, I would happily purchase it.

To be honest, I did have my doubts since as I had written on "Kousoku Douro", there was a very limited number of LPs released of "Love", and I had felt that for such an obscure album, it probably wouldn't be converted into a CD. Happily, I was wrong...it did get its conversion a number of years ago, so when I discovered that it was indeed the case through Tower Records Japan...goodbye yen.


Now, aside from the two tracks already featured on YouTube, there is just the entire album up there, so I'm not sure how long this will stay up but hopefully it will be there long enough for people to have a sample of the music and make their own judgments.

Track 1 is the one-minute-and-thirty-two-second prelude with the title of "So Nice", presumably involving the entire band spearheaded by Katsuyuki Kamakura(鎌倉克行)and Misako Matsushima(松島美砂子)in a bit of sunrise harmony.

Track 3, "Last Kiss" at 5:42 is a sweet and sultry number by Kamakura about a couple snuggling up at night on the beach, and if this had been the first song by So Nice that I heard, then I would have totally believed that this was an unknown track by Sugar Babe. The guitar and percussion reminded me of some of the summery love songs from the 1950s and 1960s, something that Yamashita was inspired by when it came to his music.

Matsushima is behind the mike for Track 5, "Tight Night" (15:51), a cool piece of 1970s City Pop/New Music. I love the keyboard work and there is some of that wonderful bass and percolating guitar in there. Considering the lengths of many of the tracks, I think the band wasn't particularly looking for Oricon fame but just loved to jam together. Good for them and us.

One standout is Track 8 "Earth Mover" (33:38), a sad tale of love lost in the big city done up as a slow funk as Kamakura sings about hoping for that title machine to smash down everything around him. It's time for the guitars to shine here. As such, I don't think "Earth Mover" is solely a City Pop song as it invites in some rock in the latter half.

My last song for tonight is "Dancing All Night Long" at 45:34. When I saw the title, I imagined that it was going to be a disco gig but instead it feels somewhat more old-fashioned as if a couple of friends having a dance in the middle of a street party. Once again, there is the yell of Sugar Babe going through my head as Kamakura and Matsushima perform this one.

Well, "Love" may not be all that rare but it's still quite special. I don't know whether So Nice ever put out a follow-up album but if not, the band left a nice little legacy. Plus, it's a good disc to put on during a sunny Sunday.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Yurie Kokubu -- Weekend Love


I guess that I was a tad too late to put this up for last weekend but I can still add it today since this weekend in Toronto will probably be having me burn up due to the high Humidex readings forecast.


"Weekend Love" is another track from that classic City Pop/J-AOR album "Relief 72 Hours" by the lovely chanteuse Yurie Kokubu(国分友里恵). Written by Masako Arikawa(有川正沙子)and composed by guitarist Yoshiyuki Sahashi(佐橋佳幸), this one is more on the AOR side of things with feelings of the Doobie Brothers and early Kenny Loggins. No surprise to me, it was Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)who took care of the arrangements along with Tadashi Yamashita(山下正).

This song definitely needs a nice sporty car and some old-fashioned Japanese pop-loving buddies who love a drive on the highway to go with it. Since I have none of either, I will just settle for listening to it on my stereo.


Yoko Oda -- New York 1961 Fuyu(ニューヨーク 1961 冬)


Yep, actually the photo above should be labeled "Tokyo 2014 Aki" but since I haven't been in The Big Apple for many many years, this is the best that I could do.


Yoko Oda(小田陽子)is a chanteuse that I've only discovered recently, and almost 2 months back, I wrote about her for the first time via her 1988 song "Sunset Lonely Girl"(サンセット・ロンリー・ガール), a dreamily atmospheric ballad with that hint of European jazz requiring a comfy chaise lounge.

Well, this time, I've gone back to the very beginning of her singing career in 1982 through her debut album "New York 1961". It's basically the title track "New York 1961 Fuyu" (New York 1961 Winter), and here, Oda tackles a more traditional jazz ballad (although I can hear that electric bass) that smacks of Manhattan and Henry Mancini. The song was written and composed by folk singer Akiyoshi Imanari(いまなりあきよし).

