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.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Haruo Minami -- Tokyo Gorin Ondo (東京五輪音頭)

Well, first off, congratulations to my old stomping grounds for finally grabbing that brass ring...or five of them, anyways. I woke up from a nap this afternoon and turned on NHK (via TV Japan) just when the announcement came through from Buenos Aires that Tokyo got their Olympics for 2020. I don't think I've ever seen former Fuji-TV news broadcaster Christel Takigawa that emotional, even on her final telecast a few years ago.

I was rather wondering how to commemorate the good news. I have already put up articles for Kenji Sawada's(沢田研二) "TOKIO" and YMO's "Technopolis", so I decided to go with something that goes right to the Olympic movement as applied to Japan: "Tokyo Gorin Ondo"(Tokyo Olympic Swing).

Now, I'm going from Wikipedia about the definition of what an "ondo" is, but those folks who have followed the gamut of Japanese music or have just been in Japan for a good length of time have most likely heard this type of music at the various festivals held throughout the country. It's a form of joyous Japanese swing enka (2/2 rhythm, according to Wiki) with a singer warbling the lyrics accompanied by a high-pitched chorus and traditional instruments such as a taiko drum. The ondo beat has been used to celebrate certain geographical areas (Tokyo), events such as the Olympics and even anime (Pokemon).

"Tokyo Gorin Ondo"was created by Takashi Miyata and Masao Koga(宮田隆・古賀政男) for release in June 1963, more than a year before the Opening Ceremonies for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics in October (rather late in the year, I know, but if you know what a Tokyo summer is like...). Now, several singers gave their own releases of the song such as the late Kyu Sakamoto(坂本九), Yukio Hashi(橋幸夫) and Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎), but the most famous version is the one by the late Haruo Minami(三波春夫), a singer who always seemed to have that reassuringly beaming countenance on stage while garbed in his familiar kimono.

Minami's version was the most successful in terms of sales, selling approximately 1.3 million by the end of 1964. When considering all of the singers who had sung "Tokyo Gorin Ondo", the total figure came to about 3 million records. One thing that helped the Minami side was his performance of the song at the 1963 Kohaku Utagassen at the end of the show. He repeated it for the 1989 special.

I can imagine with the love of sentimentality in Japanese pop culture, "Tokyo Gorin Ondo" will probably be played a whole heck of a lot in the next 7 years, including at this year's Kohaku and maybe even at the 2020 Opening Ceremonies themselves. Or maybe Perfume might come up with a techno version. ; )

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