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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Kohei Fukuda -- Tenryu Nagashi (天竜流し)

LOOK, MA! Someone below 45! And my mother pretends to be enthusiastic over this recent turn of events when she is already numb to my unhealthy obsession with geriatric and deceased enka singers.

Yes, I have finally found some modern day enka-yo singers to actively follow now, like Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし), Junretsu (純烈) and Kohei Fukuda (福田こうへい). I think you guys have more or less figured out that I've become a fan of Hikawa in the past year or so, as for Junretsu and Fukuda, they're more of recent favourites. That doesn't mean my fervor for the likes of Mae-Kiyo and Hachi has waned one bit; it does, however, give me many more opportunities to look forward to music shows like "Uta-Kon" or "Nodojiman", especially since the older crowd tend to not appear on stage as often anymore - I'm still waiting for Ikuzo Yoshi (吉幾三).

Anyway, earlier in the year, I mentioned my growing interest in Fukuda via the "Michi Hitosuji" (道ひとすじ) article, but I feel that the official seal of approval was given when "Tenryu Nagashi" hit my ears.

"Tenryu Nagashi" was released on 25th April 2018 and is Fukuda's 8th single. In terms of its score, it has a similar vein to "Michi Hitosuji" with its powerful edge and a sense of grandeur, though I feel that "Tenryu Nagashi" has a more fluid flow to it and the strings are more dramatic and the drums a little more threatening. Come to think of it, composer Akito Yomo (四方章人) had probably made it so to represent the Tenryu river the song was based on. After all, this river that flows through Nagano is known for its fierce rapids, which I would say can be represented by the deep strings and the drums. But at the same time I see that this beautiful waterway has got its calm and languid portions, which can be represented by the simply shakuhachi flute.

Besides in its melody, "Tenryu Nagashi" is also a manly man song in the way of its lyrics, which was brought to you by Takashi Maki (万城たかし). From what I understand, our hero is most likely is a sendo-san (boatman) who travels up and down the temperamental river in rain or shine. It's risky and tough work, but he seems to thrive on the danger, much to the ire of his beloved. Looking at it from a different perspective, I wonder if the song is using the Tenryu river as an allegory for life itself - with its many trials and challenges that one has to power through... if that's the case, I believe I'm currently mentally somewhere in the rapids of the river. Ah, well. Time to grab the oar and push forth instead of spinning about aimlessly. Noelle from 12/7/18: Looks like our hero isn't a sendo-san, but is actually a logger who brings logs cut from Nagano to Shizuoka via the Tenryu. That's actually more dangerous than being a boatman, if you ask me, considering the violent rapids. Credits to Hanibo who clarified this in the comments.

On a lighter note, I had actually reached Japan on the day that "Tenryu Nagashi" had been released, and I was pretty thrilled over the idea of getting the single fresh out of the store. I did purchase it a few days later when in Utsunomiya, and while I'm aware that fellows like Hikawa would push out freebies with singles/albums like stickers or plastic folders, somehow I wasn't expecting Fukuda's merchandise to have that. So I was gleefully surprised when my CD came with the official "Tenryu Nagashi" pen. I also got Hikawa's "Shoubu no Hanamichi" (勝負の花道Type A single, which also came when a gigantic sticker of him. Too bad Junretsu's "Propose" single didn't come with any freebie. But, still, as what the three bears from one of my favourite cartoons "We Bear Bears" yelled when they got a free haul from a garage sale, "FREE STUFF!".


  1. It's not a Sendo song actually as he sails a raft of logs. It's a guy who carries wood logs cut in mountains on Tenryu River. Get wood logs in Nagano mountains, carries on the river and sails to Shizuoka area to sell there (in Tokugawa period as one may suggest). So it's a dangerous job as the songs says he doesn't carry women.

    Tenryu is one of the places that was featured in Matatabish Enka songs and the most famous one is Kantaro Tsukiyo-Uta (勘太郎月夜唄) of Obata Minoru. The lyrics of 2-ban goes like this: Umarekawatte Tenryu no Mizu ni..., which basically means he looks like a yakuza but the water of Tenryu River only reflects his inner self with shiny moon.

    You can find tons of covers of Kantaro Tsukiyo-Uta by many singers on youtube. Also Shimazu Aya did a song called Tenryu Sandogasa (天竜三度笠) and Hikawa Kiyoshi did Tenryu Shigure (天竜しぐれ), both of which were not put as Single but ones of better songs in their albums.

    I like Fukuda Kouhei too. To most of Japanese including myself, he suddenly appeared out of nowhere and got on Kohaku in a very short time while other singers like Yamauchi Keisuke, Miyama Hiroshi, Ichikawa Yukino or Oka Midori took years to get Kohaku. Yeah I was told Fukuda had Minyo background, Tohoku (North-Eastern area that had earthquake a few years ago) needed a new star and I can imagine he got very strong support from Tohoku fans. I have a couple of Fukuda albums and one thing I noticed was that he didn't hide his Tohoku dialect at all on CDs, and in fact I feel he kinda exaggerated it. On TV performance, he often uses dialect in conversations but not that much when singing songs.

    - Hanibo

    1. Hi again, Hanibo.

      Thanks for the explaination on the lyrics! Didn't know that the guy in "Tenryu Nagashi" is more a logger than a boatman. I thought that since river rafting is common on the Tenryu, the main character must be a boatman.

      Yup, I've heard of the Tenryu river from a number of enka, like as you said, "Kantaro Tsukiyo". I've also heard it in Haruo Minami's "Tenryu Shibuki Gasa" (天竜しぶき笠), and Ichimaru's "Tenryu Kudareba" - J-Canuck had written about the latter a while back, so you can check that out too if you haven't. Will give the ones you mentioned a listen though, for I love a good matatabi enka.

      It seems like Fukuda has become one of Iwate's prized possessions from the moment he made it big. And I find it very interesting that he maintains the Tohoku dialect when he speaks because usually many singers try to hide/change it - Hachiro Kasuga was one of them, actually. In a way, I find that this aspect kind of makes Fukuda more endearing because it sounds like he still maintains his Iwate/country roots. And I find it fascinating to hear him speak because I've never really heard the Tohoku accent fully in play - Ikuzo Yoshi does use the Tsugaru dialect in his songs, but he doesn't seem to use it when speaking. I suppose this allows Fukuda to stand out more in the industry at this day and age.


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