Whenever Japanese TV has featured something to do with New York City, the music accompanying the feature isn't disco, rock or hip-hop. It's usually been swing jazz and although "New York 1961 Fuyu" involves more of a jazz combo with a string orchestra backing it up, I could imagine the Japanese media using arrangements similar to those used in this song whenever the scenes turn to late night in the city that never sleeps. There is that nice touch of class that brings to mind taking a brisk winter walk on one of the main avenues at night perhaps with a stopover by Rockefeller Centre to look at the massive Xmas tree and the skaters on the rink. Yup, it's quite sentimentalizing.

Hope against hope, but hopefully I can pick up this album as well.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Flashback Ano Hito -- shooting star



I would like to echo one of the few people who've commented on this video to wonder aloud why in the years since it has been uploaded it hasn't gotten more love. Mind you, I realize that mellow pop isn't for everybody and I am rather biased toward the genre. Still, this is a song to treasure.

"shooting star" is a track on an album called "Matenrou to Shinkirou"(摩天楼と、蜃気楼...Skyscrapers & Mirages)released by Flashback Ano Hito (Flashback That Person). There's very little written about what looks to be a duo except on one site which noted that "Matenrou to Shinkirou" had been released in November 2009 as their debut album. "shooting star" does sound contemporary but there is that feeling of old New Music, and in fact, the album includes a cover of Sugar Babe's classic "Downtown". As the video partially shows, the song makes for the perfect accompaniment to a commute back home after a long day's work when the senses are a little fuzzy from fatigue.

The duo behind Flashback Ano Hito is Akihiko/Teruhiko Fukuyama(福山輝彦)and Yousuke Yamaguchi(山口洋輔). Will have to see if their version of "Downtown" is out there.

Petit Rabbit's with beans -- Sekai ga Cafe ni Nacchatta!(セカイがカフェになっちゃった!)


After several months of waiting following the release of the 60-minute special for "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka??"(ご注文はうさぎですか??...Is The Order A Rabbit??)titled "Dear My Sister" in theatres late last year, my anime buddy was finally able to get his hands onto the Blu-Ray (although he did see it at the theatre in Japan when he visited).


Yup, yesterday was the usual biweekly session of anime-and-food, and there was a fair bit of drama mixed in with the comedy for the afternoon part. However, after coming back from dinner (a lot of dumplings and fried rice), my buddy warned me that watching this short movie of the cafe-based adventures of Cocoa, Chino and the rest could potentially plunge me into either sugar shock or cotton-swaddled euphoria. Actually, it wasn't nearly that fatal although it was rather pleasant to see something so harmless that wouldn't even hint at psychological damage.


Heck, even in the rare moments when characters are angry (yes, even Cocoa has a momentary snit), they are cute angry. And any drama generated in "Dear My Sister" was basically at the beginning of the movie with some of the girls overreacting to Cocoa leaving town...for an entire week.


The ending theme for the movie is "Sekai ga Cafe ni Nacchatta!" (The World Has Become A Cafe!). Now, my favourite theme song for the entire "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka??" franchise will always be "Daydream Cafe", but "Sekai ga Cafe ni Nacchatta!" is pretty nice and is more reminiscent of the really genki second season opening theme "No Poi!"(ノーポイッ!)with some of that sunny 60s and some disco thrown in there. No surprise since both songs were written by Aki Hata(畑亜貴)and composed by Kaoru Okubo(大久保薫)who also took care of "Daydream Cafe".


The only difference with "Sekai ga Cafe ni Nacchatta!" is that all of the seiyuu voicing the teen baristas, aka Petit Rabbit's and Chimame Tai are together for perhaps the first time singing a theme song in the form of Petit Rabbit's with beans. And, yes, I would say that they probably would have needed to have downed quite a lot of coffee to record this with the energy that was mustered here.

On the way home, I asked my friend whether there could be another series or another movie from the franchise since one of the characters had hinted the possibility of the baristas going over to Cocoa's smaller hometown to the Hot Bakery. We both later agreed that chances are possible if small since we've heard that most of the material from the original manga has been used up for the original anime and that "Dear My Sister" is a wholly new work not based on the manga. Well, if so, then the movie was a nice way of saying goodbye to everybody in the world of coffee and rabbits.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

=LOVE -- Teokure caution (手遅れcaution)


It’s been a while since I last listened to something surprising coming from the Japanese market. Besides the usual artists, such as Megumi Hayashibara (林原めぐみ), Chisato Moritaka (森高千里) or Shizuka Kudo (工藤静香), I’ve spent a lot of my time listening to New Kids On The Block lately (“Step by Step” is pop perfection, by the way). Yeah, my fault for falling in love with the boyband’s late 80s/early 90s cheesy numbers.

