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 15, 2012

Hibari Misora -- Kanashii Sake (悲しい酒)

This is the saddest song in Japanese popular music, let alone enka. I've heard this over the decades via record and TV show, and at least someone within proximity of either Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)or me gets misty-eyed. And usually the Grande Dame of kayo kyoku gets quite weepy, too.

So, it was with a lot of surprise when I found out that Misora's definitive take on crying in one's sake was actually a cover version. Back in 1960, "Kanashii Sake" (Sad Sake), written by Miyuki Ishimoto(石本美由紀) and composed by Masao Koga(古賀政男), had originally been sung by Jun Kitamizawa(北見沢淳), but it never became a hit. However, Koga never gave up on the song and kept looking for the right person to bring out the emotional punch. Six years later, he found her. The lyrics themselves are about someone trying and failing to drink his/her sorrows over a lost romance away, but the music and Misora's heartwrenching delivery were the keys to making this song her 3rd-most successful hit. Misora made "Kanashii Sake" her own. I just wonder if the legendary singer channeled some of her own trials and tribulations when singing it. There is a speaking part in the middle of the song which Misora had requested for which the original writer, Ishimoto, was able to do during one night.

Misora's version was released in June 1966, and sold close to 1.5 million records. And of course, she went on that year's Kohaku Utagassen to perform it.


  1. one of the best voices and one of the best female singers in the world Sagara Naomi I love the way you sing.. you do not just sing with feelings but you actually live the lyrics.. Thank you and thank god you were born..

    Ilhan Attila Ramadan (NZ) 21/12/2012

  2. Hi, ilhan, and thanks for posting. I'm not quite sure if you were indeed aiming your compliments to Hibari Misora or Naomi Sagara. Both are wonderful, though. And certainly both are embedded in my childhood memories!


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