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.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Works of Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼)

A few weeks ago, I caught the tail-end of an NHK documentary on veteran lyricist and novelist Rei Nakanishi. That small part that I did catch related the fact that Nakanishi had recently beat back cancer and was happily active once more. Considering that fact and the other point that he's had a good presence on this blog as well has inspired me to devote a Creator article for him.

Nakanishi has provided songs in just about every genre in Japanese popular music with some of them becoming landmark hits for his singing clientele. The very first Nakanishi-written song that I put up on "Kayo Kyoku Plus", for instance, was "Kita Sakaba"(北酒場), the rousing and friendly kayo performed to success by Takashi Hosokawa(細川たかし), and the appropriately speedy and uptempo "AMBITIOUS JAPAN" by Johnny's band TOKIO.

But going back to the beginning, Nakanishi was born Reizo Nakanishi(中西禮三)in 1938 in the city of Mudanjiang in what was once the puppet state of Manchukuo under Japanese rule and what is now Heilongjiang Province in the People's Republic of China. He later grew up for part of his life in Otaru, Hokkaido.

Graduating from Rikkyo University with a degree in French literature, Nakanishi first became a translator of chanson music after he had gotten a request from chanson singer and former Takarazuka Revue member Natsuyo Fukamidori(深緑夏代). However in or around 1963, when he was at a hotel bar in Shizuoka Prefecture, he ran into singer/actor Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎)who was in the middle of filming a movie. Ishihara suggested to Nakanishi about trying his hand at writing kayo songs.

Apparently taking the Tough Guy's advice to heart, according to Nakanishi's website's index of songs, he may have started as early as 1965. However, one song that I've keyed in upon immediately is his early lyrical contribution to kayo, "Dare mo Dare mo Shiranai"(誰も誰も知らない...I Know Nobody, Nobody)from 1966 which was composed by Yasutoshi Nakajima(中島安敏). It's a sad and elegant Mood Kayo sung by Tokiko Kato(加藤登紀子)about someone who is utterly alone in the big bad city.

Although the first version of this song had been recorded by a combination of Naoki Matsudaira(松平直樹), Miyoko Tashiro(田代美代子)and Hiroshi Wada & Mahina Stars(和田弘とマヒナスターズ)also in 1966, I was able to find this cover version of "Namida to Ame ni Nurete"(涙と雨にぬれて...Wet From Tears and Rain)by another Mood Kayo group, Los Indios(ロス・インディオス). Nakanishi also provided the music along with his lyrics to this lovely ballad.

Just from what I've heard so far from his early material, Nakanishi seemed to enjoy going for the pathos in people's lot. Yu Kimura's(木村勇)music for "Otoko no Arashi"(男の嵐...A Man's Storm)from 1967 is more of a bluesier and deeper-in-Kabukicho Mood Kayo as Nakanishi's lyrics relate the tough life of a yakuza as performed by Ishihara himself, the same fellow who recommended Nakanishi to follow the kayo lyricist's path.

As I hinted up above, it wasn't all about Mood Kayo for Nakanishi. He also handled the lyrics for a lot of aidoru and aidoru groups including 70s darlings, Candies(キャンデーズ). In fact, he wrote their 12th single "Aishuu no Symphony"(哀愁のシンフォニー...Symphony of Sorrow)which was released in November 1976 with Takashi Miki's(三木たかし)fleet-footed music. Once again, Nakanishi provides the story of love being so painful that it hurts like the Dickens. In a bit of symmetry, that 12th single peaked at No. 12 on Oricon, although it finished the year as the 61st-ranked single.

In 1985, he provided the words to the sweeping opening theme for the anime "Shoukoujo Sara"(小公女セーラ...Princess Sara)with Koichi Morita(森田公一)as the composer and Satoko Shimonari(下成佐登子)as the performer. "Hana no Sasayaki"(花のささやき...Whisper of a Flower)is sung from Sara's point of view as she goes through a bundle of tragedies and hardships and often refers to the little flower in her heart to reassure her.

Nakanishi provided another Johnny's Entertainment group, NEWS, with lyrics for their 6th single "Hoshi wo Mezashite"(星をめざして...Aim for the Stars), released in March 2007. Composed by Peter Bjorklund, Johan Sahlen, and Claes Andreasson, there is more of a hopeful feeling as the guys from NEWS exhort listeners to not let any of the problems of life continue to weigh them down. "Hoshi wo Mezashite" was a No. 1 hit for the group and ended up as the No. 13 single of the year.

The last song for this article is Goro Noguchi's(野口五郎)"Ai no Shoumei"(愛の証明...Proof of Love), his 33rd single from February 1980. Noguchi played a bit with City Pop at the time, and I think that was the case with Nakanishi as well. This particular song straddles a bit back and forth between the dynamic aidoru kayo that he and his other "brothers", Hiromi Go(郷ひろみ)and the late Hideki Saijo(西城秀樹), espoused and some of the more downtown Tokyo style of City Pop (kinda like Akira Terao). Hiroshi Sato(佐藤寛)came up with the music although this isn't the same musician behind "Awakening" since the kanji for his first name is different.

As for what Nakanishi is doing currently, according to his J-Wiki file, it looks like he has been providing his own columns and commentary to media. I can only hope that I am as active as he looks to be when I reach his age.


  1. Hello Canuck,

    When I hear the name, Rei Nakanishi, the first song that pops up in my head is 時には娼婦のように/Toki Ni Wa Shoufu No Youni. Nakanishi wrote both the words AND the music. It was a big hit for 黒沢年男/Toshio Kurosawa in the late 70s. Nakanishi himself recorded the song (although not much of a singer) and his version was also a semi-hit. The lyrics were so sexually explicit they wouldn't let it play on TV before 8pm when children might be watching.

    The song was so popular they even made a movie based on it, which Nakanishi himself had written the screenplay for and starred in. It was a soft core porn film which also starred コシミハル/Miharu Koshi before she was famous.

    1. Hi, Kaz.

      As soon as I heard the first several measures, I pegged it immediately. I didn't know it was by Nakanishi, but it was a song that I had heard a few times at karaoke and the video was as raunchy as the lyrics.

      Did see a few clips of a nude Koshi in the o-furo on Yahoo videos. I assume that it was the film that you're referring to. Was this film made just before Koshi made her debut as a City Pop singer?

  2. Yes, indeed it was. About a month after the release of the film, she came out with her first single.

    1. I guess in a way it was the opposite direction of Kei Marimura. I believe (?) she started as a singer and then she ended up doing hardcore.

  3. Good evening J-C: thanks for posting this. A few years ago in Tokyo I got the EP for 男の嵐 石原裕次郎 solely on the fantastic cover shot; no idea at the time what was in it. Some of the record cover sheets are worth collecting regardless of the music inside.

    1. Hi, T-cat!

      My pleasure here. Yup, some of those sheets are indeed collector items in themselves. Ishihara does looks quite intimidating for "Otoko no Arashi".


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