However, with some help, I can still get into some creative aidoru songs from nowadays. Even though I’m well aware that the majority of them is safe, bland and formulaic, I can still hear bits of imaginative pop music construction coming from this niche, and maybe a good example is the strong, dramatic and over the top “Teokure caution” by aidoru group =LOVE (イコールラブ).

Partially produced by AKB48 and HKT48 superstar member Rino Sashihara (指原莉乃), =LOVE is a group comprised by seiyuu aidoru singers that made its major debut last year, in 2017. Now, in May 2018, they’ve released their third single, “Teokure caution”, with a music video full of bad acting accompanying this surprisingly good song.

“Teokure caution” isn’t an easy ride that will make you chill and relax. In the end, your ears will probably be a little worned out, thanks to all the wild strings and the typical AKB48-like unison singing during the choruses. I feel like being hit by a blast of obscure energy, but one well put together. Not that the song is perfect, and it’s far from it, but I enjoy the dare shown by all the people responsible for producing and releasing songs like that in the mainstream market. Something that’s so detached from the common sense generally adopted in the pop music world, or, as I like to say, a song with so many wrong elements put together in a beautiful way.

The single reached #3 on the Oricon charts, selling around 75,932 copies, according to. Lyrics were written by Rino Sashihara, while music was composed by Hiroshi Imai (今井ひろし). As for the arrangement, Tatsuya Kurauchi (倉内達矢) was the responsible.

Source: https://www.generasia.com/w/images/6/64/%3DLOVE_-_Teokure_caution_reg_C.jpg

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Mie Nakao -- Koi no Sharock(恋のシャロック)


The other night, I received a comment on the article for Reiko Mari's(万里れい子)"Psyche na Machi"(サイケな街), the go-go number from the late 1960s, It was from Chasing Showa who told me about this website run by former Tokyo DJ Sheila Burgel who has a love for various kinds of music including the girl pop performed by Japanese singers in the 1960s. He also informed me about a couple of albums paying tribute to that era, "Nippon Girls" and "Goodnight Tokyo". It was quite interesting to hear some of the singers and bands who had been included in those releases let go of their inner yeah-yeah shagadelia because some of them at least used to do some of the more traditional kayo in the early 1960s.




You can have a listen to the videos above but don't blame me if you suddenly get the urge to twist or shrug or pony.


One of those singers that I was referring to happens to be Mie Nakao(中尾ミエ). Although I know of her more as a regular tarento and a participant in those late-night informercials in Japan, she did start her career as one of the big aidoru of the 1960s. And one of the more famous old kayo from way back when was her 1962 debut single "Kawaii Baby"(可愛いベイビー), a cover of a Connie Francis number.

Well, in July 1968, she released a new single called "Koi no Sharock", a funky and fuzzy tune that had me imagining the young Nakao discovering some dance moves on the psychedelic dance floor. The thing is, though, I really don't know what sharock is all about. At first, I had thought that the word was derived from Sherlock...as in Sherlock Holmes, the great detective. Holmes is well known in Japan, and I had assumed that the title would be translated as "Sherlock of Love" as in someone tracking down and masterfully figuring out the emotion.

But from what I've read on one Japanese-language site, that doesn't seem to be the case. In the era of Group Sounds, namely the late 1960s, there was another music genre name that seemed to have been bandied about: New Rhythm that would go along with all of those cool dances from America such as The Twist, The Pony and The Swim. Considering the fuzzy guitars as well, perhaps I could also include anything by The Rolling Stones from that time. However, the powerful Watanabe Productions management agency wanted to get in on the naming action behind this new sound so they came up with....you guessed it, sharock.

I still have no idea what the sha- is all about. The term is written in katakana so I don't know about any kanji for sha- or whether it was even derived from kanji. I doubt the sha- would refer to the kanji for company「社」. Corporate rock? Sounds rather oxymoronic...especially in those days. Maybe the sha- refers to terse and powerful onomatopoeia, kinda like when a martial artist or Ultraman yells something when he does his move.

