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.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Ayano Tsuji -- Kaze ni Naru(風になる)


Kyoto singer-songwriter Ayano Tsuji(つじあやの)has been mentioned once before on KKP for performing the theme song, "Ashita Kitto"(明日きっと), for the Kyoto-based NHK anime "Maiko-san Chi no Makanai-san"(舞妓さんちのまかないさん).

But what I failed to mention is that I had seen her on television while I was living in Japan now and then. She's always had that countenance as a down-to-earth woman with short hair and glasses while plucking away at her ukulele. While attending high school in the early 1990s, she joined a folk song club. She had wanted to play the guitar, but she found that her hands were too small to strum the strings, so she moved to the ukulele. According to J-Wiki, she practiced playing along the Kamo River near her school.

Her career began in 1998, and in 2002, Tsuji released her 6th single in June titled "Kaze ni Naru" (Becoming the Wind). From my memories of her music, "Kaze ni Naru" fits her style of a comforting and laidback pop song. No pretensions about this one...she could perform this in front of buddies at a campfire as well as at a full concert. Very apt music video for the song, too.

Reaching No. 13 on Oricon and going Platinum, "Kaze ni Naru" was also used as the theme song for the Studio Ghibli film "Neko no Ongaeshi"(猫の恩返し...The Cat Returns) which was released in theatres a month following the release of the single. 

Ichiro Kanbe/Shigeru Amachi -- Nagoya Blues(名古屋ブルース)


Happy Monday and a very cool one at that. We here in the GTA probably had our coolest morning so far this fall with a wake-up temperature of 4 degrees Celsius. I'm still seeing Tokyo getting those 30-degree highs, though.

Now for the sake of perfect transparency, one reason that I'm putting up this song "Nagoya Blues" is that when I was looking ahead for the plan to put up the Chubu region's group of go-tochi songs for this coming Saturday, I realized that I had yet to contribute anything go-tochi(ご当地)for the city of Nagoya which is a tad embarrassing for me considering it's been over a decade since I began "Kayo Kyoku Plus". However, part of my attempt at amends is the above tourist video for the capital of Aichi Prefecture by Omotenashi TV. As well, in the past, I have given some indirect tribute to the city whether it be through one of the theme songs for the anime "Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki"(八十亀ちゃんかんさつにっき...Yatogame-chan's Observation Diary), whose very brief episodes have taken an affectionate poke at Nagoya and the whole thing about it not getting much respect...kinda like the Japanese metropolitan version of Rodney Dangerfield, and putting up songs by Nagoyans Junko Yagami(八神純子)and Sentimental City Romance(センチメンタル・シティ・ロマンス).

However up to today, I hadn't put up a go-tochi song on Nagoya despite a lot of other regional tunes getting a place on the blog. Well, this is "Nagoya Blues" which is a 1971 single by actor/singer Ichiro Kanbe(神戸一郎)who was born Masakatsu Maehara(前原正捷)in the city of Kobe(神戸). And yes, his stage name was created on the point that his beautiful singing had him referred to as the "Ichiro Fujiyama(藤山一郎)of Kobe", thus Ichiro Kanbe (that last name being another way to say the kanji for Kobe). Written by Kousuke Sakurai(桜井幸介)and composed by Keishiro Tsuchida(土田啓四郎), it's a go-tochi song with some shoutouts to places in Nagoya and the cruelty of love that seems to straddle the line between the downtown bluesiness of Mood Kayo while also retaining some of that elegance of enka.

A decade later in 1981, actor/singer Shigeru Amachi(天知茂)recorded a cover of "Nagoya Blues"(なごやブルース)for which Nagoya was rendered into hiragana instead of kanji for some reason. As well, this version tilts things more into the Mood Kayo style for which Amachi's more gravelly voice fits. Amachi also gave some good Mood Kayo several years earlier for his "Showa no Blues"(昭和のブルース)in 1974.

To complicate things further, there is a completely different "Nagoya Blues"(名古屋ブルース)that was created many years later for Yoko Masaki(真咲よう子)and Los Primos(ロス・プリモス). I'll have to take a look at that one later on this week.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Kaori Mizumori -- Kujukuri Hama (九十九里浜)


Considering that I've been well under way with my Go-Touchi Songs(ご当地ソング)series, I've been remiss that I have yet to include the Queen of Go-Touchi Songs herself, enka singer Kaori Mizumori(水森かおり), and I missed the opportunity to include her in yesterday's Kanto entry because the song of note here is set in Chiba Prefecture. But no worries, I will include her in next week's entry. Incidentally, my last article on Mizumori dealt with her contribution to Okinawa, "Churashima Meguri"(美ら島めぐり), and when she showed up on NHK's "Uta Con"(うたコン) recently, it was illustrated that out of Japan's 47 prefectures and territories, she only had three more prefectures to provide songs before she completed her mission to sing about the entire nation.

