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, August 4, 2020

Kouhei Fukuda -- Tsukuba no Kantaro(筑波の寛太郎)

I don't know very much about the city of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture which isn't too far away from Tokyo, especially thanks to the Tsukuba Express starting from Akihabara Station. An old friend who lived in another city in the prefecture once took me through the city when I went there to visit but that was pretty much it. The University of Tsukuba is one of the more prestigious national institutions of higher learning in the country, but the only thing that has really stuck out for me concerning the city is the fact that it did have a World Expo there in 1985.

(short version)

And now, I guess I can even add that there is now an enka tune that has somewhat of a connection with the place. A couple of weeks ago on "Uta Kon"(うたコン), Kouhei Fukuda(福田こうへい)appeared to sing his latest single, "Tsukuba no Kantaro" (Kantaro of Tsukuba). Written by novelist Kouichi Matsuoka(松岡弘一)and composed by Hideo Mizumori(水森英夫), it's the story of a vagabond gambler from the old days traveling not so much through the city but what was once called the Tsukuba region in southwestern Ibaraki.

Fukuda himself describes his June 2020 single above as a matatabi(股旅)enka which talks of the wandering life of a gambler. I hadn't been aware of such a sub-genre but from what I'm hearing, it seems to paint a fairly grand and carefree picture of the fellow through the proud horns and other instruments, and it seems to place the gambler on the same level of a heroic samurai. However, from listening to various enka tunes and watching some of the historical epics on Japanese TV, there's a certain romanticism that has been bestowed upon these lone wolf travelers on the open road, as if most people in the past and present have to be tied down to their lot in life and work.

Maybe "Tsukuba no Kantaro" and other similarly-themed enka are the Japanese equivalent of the country music classic "The Gambler" by the late Kenny Rogers, although with "Tsukuba no Kantaro", it's more about the journey than the actual sage tactics engaged in the game.

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