Getting back to "Koi no Sharock", the lyricist was Chizuko Matsubara(松原智津子)with an assist from Kazumi Yasui(安井かずみ)while the music was composed by Kazuyoshi Arai(新居一芳), otherwise known as Masao Saiki(彩木雅夫), the fellow who would later create the Mood Kayo classic "Nagasaki wa Kyou mo Ame Datta"(長崎は今日も雨だった)for Hiroshi Uchiyamada and The Cool Five(内山田洋とクール・ファイブ). Just so that the new sound of sharock was well understood and permeating into the youth of Japan at the time, Side B for Nakao's single was given the title of "Sharock No. 1". If anyone else out there can tell me what that prefix means, I would be most appreciative of a contact.

Tommy february6 -- je t'aime★je t'aime/I'm in the mood for dancing


It's been a little over a couple of years since I put up an article about the persona affected by singer-songwriter Tomoko Kawase(川瀬智子)of the brilliant green called Tommy february6. That first article was for her debut single "Everyday at the bus stop" from 2001.


However, I also remember this other single by Tommy that also did well on the charts. In fact, "je t'aime★je t'aime" was the highest-ranking song by the singer as it hit No. 5 on the Oricon weeklies after its release in February 2003. It ended up as the 65th-ranked single of the year and was a track on her 2004 album "Tommy airline" that peaked at No. 2.

Man, those intro synths! Watching the video and hearing the song again made me think that "je t'aime★je t'aime" was a hybrid of a story of the trial and tribulations of Harajuku romance brought to song by The Pet Shop Boys in the early 1980s. But to give credit where credit is due, it was MALIBU CONVERTIBLE behind the music and arrangements while Tommy february6 took care of the words. There is something appealingly weird about the video so that I could have envisaged it being shown on an episode of "City Limits", that after-hours video program that I used to watch on MuchMusic.

I see that John Arteaga who has commented on some of the early articles on the blog was responsible for the Spanish subtitles, so kudos to him.



The coupling song on the single was "I'm in the mood for dancing", the cover of the original hit disco tune by The Nolans. It's quite a cute synth update on the ol' chestnut that became a huge hit in Japan.


I'm including that original by the Irish pop vocal group of sisters since "I'm in the mood for dancing" is one of those songs that illustrates the phrase "Big in Japan". I mean that the song that came out in November 1979 has attained such legendary pop status in Japan that I used to hear the tune being used on a few commercials over the years such as ones for Softbank.


The song got its release in Japan in July 1980 where it was titled in Japanese as "Dancing Sisters"(ダンシング・シスター). The disco beat is so imbued into it that I can't remember whether I had first heard it as a youth in Toronto or whether it hit me during my years in my adopted nation. But in Japan, it was one of the few non-Japanese songs to hit No. 1 on Oricon, selling around 700,000 records. On the Oricon Western singles chart, "I'm in the mood for dancing" ended up becoming the No. 1 song of the year. Ben Findon, Mike Myers and Bob Puzey were the songwriters. As for that middle contributor, I think I can safely say that it isn't the serial killer from "Halloween" or the local comedian who hit it big on "Saturday Night Live".

Kirinji -- Hankagai(繁華街)


Kirinji(キリンジ)first got my undivided attention when I heard "Aliens"(エイリアンズ), their romantic ballad with the odd title from 2000. At the time, I knew that there just had to have been some current, underground or otherwise, of cool urban contemporary J-Pop somewhere, and Kirinji was one wonderful representative.


Last night, I found another wonderful Kirinji ballad, this time from 2003 called "Hankagai". Now, according to jisho.org, hankagai can have a number of similar definitions: business district; shopping district; bustling street; shopping centre; shopping center; downtown.

But just from the cool music of piano and horns evoking a lonely night of street lights, streaming traffic and small groups of people unknown to the protagonist in Shanghai, I would probably go simply with "Downtown". Yasuyuki Horigome(堀込泰行), one-half of the brother act that makes up Kirinji, took care of words and music that seem to describe a traveler's somewhat disorienting (no pun intended) experience in the Chinese metropolis. There's something of the "Lost In Translation" vibe with "Hankagai"; that cynical Bill Murray character bemused at the strangeness of life in a strange city. I'm not sure whether that movie actually had a theme song for Murray's Bob Harris in its soundtrack, but if not, I could suggest "Hankagai". In a bit of coincidence, the movie actually came out in the same year of 2003 that the song's album "For Beautiful Human Life" was released in September. Kirinji's 5th album made it high as No. 38 on Oricon.

And indeed, what a title for an album...taking the famous and weirdly wonderful slogan for Kanebo Cosmetics as its own. It would be something that would tickle/annoy Harris as he sees it on a some signboard from his Shinjuku taxi...while "Hankagai" is playing of course.