Now, just as a geographical aside, allow me to tell you about Kujukuri Hama or Kujukuri Beach via YouTuber Full Score 8K's video on the area located in Chiba Prefecture. It's a very long sandy beach (66 km or 37 miles) that has been a favourite destination for swimmers and surfers, according to Wikipedia. I'm not sure if the area has been used in many Japanese songs but one song that comes readily to mind is the Neo-Group Sounds music of "Omoide no Kujukuri Hama" (思い出の九十九里浜)by the trio Mi-Ke from 1991

Well, the Queen of Go-Touchi Songs has definitely covered Chiba Prefecture with her most recent single "Kujukuri Hama" which came out in February this year. Most definitely an enka tune, Mizumori gives her usual heart-on-her-sleeve delivery for a story of romance and loneliness set along the titular beach. Koyomi Asa(麻こよみ), who has provided lyrics for many of her songs, does the same here while Tetsuya Gen(弦哲也)has provided the dramatic melody. "Kujukuri Hama" managed to hit No. 8 on the Oricon chart.

Angela Aki -- Hajimari no Ballad(始まりのバラード)


In the past few days, the Japanese entertainment world lost a couple of notable figures.

Rakugo-ka comedian San'yūtei Enraku VI(6代目 三遊亭円楽)lost his battle to illness including lung cancer on September 30th a few days ago. He was 72.

I knew him simply as Enraku, and not being a fan of rakugo, I always saw him solely on Japanese television's 2nd-longest running variety show "Shoten"(笑点)on Sunday nights here and in Japan. He was the purple-garbed panelist during the ogiri session with that tanned complexion and the sly grin who had the silver and sharp tongue, often to skewer the host for no particular reason except fun. He had been away from "Shoten" for several months due to his health issues but since TV Japan's broadcasts of the program are a few months behind the ones in Japan, the show has been inviting guest comedians in Enraku's stead and usually letting him know that his place would always be open for him. Unfortunately, that will not happen now, and I can only imagine that there is a lot of grieving among the "Shoten" cast and his fans.

I got the news this morning from NHK, but former wrestler, entertainer and Parliamentarian Antonio Inoki(アントニオ猪木)passed away yesterday at the age of 79 due to systemic transthyretin amyloidosis. 

I didn't see him nearly as often as I did San'yūtei Enraku VI, but whenever he did appear, he always made quite the entrance. He had that epic theme song which accompanied him wherever he went (and I even wrote about it a few years ago); it was the song for such a big man in physical size and personality. He always had those loud greetings: "Genki desu ka?"(元気ですか...How are ya?)and "1, 2, 3, DAA!" to rouse up the crowd. As I was telling one of the commenters here, James, Inoki was the type of guy to either cheer you up or give you a slap across the chops to knock you out of the blues. A lot of his fans are probably wondering how they are going to get out of those blues right now.

Not that I would presume that this song would be the ultimate cure for fans of Enraku and/or Inoki feeling badly right now, but the message behind Angela Aki's(アンジェラ・アキ)lyrics in her "Hajimari no Ballad" (Ballad of Beginnings) is one of reassurance and encouragement for those in dark times who may feel that the tunnel never ends. The singer's 11th single from June 2011 is as comfortable as a warm blanket, and as someone who used to listen to his fair share of the radio back in childhood, there is something of the 1970s soft rock feel in the song. 

"Hajimari no Ballad" reached No. 17 on Oricon and was used as the theme song for the Fuji-TV drama "Namae wo Nakushita Megami"(名前をなくした女神...The Goddess Who Lost Her Name) back in 2011. The song is also included as a track on Aki's 5th album "White" from September of that year, and it reached No. 4.

My condolences go to the families, friends and fans for San'yūtei Enraku VI and Antonio Inoki.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Go-Touchi Songs(ご当地ソング): The Kanto region


As if anyone needed reminding, it is indeed October 1st, 2022. Time for fall leaves, harvesting and good food such as matsutake mushrooms and grilled sanma in Japan. Turkey and pumpkin pie would be the delicacies here in Canada and the United States, but I digress. 

