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.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Hachiro Kasuga -- Onna no Koiji (女の恋路)

... ... It's quite terrible of me to say this, but I can't help but laugh/snicker/smile whenever I see the cover of Hachiro Kasuga's (春日八郎) 20th anniversary album "Nekketsu no Utagoe" (熱血の歌声). It actually doesn't look bad from afar (as in this photo I took), but when viewed up close it's probably the derpiest picture I have of him. I distinctly remember seeing a nice photo of him in the same pose and outfit somewhere that had him grinning naturally, at which time I wondered why the record company/Hachi himself hadn't used that and chose what we see here today as the cover shot. But, well, that's just me.

Griping about pictures aside, I managed to find and purchase "Nekketsu no Utagoe" when my hunt for records brought me to this really nice store called Fuji Records (富士レコード) in Tokyo's used bookstore haven, Jimbocho (神保町). Believe me, I felt like a kid in a candy store that evening and had a jolly good time sifting through their neat and well-stocked ancient enka/ryukoka section. I'd never seen so many Hachi albums before, and all sorts caught my eye and threatened to break my loosely estimated budget, but what made me choose "Nekketsu no Utagoe" in particular despite it not having the most glamorous of covers was that I knew that its tunes weren't what I usually heard from Kasuga. Via the mori kei YouTube channel, I was introduced to a few of the "Nekketsu no Utagoe" songs, and they struck me as modern sounding kayo and enka for its time in 1972. I wanted to explore more of what it had to offer, especially since some of what I had heard prior agreed with me, so I decided to take it with me... along with 4 other records from him. I had a lean dinner that night, but it was worth it.

When I got home, I gave all my records a good listen, and "Nekketsu no Utagoe" did not disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and my favourite out of the 12 songs has to be the last track on side 1 of the vinyl, "Onna no Koiji".

As with most of the tracks, "Onna no Koiji" sounds mostly pop-oriented with a touch of enka, and I absolutely love Nobuyuki Sakuradai's (桜庭伸幸) beautiful composition for its smooth, soaring strings and chirpy flute. And, of course, I really enjoy how Hachi's vocals fluctuate from low and gritty to high and delicate here. Personally, I feel that Kasuga sounded best when he sang songs like this as it explores more of his vocal range than in the regular enka classics he's known for.

Minoru Shimai (島井実) was responsible for the words, and they center on a woman and her journey to find love. Lyrics-wise, it almost reminds me of a matatabi enka song since we have a solitary main character travelling throughout the country, although our heroine here has an objective in mind rather than just simply wandering around aimlessly like a typical ronin.

On an ending note, I have to thank mori kei for uploading the "Onna no Koiji" video. I had requested for it on a video featuring another tune from "Nekketsu no Utagoe" just yesterday, and less than an hour later the person replied stating that he/she likes the song too and had just posted it. I'm impressed and grateful.

Hachi was thicc.


  1. I appreciate your articles and you have made very good points for lots of early recordings. I totally agree that Kasuga should be claimed to be "first" Enka singer. Before Kasuga and following other 4-nin shu, there were Oka Haruo, Obata Minoru, Tabata Yoshio, Dick Mine, Fujiyama Ichiro and Shoji Taro, but in their years, there weren't any genres. People just listens to Ryukoka (popular music) and each singer was doing very diverse type of songs. For example Dick Mine's biggest hits were "Dinah" (Jazz), Yogiri-no Blues (bluesy exotic urban tunes, big influence on Yoshida Tadashi tunes later), Jinsei-no Namikimich (Koga Masao minor waltz), and Tabisugata Sannin Otoko (Matatabi, travelling yakuza, Enka). In other words, music genres started to emearge in the late 1950s. While Victor (under Hattori Ryoichi, Sano Tasuku and later Yoshida Tadashi) were trying to create more refined city pop sound, Kasuga, Mihashi on King and Misora Hibari and Shiakura Chiyoko on Columbia were making Enka As much as I love Murata Hideo, Kasuga Hachiro and Hikawa Kiyoshi, I like 50s Victor Sound a lot(Obata Minoru, Akatsuki Teruko, Yukimura Izumi for example). But in the early 60s Rocknroll (Japanese called it "Western" by the way) emerged and after then genres became more obvious and important for commercialization. I grew up in 80s and I remember nobody in my class really cared about Enka. I am a Japanese, but I barely listened to any Japanese music from 90s to early 2000s because I was too much into the Rolling Stones and lots of punk rock, US indie rock mostly. But one time I gave a shot to Hikawa Kiyoshi's album to check his Kayama Yuzo cover initially and man he was so awesome. He was ****ing real and after then I spent huge amount of time and money to rediscover old gems of my own culture, which I tried to aviod for quite a long time. It litellaly changed my life and the best thing is that I am more proud about our culture now than before.

