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, March 7, 2013

Yukari Ito -- Koyubi no Omoide (小指の思い出)

A voice that has just developed like a fine bottle of wine, and I use that specific type of alcohol in Yukari Ito's(伊東ゆかり) case. A number of singers' voices such as those for Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)and Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵) gradually metamorphosed from their original high aidoru tones into deeper, richer levels, like the colors in a bottle of whiskey. Yukari Ito's voice started from a higher sibilant and beckoning and silky level when she started as a teen singer in the late 1950s, and although her voice also gained more body as the decades passed, those higher registers never really left her. It's still a very unique and appealing sound for me.

On the same episode of NHK's "Kayo Concert"that I saw 70s singer Hiromi Ohta(太田裕美), 65-year-old Ito appeared to also perform one of her evergreen hits from the 60s. Her rendition of "Koyubi no Omoide"was also just as wonderful as she and the orchestra cut through the air like a silk scarf. Then, I went to YouTube and listened to the original version from February 1967, and was transported to a ritzy Akasaka nightclub during that decade. The song has that Latin flavour which usually pegged it as a Mood Kayo from that time. Written by Mieko Arima(有馬三恵子) and composed by Jun Suzuki(鈴木淳), the title translates as "Memories of a Pinky". As for the story behind that, the lyrics talk of a woman's complicated feelings about what seems to have been a one-night stand as she feels desire, shame and love all in the same song and ruminates about the little finger that her lover had bitten (affectionately, I hope). Pretty heady stuff for a girl who was just two months shy of her 20th birthday at the time, but since she had been singing professionally since she was 11(one year younger than even when Hibari Misora(美空ひばり) had officially launched her legendary career), there probably wasn't much that fazed Ito by that point. (Thanks to Uta-Net for the lyrics)

"Koyubi no Omoide"won Ito a Japan Record Award and her 5th appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen of 1967. The video above shows both her Kohaku appearance and then an appearance on another NHK show many years later. You can compare the change in her voice and check my wine analogy.

As I mentioned in my profile on Mie Nakao's(中尾ミエ) "Kawaii Baby", Nakao, Ito and Mari Sono(園まり) were the popular Spark Sannin Musume, a trio of teenage idol singers who got their start together as hosts for the "Morinaga Spark Show" in 1962, before outgrowing it and heading for bigger and better things. Like the other two, Ito also did covers of a lot of the American popular hits of the time such as "Lollipop" and "The Locomotion". I used to hear a lot of Japanese-language covers of all of those old songs on old audio tapes, so I probably had heard Ito singing even before I knew the name. Strangely enough, though, the very first Yukari Ito song I had heard was actually a modern folk/pop/AOR number from 1981, "Yakusoku Dake Romantic"(約束だけロマンテック...Just A Promise Is Romantic), but it got me hooked.


  1. Thank you, thank you! I first discovered her while searching youtube for Tennessee Waltz by Patti Page. Yukari Ito's version is better than the original.

    1. Hello, Kimigasuki. Thanks very much for the comments. I hope you keep enjoying Yukari Ito. She's done a lot of kayo kyoku, but she's also done her versions of American songs.

  2. I was looking for versions of this song, and I found this performance in a small club by, I thought, some cover band. Then I looked at the singer and thought, she looks a bit familiar.

    1. Hi, Jim. I kinda wonder whether she had made a surprise appearance at the club a couple of songs earlier. In any event, it's always great to get the original singer!


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