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.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Okayu -- Aishite yo(愛してよ)

I saw this lady perform a few weeks ago on "Uta Kon"(うたコン)and the three things that struck me about the enka singer-songwriter Okayu(おかゆ)were: 1) How did she get that name?, 2) She has a pretty deep voice and 3) Her singing is a pleasant throwback to some of the enka/Mood Kayo from the 1980s.

2) and 3) I will address right away. Okayu's voice is the deepest female voice in enka and Mood Kayo that I've heard so far, and in terms of general J-Pop, I could compare her vocals to those of Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる)and Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや). For 3), the song that she performed on "Uta Kon" was "Aishite yo" (Love Me) that is her second major single released in May 2020. Okayu indeed created this song, and although I think that electric guitar is perhaps a more recent phenomenon in enka music, the rest of the arrangement has that sort of decades-ago feeling. Basically, I'm reminded a tad of the late Teresa Teng(テレサテン). Plus, I can't be totally sure if this would be purely an enka ballad or a Mood Kayo tune which makes me wonder if the line between the two traditional genres in Japanese popular music has blurred or even faded in the last twenty years.

Okayu was born Yuka Mutsuki(六月ゆか)in 1991. She hails from Sapporo in Hokkaido, and when she was a kid, she was given her current stage name as a nickname back in junior high school according to a 2017 article in the "Nikkan Gendai"(日刊ゲンダイ)newspaper. Her mother, who also had dreams of becoming a singer, often took young Yuka to the various drinking establishments in Sapporo's entertainment district of Susukino and those were the places where she learned about the old kayo kyoku through the singing of her mother and other patrons. Her mother was also a huge fan of Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)and her daughter would also grow to admire her as well, which might explain Okayu's singing style and vocal depth (since I'm also a big fan of Takahashi, too).

As a 17-year-old, Okayu wanted to become part of the gyaru culture so she went all the way down south to Tokyo to Shibuya which is still the Teen Mecca of the country to have her fun. Tragically in the same year, her mother died in an accident and in tribute to her, the daughter decided to follow the music path. She paid her dues along the way as she worked part-time in a trading company, became a magazine model, and tried and failed at a number of auditions. She even became part of a group of singers known as Ugal Ongakubu(ウギャル音楽部...The Fishing Girls Music Department) which was an official project by the national government's Fisheries Agency to support the fishing industry where she further honed her abilities as an enka singer.

In 2014, Okayu became a nagashi balladeer with her guitar to make the rounds around the various bars to sing kayo kyoku but on her very first night, thirty-two of those establishments in a row declined her request to pop on in for a song, according to a "Sankei Shimbun"(産経新聞)article via J-Wiki. Undaunted, she started with Ichiro Toba's(鳥羽一郎)"Kyodai Bune"(兄弟船)and made her rounds as a nagashi not just within Tokyo but also in some of the other regional areas. The following year, she got some media attention through the magazine "BRUTUS" which helped spread the word about her. Finally in 2017 (by that point, her repertoire had grown to more than 200 songs) , Mantell Nonoda(野々田万照), a saxophonist who has worked with Mariko Takahashi's band (much to her and her mother's joy, I'm sure) produced her first indies album, "Onna Nagashi no Blues"(おんな流しのブルース...Blues by a Female Nagashi) with her major debut happening a couple of years later. Along with her own songs, Okayu has also provided a few songs for some other enka singers under her real name.

(short version)


  1. I hear some Momoe Yamaguchi in her voice, I'm surprised you didn't make that comparison. I'd be interested to hear her sing "Cosmos."

    1. Hello, Cat. To be honest, I didn't catch that but I can understand your observation. I guess you're a "Cosmos" fan; any other Momoe songs that you're into?


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