    Anyway, have fun listening. Jinbocho is my favorite place too and my favorite record store is "Tact" just 100 meter away from Fuji Record Store. Tact has awesome collection (mostly CDs) of Kayokyoku. Fuji Record has vinyls but do not have many CDs.

    This blog is amazingly comprehensive but one Japanese singer that is missing is Akira Matsudaira (松平晃), who has many hits in the pre-war era and I am quite sure any natsu-melo lover would love it. His biggest hit is "Circus no Uta" which lots of singers have covered. I put one youtube link to Matsudaira's song called "Isoge Horobasha (Hurry Buggy) which was written by Yoshi Eguchi, the same composer who wrote "Akai Ramp no Shuressha" of Kasuga Hachiro and you might hear some similarity.

    - Hanibo

    1. Hello there, Hanibo.

      Thank you for the compliment and I'm glad you enjoy the write-ups. From the looks of it, I think you have become a big fan of enka-yo too! Hikawa is quite a good way to get into enka because his covers generally have an updated sound that sometimes makes "difficult to listen" enka listenable/more exciting. I got to know a few classics because of his renditions, like "Benten Kozo".

      Indeed, the singers before Kasuga's time were doing a mish-mash of all sorts of songs. I remember having a hard time trying to label songs like "Tabi Sugata Sannin Otoko" and "Otone Tsukiyo" when I first began listening to these ancient stuff because although they are essentially matatabi enka, the time when they were released in made them simply ryukoka/pop songs. Now, I'm aware of how the genre labeling works, however, I feel that many songs still blur the lines between the genres.

      As for CD stores, I did go into a CD shop not too far from Jimbocho (I think along the sakura-dori street, if I'm not wrong...?) that's 2 stories high. It's got a lot of kayo and even exotic world music, but I don't know if that's "Tact".

      Ah, I've heard of Akira Matsudaira and "Circus no Uta". I'd considered putting it in my Masao Koga write-ups but decided against because I didn't want the articles to be longer than they already were. As for "Isoge Horobashi", I've heard it once from Hachi, though I didn't know the original was from Matsudaira. I'll give his take a listen, and thanks for the recommendation! Hmm, perhaps it's time to give Matsudaira his own article.

  2. Hi, Noelle.

    I agree with you on both the cover photo and the general tone of the song. On the latter, it seems like "Onna no Koiji" got the 1970s update with the guitar and drums. There is also that interesting echo effect that adds some epicness.

    As for that photo, the poor man looked like he REALLY wanted to get out of there with his money. I think he would have stormed out if the director had asked him to hold a glass of sherry.:)

    1. Hello there, J-Canuck.

      When you mentioned a glass of sherry, I was suddenly reminded of Yujiro Ishihara. Come to think of it, Tough Guy usually posed in that manner with some sort of spirit/cigarette in hand. It worked well for him, but Hachi wasn't a Yujiro. Perhaps a cup of sake would've worked better? :)

    2. Probably in that outfit, I would have recommended a cocktail of some sort...Orange Mimosa, perhaps?:)

    3. Afternoon, J-Canuck.

      A mimosa would definitely match that mock turtle neck of his. But somehow the image of Hachi holding a flute glass with an orange mimosa just seems as weird as the original cover... Yeah, I kinda wish there was something like that in his photo archive just so I can see how much more cringe we can get!

    4. Evening, Noelle.

      Bringing over our other recent line of conversation, but just like our first introduction to the Gokudols on their show, I kinda wonder whether Kasuga kinda felt similarly after the photo shoot as he sat in his dressing room while doing a facepalm and going "What the heck was I thinking posing like that?!"


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.