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, 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!


  1. Hi, J-Canuck.

    I came across "Otaru Unga" immediately after discovering Miyako's more Japanese "Sen'nen no Koto" - I think both songs were released around the same time - a while ago. With my impression of Miyako being more geared towards the traditional side of enka, and only knowing her for her sharp enka trills, I was very surprised to hear such a western-sounding tune from her, and I thought her gentle "Pop voice" was very nice on the ears. "Otaru Unga" feels like a song you'd listen to in a quiet cafe while having a nice cup of Joe.

    1. Hi, Noelle.

      Yes, I think Miyako has occasionally dabbled more in the Western side of things but I hadn't heard of "Otaru Unga" until Ono's cover yesterday. Glad that I found out about it.

      BTW, nice thumbnail of you and Kasuga!

    2. Thanks, J-Canuck! Took me a journey across the sea and through the mountains and rice fields to get it! :)


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