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, December 26, 2018

Larry's Non-Single Akina Favorites (Part 1)

I was on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) the other day when I was reading the newly published J-Canuck's Favorite Non-Single Album Tracks Part 1.  Upon finishing it, I immediately reached for my iPhone, and checked whether my favorite Japanese songs are from singles or not.  It's an interesting exercise indeed.  I found out that most of my favorites are from singles, but there're some that are only released in albums.  That inspired me to write this post and I'm going to just focus on Akina Nakamori (中森明菜).  This may just be part 1 :)

1. Anata no Portrait (あなたのポートレート)

In my earlier post where I talked about how I first got myself into Japanese music, this was one of my first Akina songs I listened.  I was mesmerized by the piano intro ever since I heard it.  In those days, I also confused this song with Twilight - Yuugure Tayori (トワイライト-夕暮れ便り), because both featured similarly unforgettable piano intros.

Like all early Akina songs, "Anata no Portrait" tried to portray the first love of a young girl (aka Akina).  Akina's boat bumped into the boat of a mysterious young man.  Akina's hat fell into the water and the mysterious young man helped her recover.  Ever since, her heart was fully occupied by her thoughts towards him.  She secretly took a photo (=portrait) of him (stalker?).  While staring at his photo, Akina believed he's her soulmate.  Meanwhile, she wondered if he already has a girlfriend...

"Anata no Portrait" was first released in Prologue in 1982.

2. Yokan (予感)

Joana on this blog wrote about this before.  Akina's live performance always adds a layer of sadness on top of an already sad song.  It's about a couple about to separate, but for some reason, the man is not able to say goodbye, and so the relationship drags on.  On the other hand, the woman does not want to leave him, but knows well that this relationship must end.  She's waiting for the man to say so.  She's so tired that she begs him, "just say something, anything, could you?"

Ever since Akina broke up with Matchy (Masahiko Kondo 近藤真彦), she cried in every live performance I've seen on YouTube.  I think the story in the song resembles her heartbreaking relationship with Matchy a lot.  Compare the above version to her live performance in 1985 and you'll see the difference.

Yokan was first released in Akina's album Bitter and Sweet, which was covered by J-Canuck before (here and there).

3. Eki (駅)
This is probably the most well-known and popular non-single album song from Akina.  The immortal singer song-writer Maria Takeuchi (竹内まりや) wrote both the song and lyrics.

The story is about a woman who ran into her ex-lover at the train station.  She recognized his once familiar raincoat and his footsteps.  She was very worried what to say to him.  As soon as she made up her mind, he ran past her into the ticket gate, without noticing her.  "He must be rushing home to his family," she thought.  She boarded the train car next to him (another stalker?), staring at him, and tears started flowing as she recalled her fond memories with him.

There's a behind-the-scene episode though.

Akina interpreted it as a sad song.  However, Maria's husband, Tatsuro Yamashita (山下達郎), upon listening to Akina's performance, was furious.   He thought Akina's interpretation was wrong, and urged his wife to self-cover it so that her original interpretation can see the light of day.  I think I listened to that version once on YouTube.  You can listen to it if you're interested.  Obviously, I like Akina's version better :)

Eki was released in the album CRIMSON, my favorite album from Akina.

4. Yakusoku (約束)

Another one from CRIMSON.  Another one from Maria Takeuchi (both song and lyrics).

It's a story about a woman.  She was enjoying a sip of wine one night.  Maybe it's the effect of the alcohol, she suddenly became fearless and dared to call her ex-boyfriend.

"Sorry to call at this late hour.  I just want to hear your voice.  We're still friends, aren't we?  I'll try not to wake up your girlfriend (next to you in bed).  I'll hang up soon..." she said on the phone.

The last episode is actually quite romantic.  At the end, she promised (=yakusoku) him that even if they ran into each other on the street, she'll pretend that she doesn't know him.  While making the promise, her tear drop landed onto her address book, blotting his name...

That's it for now.  Enjoy!


  1. Hi, Larry.

    Thanks for your list up there. Being a fan of the early Akina era, "Anata no Portrait" is definitely a winner for me. The dramatic arrangement has me thinking that it's probably a creation by Takao Kisugi.

    I didn't know about Tatsuro's fury about Akina's interpretation, but considering from what I heard about Mariya's initial impression of her husband when they had first met, I could imagine him being quite tempestuous. Maybe not the easiest guy to be around when recording. :)

    1. J-Canuck, thanks for the comments. Yes, it is from Takao Kisugi, with her sister's lyrics.

  2. There's also Hiromi Iwasaki's interpretation on Music Fair in 1988.

    1. Jim, thanks for the video. According to Wiki, besides Hiromi Iwasaki, lots of singers cover this song as well, including male singers like Hideaki Tokunaga. Hiromi's version has an enka feel for me. I still love Akina's version the best :)


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