Toshiki Kadomatsu -- Sea is a Lady



Well, on the strength (and there's plenty of it) of "Sea Line ~ Rie", I finally decided to put my money into Toshiki Kadomatsu's(角松敏生)10th album and 1st wholly instrumental release "Sea is a Lady" from July 1987. Not since the adoption of the classic "The Magnificent Seven" theme for those Marlboro commercials have I heard anything so suitable for a cigarette ad.


The gimmick for "Sea is a Lady" is that almost all of the tracks (all tracks were composed and arranged by Kadomatsu) have been given women's names, so along with Rie above, we're joined by the comely Akiko for "52nd Street". The first several seconds, though, had me wondering whether this would be a rare synthpop tune by the man before the piano and bass rolled right on in to reassure me that this would be no such animal. And then, of course, Kadomatsu's electric guitar made its appearance to definitively settle that question. But hearing that opener with the blippy synthesizer and rumbling drums, I think I know where contemporary aidoru group Especia had gotten its mojo.

Although the title is indeed "52nd Street", I still can't help but get that image of a seashore drive in Japan. Mind you, the sax and the flugelhorn solos bring some of the city. The flugelhorn was played by Shin Kazuhara(数原晋), leader of Tokyo Ensemble Lab whose article I had just written about a couple of days ago. "52nd Street ~ Akiko" was also used as the opening theme for a local news broadcast in Fukui Prefecture. Their ratings probably got boosted a few points just on that theme alone.


Uh...perhaps I was a bit hasty in stating that "Sea is a Lady" was a totally instrumental album. Allow me to introduce you to Sawako, aka "Lovin' You". Mind you, it's just Kadomatsu and Hideki Fujisawa(藤沢秀樹)of the R&B band Jadoes providing some very brief echoes of vocals in this summery serenade. And to add to the trivia, Fujisawa is also known as DANCE☆MAN(ダンス☆マン), the musician who would later add the oomph to Morning Musume's(モーニング娘。)biggest hits at the turn of the century.



When I heard "Midsummer Drivin' ~ Reiko" for the first time, I almost felt like I really ought to get a driver's license just for the pleasure of playing this high-energy starburst of a track on the onboard stereo. Not sure if convertible-driving Japanese heading down to Shonan or Hakone would be brave enough to blast this through the speakers, but man, what a driving song. The late Jake H. Concepcion and the aforementioned Kazuhara also had their hands in this one.


"Night Sight of Port Island ~ Midori (Night Flight of DC-10)" could indeed be one nice way to land you at the airport although listening through airplane-issued earbuds would be a sad method to listen to another Kadomatsu classic. Considering the title, I'm wondering whether the musician was approaching Kobe International Airport when he came up with the idea. This time, he's got the Tomoda Group to provide some epic strings.


Finally, let's finish things up on the album with the final track (without a name this time), the instrumental version of "June Bride". I did forget that this was the month for all of those graduations and weddings. After all of that musical excitement, it's nice to cool down a tad with something calmer, relatively speaking. Still, "June Bride" has that feeling of soaring through the clouds at points. It would be quite the thing for a honeymoon couple to be greeted with this in their suite as the sun is setting outside.


The original "Sea is a Lady" peaked at No. 4 on Oricon. However, 30 years later, Kadomatsu decided to release a rebooted version titled "Sea is a Lady 2017" that came out in May last year. Coincidentally enough, this one also peaked at No. 4. Here's Rie again to see you out.


Friday, June 22, 2018

Harumi Miyako/Lisa Ono -- Otaru Unga(小樽運河)


I was watching NHK's "Gogo Uta"(ごごウタ)afternoon music show and saw that Japanese-Brazilian singer Lisa Ono(小野リサ)was one of the guests. She performed this lovely song titled "Otaru Unga" (Otaru Canal) in this light jazz style that caught my interest. My mother then informed me that this was actually a cover of an original number. She'd forgotten who the original singer was. Cue my investigative side for the blog.


It just so happens that "Otaru Unga" was originally performed by enka legend Harumi Miyako(都はるみ)as her 98th single in June 1990. The song has been categorized as an enka tune on J-Wiki but I really wouldn't treat this number as traditional enka. In fact, I think the songwriters Osamu Yoshioka and Tetsuya Gen(吉岡治・弦哲也)created "Otaru Unga" as a contemporary callback to the jazzier side of Mood Kayo of the 1950s and 1960s. Furthermore, I think if it had been created decades earlier, Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)would have been the one to have sung this.