Last Saturday, I began a series known as "Go-Touchi Songs", those tunes that reflect a certain region or prefecture or city in Japan. They are held near and dear by many people in the country and last weekend, I started with Hokkaido and the Tohoku region which tends towards the northern part of the main island of Honshu. But as promised, I am now going into the area where I spent almost two decades of my life: the Kanto region which includes Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Gunma, Chiba and Kanagawa Prefectures along with Metropolitan Tokyo. As was displayed in last week's list, the songs aren't all about enka and Mood Kayo. Also to reiterate, this is a very tiny list merely to provide a small taste of these geographically based songs (especially where Tokyo and Yokohama are concerned); you can take a look at the far more extensive list at J-Wiki. Plus, I'll be covering the Chubu region next week.

1. Yukio Hashi -- Itakogasa (潮来笠) for Itako City in Ibaraki (1960)

2. Duke Aces -- Ii Yu da na (いい湯だな)for Gunma (1966)

3. Manzo Saita -- Naze ka Saitama(なぜか埼玉)for Saitama (1980)

4. Chisato Moritaka -- Watarasebashi (渡良瀬橋) for Ashikaga City, Tochigi (1993)

5. Takashi Hosokawa -- Yagiri no Watashi (矢切の渡し) for Matsudo City, Chiba (1983)

6. Shizuko Kasagi -- Tokyo Boogie-Woogie (東京ブギウギ)for Tokyo (1947)

7. Ayumi Ishida -- Blue Light Yokohama(ブルーライト・ヨコハマ)for Yokohama, Kanagawa (1968)

As was the case with Hokkaido and the Tohoku last week, I'd like to finish with a couple of delicacies from the Kanto: yaki manju(焼き饅頭)in Gunma and monjayaki(もんじゃ焼き)in Tokyo respectively.

Momoko Kikuchi -- Ivory Coast


Well, that was a heck of a day and night on Friday with me going all nuts by putting up 13 articles, but I just had to hit that 101 before finishing September.

I guess that I got some of that gumption from watching this specific scene early in "Top Gun: Maverick". I also wanted to reach Mach 10.

Anyways, no City Pop for this weekend. Ironically, I'm starting off the weekend with an 80s aidoru who did have the penchant for the urban contemporary genre, but this time around it's different with this particular tune. "Ivory Coast" was the B-side of Momoko Kikuchi's (菊池桃子)10th single "Aidoru wo Sagase"(アイドルを探せ...Find the Idol) released in March 1987. With that supposedly African-esque percussion along with some synthesizers, "Ivory Coast" tends more toward synthpop by my personal estimation.

Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司), the composer who has usually come up with the City Pop goods for Kikuchi, was also the one behind "Ivory Coast" with Masao Urino(売野雅勇)as the lyricist. Joe Hisaishi(久石譲)handled the arrangement. The leisurely paced song was also included in the singer's 4th album "Escape from Dimension" which came out a little later in May.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Seri Ishikawa/Yoshitaka Minami -- Midnight Love Call


Aw, Jiminy Cricket! Why not break the record? I've still got 35 minutes before we reach October 1st. Welcome to Article No. 101!

I couldn't have asked for a more relaxing way to end September on KKP and a more appropriate way in terms of the title since we are approaching 12:00 am. "Midnight Love Call" is a nice laidback tune made for singer Seri Ishikawa(石川セリ)by lyricist Masako Arikawa(有川正沙子)and composer Yoshitaka Minami(南佳孝)who also worked on the lyrics. It is a track on Ishikawa's June 1977 album "Kimagure"(気まぐれ...Whimsy) and as the song title says, it's all about a lady calling the love of her life on the old-fashioned dial phone near the witching hour...or under the circumstances, I ought to say bewitching hour. Very nice percussion and guitar for that bossa nova.

A few years later in 1980, Minami released his album "Montage" in May which included his cover of "Midnight Love Call". The underlying rhythm isn't bossa nova this time, but more of a sunnier reggae beat. Masaaki Omura(大村憲司)took care of the arrangement, and the guys from Yellow Magic Orchestra were helping out although I would hardly say that Minami's cover is a technopop piece. But indeed, it's Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)on keyboards, Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)on bass and Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋幸宏)on drums. Considering the song's feel here, the setting doesn't involve two bedrooms in different apartments but one end of the call coming from a late-night Tiki bar.

Lucky 13 today and tonight. And I'm finally calling it a night.