I realize that it was just her fashion choice for that particular performance but to see Miyako sing "Otaru Unga" in a Western outfit instead of the traditional Japanese wardrobe that I'm accustomed to seeing her in when she sings on TV also speaks to the style of the song. I really do like those boozy trombones in there. They rather weave a scene of walking along the famous Otaru Canal in Hokkaido at night with that special someone...after a couple of rounds at the bar.


Miyako's single peaked at No. 13 on Oricon. As for Ono's take, I found an excerpt of it from her March 2018 album "Tabi, Soshite Furusato"(旅 そして ふるさと...Travel, Then Home).

I wouldn't mind going to Otaru someday. I hear the fish there is truly top-notch!

Hiroko Mita -- Lemon Sensation(レモン・センセイション)


Without fail, the program on TV Japan that precedes NHK's "News Watch at 9" in the morning is some form of NHK English-lesson show. I usually wake up and head to the living room right in the middle of those 10 eikaiwa minutes, and the current incarnation is focused on the hospitality sector, with the required tarento being former aidoru Hiroko Mita(三田寛子).

I swear to you that she's only several months younger than me but she must have a Dorian Gray mirror stored somewhere in her house since she doesn't look all much older than when she had her aidoru days in the 1980s. On one of the episodes, when one of the co-hosts asked her about her singing career, she looked as if she had been caught off-guard and pleaded in an embarrassed way not to go further with that line of inquiry.


Well, I wouldn't be all that harsh. I talked a few articles ago about that huge pyramid of 80s female idols with the three tiers. I would say that the Kyoto-born Mita occupied that second layer. She never became the superstar at the apex but she wasn't part of that huge base which got their five minutes of fame. Mita did hang around to release 14 singles and 4 original albums up to 1987, while becoming an actress and TV personality with a bubbly personality.

There isn't a lot of Mita's original recorded material on YouTube although she is amply represented through her performed songs on TV. However, I was able to find this video of her as a high school student doing the happy commute home while the happy notes of "Lemon Sensation" play along. This was never a single but one of the tracks on her debut album "16-Karat no Hitomi"(16カラットの瞳...16-Carat Eyes)which came out in May 1982.

What can I say? It's simply your typically bouncy and happy aidoru tune of the decade with Mita's happy-go-lucky sing-song-y vocals. "Lemon Sensation" was written by Naoko Nishio(西尾尚子)and composed by singer-songwriter Kengo Kurosumi(黒柱憲五)who I've usually heard perform City Pop/J-AOR material.


Mita was apparently quite the popular figure on TV commercials, as well.

Memorial Hall Visits Part 4: Hachiro Kasuga


At the end of the very first article I wrote about Hachiro Kasuga (春日八郎) on KKP 4 years ago, I featured this silly picture on google images of whom I thought to be quite a moderately stoic performer doing the "maru" sign. I was intrigued, and as the years followed I hoped to find it - possibly through a record or a video. And then in late April this year, I saw the grinning Hachi, and many, many other variations of him I'd never thought I would have the pleasure to see, face to face.

As mentioned in Part 2 of my Sugamo karaoke romp, there were some outstanding matters I wanted to take care of in Japan. Out of the those on my list, going to Kasuga's museum stood at number one, for reasons explained my recent articles on him, and also for fear that it might close before I got the chance to visit it - I got worried after seeing Yujiro Ishihara's (石原裕次郎) close down in 2017. It was also the first item crossed on my list as Mom and I visited it on our second day during this two week trip.

View from Nanukamachi, a town along the Tadami line we
explored before heading to Aizubange.

Hachi came from a little town in Fukushima called Aizubange, which sits towards the western end of the prefecture and not too far away from the neighbouring Niigata (another destination on this list on my to-do list). To get there (if you're coming from Tokyo), one has to take the shinkansen to Koriyama city, then take the local Banetsu line inland through farm country to the samurai town that is Aizuwakamatsu (where we stayed for 3 nights), AND THEN take the one-man operated train through more paddy fields on the Tadami line to finally reach your destination. I'd never train-ed so much in my life. However, the views of rolling rice plantations backed by snow-capped mountains, little hamlets, and occasion sakura trees in bloom were a rare sight and a feast for the eyes for a city kid.

To Aizubange

 As per usual, my anticipation was at a all time high but overcompensated with an overly aloof demeanor as we sat on the virtually empty train to Aizubange. Playing with a mischievous Abyssinian Eagle Owl in an owl cafe at the quaint town of Nanukamachi earlier did little to satiate the excitement. This old lady kicking her feet up on the train seats was an amusing sight, however.


When at last at Aizubange's decent station that's more than just a lonely platform unlike some others, I was greeted by Hachi's statue outside, and that cool facade cracked. It's not the best statue of a singer I've seen, but it ain't the worst either. Beside the bronze memorial of him, you can listen to the first stanza of his debut "Akai Lamp no Shuressha" (赤いランプの終列車).


Contrary to my belief, the First Enka Singer's hometown was not as empty and quiet and old as I'd thought a place like that in the boonies would be. In fact, it was quite bustling and there were lots of children running around. But, of course, many still stared at us funny for being the only two foreigners there.


The train ride was only half of the journey. The other, if you were like us with no car, was by foot. Half an hour (at the minimum) by foot. I was very glad that it was a clear and windy day. I can't imagine trudging through these farm roads, albeit nicely paved, in the rain. Still, it was pretty arduous, and the rice field scene riddled with brand new tractor showrooms and the occasion sign pointing in the museum's direction got tedious after about 15 minutes. This train and hiking experience was reminiscent of the "Local Sen" (Local Train Line) series on the Japanese travelogue on Channel News Asia, "Japan Hour", wherein a pair of celebrities try to find attractions at towns along local lines around Japan.


Around 45 minutes later and after loops of a line "Inaka no michi wa tsuzuku mono" from Hibari Misora's (美空ひばり) song "Hanagasa Dochu" (花笠道中) going around in my head for the nth time and Mom trailing some distance behind me, I reached the museum. I know it sounds dramatic, but I almost wanted to run towards it when I was near.

Couldn't get the full tree, so here's part of the
"Wakare no Ippon Sugi" sugi.

I saw the huge cedar standing tall amongst the shrubs and other trees in the park that housed the "Wakare no Ippon Sugi" (別れの一本杉) plaque. And every time someone steps near this plaque, the iconic enka starts playing and has the deep melancholic notes of acoustic guitar reverberating throughout the countryside. Just as I was about to reach the tree, I heard my mother exclaiming over something, and almost immediately after, a huge tour bus emerged from nowhere and pulled into the building's nearly empty parking lot. By golly, I didn't know local tour groups stopped by Hachi's memorial hall! There I was thinking that we'd be the only ones there! I was shook.

Unfortunately, the plaque's lyrics weren't painted in, so they were
hardly visible in the afternoon sun.

I made my way to the plaque to get a good look at the plaque and a good listen to the song before the swarm of elderly came. It didn't take long for them to realise that I knew Hachi and one of his hits, and as much as I wanted to go into the museum ASAP, I was stuck outside for a while and subjected to the usual muddled interview of what a Singaporean was doing in a place like this. At least I got to train my Japanese listening skills.


Anyway, on to the actual attraction. The building wasn't huge but it was well put together and spacious. From what I had seen from older pictures of the museum, its orientation and presentation of the items had changed for the better. The first section you'd see upon entering contains the singer's brief history on a plaque, his personal artifacts, his well-loved instruments, awards, song sheets, fan magazines, and photos of him with his family and other celebrities, among other miscellaneous things.


 


As expected, Michiya Mihashi (三橋美智也) was in quite a number of shots with Hachi - both were in the same record company after all. Others big names he was with included the legendary Masao Koga (古賀政男), Misora, Minoru Obata (小畑実) and Ichiro Wakahara (若原一郎 ).

One of the lyric sheets on display. This one is of "Nagasaki no
Hito" (長崎の女).



Here we have Kasuga with his wife Keiko Watabe, who played a big role in kick-starting his career - basically, without her, there'd be no "Akai Lamp no Shuressha" or Hachi... Thank you, Mrs Watabe - and 3 of their 4 daughters. The eldest, seen on the right above, Nobuyo Watabe (if I'm not wrong), served as her father's manager in his later days. 

According to the curator, Ms Watabe was to visit the museum later in May... I missed a chance to meet the person who would be as close as I can ever get to meeting Hachi himself - all the more so because she looks very much like him - by a few weeks. I AM ANGERY. Well, the curator said she'd mention our visit to Ms Watabe when she visits, and I did put my name down in the guest book, so I suppose I have that. Can't have the cake and eat it too, even though I wish I could. >:(


Anyway, those booklets in this picture here were his fan club magazines, "Mikasa". The cover that had him next to Mrs Watabe at the lower left corner had a smaller picture of him sitting in a corner showering. Considering that his fan base was predominantly women in his younger days, that's fan service if I've ever seen it. Speaking of fan service, there was also Hachi in swim trunks spear fishing (?) at the top left corner, and sitting atop his trusty piano was an extra candid photo of him in an undershirt and boxers. 

Well, OK then.

When he received the purple ribbon (circa 1989) - one of the honors
 for someone who had contributed a great deal to the arts in Japan.
With Yuriko Futaba, Muchi, Batayan, Michi, Peggy Hayama.
Needless to say, I love this picture.

The wall adjacent to all that featured more interesting photos (like the one at the top of this article), concert and movie posters, and records.


Apparently Hachi could walk on stilts. It baffles me as to how one can balance on such sticks.




There were the Sannin no Kai posters up on display too! It's like getting a 3 in 1 in this museum! I know this wasn't Yuzo Kayama's (加山雄三) museum, but "Shiawase dana....


I got my hands on the middle one via Miyada Records.

Sitting square in the middle of the museum was its merchandise shop which sold both Hachi merchandise, as well as local knick-knacks and food. Next to that was the karaoke section with a little TV playing original karaoke videos of a good number of the enka singer's works. Anyone can go up to have a go at their favourites; "Otomi-san" (お富さん) was the go-to choice for everyone. 


I didn't exactly have any intention to sing, and at the same time was rather self-conscious, so I initially declined when first offered to pick up the mic. However, when the tour group left and we were the only ones left, I decided, "Why not? Since I'm at the place, I might as well do so." I took this opportunity to try out some of Kasuga's songs I had always wanted to attempt, like "Nigate Nandayo" (苦手なんだよ), "An' Tokya Doshaburi" (あん時ゃどしゃ降り), and of course, "Akai Lamp no Shuressha". 


When it came to "Akai...", much to my surprise and slight horror, another full group of local tourists came in just as it started - the human traffic coming in and out of this place was far more than expected. Oh, the pressure was intense, but I think I pulled it off pretty well. When I saw the happiness etched on to the faces of these old folks and hearing them sing along with me... I don't really know how to describe how I felt at that moment. It differed greatly from my Sugamo stints - it was more emotional here than the simple highs of pride and unbridled joy I got in Tokyo. 

For me to sing the debut song of one of the key foundations in enka in his very museum; to have relayed it to his fans who saw him as their youth and get their seal of approval; to show that old enka like this is far from being forgotten... I guess I felt... very, very honored to be in that position. It was truly an incredible feeling that I'd never felt so strongly until then.


Well, moving on, I couldn't leave the place without any merchandise (it'd be a crime if I did), so I got a surprisingly modern-looking T-shirt with a caricature of Kasuga on it, as well as a couple of key chains, including one that had his autograph. What impressed me was that the items were all very well-stocked despite being in such a far flung area. I suppose with all the tour groups coming for a look-see, it has to be. In fact, the moment we arrived, so had the new stock! Take that, Takashi Hosokawa (細川たかし)! ... ... I'm sorry, Hosokawa... I mean, you've got senbei with your name on it...? 😌 


When all was said and done, it was near closing time. Having heard of our trek all the way out into the countryside, the curator took pity on us and decided to give us a quick ride back to the station before the scheduled train arrived. Earlier, I talked about the segment on the show "Japan Hour", well, hitching a ride from kind locals was what always happened in most episodes, so we did indeed have the full "Japan Hour Local-sen Experience" all in one day. I am eternally grateful for this lady for saving us the hassle of calling for a cab and for shortening our journey back to the station by 40 minutes.


Compared to the other museums I had been to thus far, Hachi's definitely felt the most surreal and dreamlike to me. Perhaps it was the combination of being in such an environment I had only seen on TV, standing in the memorial hall of a singer I'm absolutely crazy about, and that intense karaoke bit with his fans. I remember that after the immediate euphoria of entering the building and snapping photos, I actually had to take a breather to actively remind myself that I wasn't dreaming.

Needless to say, after all the travelling the day before and the amount of activity done on this museum pilgrimage, I felt like a piece of tofu on the following day. But it was all worth it.