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, January 11, 2014

Momoe Yamaguchi -- Akai Unmei (赤い運命)

This is one of those long-lost gems that I haven't heard in literally decades. I was actually doing a touch-up on one of my Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵) articles when I cruising through her videos on YouTube when I stumbled upon "Akai Unmei" (Red Destiny) by accident. As soon as I heard the intro, I realized that I had heard this lovely song on one of the "Sounds of Japan" recordings years and years ago.

One reason for its long-lost status in my memory was that I never knew what the title of the song was. And it was never the A-side of any of her singles. In fact, it was a B-side to her 12th single, "Ai ni Hashitte"(愛に走って...Run To Love) which came out in March 1976. It was written by Kazuya Senke(千家和也) and composed by Takashi Miki(三木たかし).

"Akai Unmei" was the theme song for a melodrama of the same title which ran for half a year in 1976 on TBS. Yamaguchi was one of the stars on this show whose plot involved a couple of men whose families had gone missing for 17 years after the carnage of Typhoon Vera in 1959. To add insult to injury, even when the men find their families, things get further complicated when the daughters get mistakenly switched in their identification for the fathers due to a fire in the building that housed the pertinent paperwork. And one of the men has a murder rap while the other is a public prosecutor.  I believe I did say it was a melodrama.

The song has this wonderful combination of strings and flute which perfectly ring Momoe's plaintive delivery. If there is an overarching theme to a Momoe ballad, it is that she often sings about searching for something, whether it be love, solace or hope. But in "Akai Unmei", those heartfelt instruments are complemented during the refrain with a defiant brass section which is supported by the singer's growing strength in her vocals. Resolution can be found.

Considering the rough-and-tough direction she was heading into in terms of her music with the help of Ryudo Uzaki and Yoko Aki(宇崎竜童・阿木耀子), listening to songs like "Akai Unmei" in her discography keep reminding me that Momoe was still a teenager at that time, albeit one that had to grow up quickly to keep up with her stardom.

"Akai Unmei" appeared on two of her albums: "Juu-nana Sai no Tema"(17才のテーマ...Theme of 17)and "Yokosuka Story"(横須賀ストーリー), both released in 1976.

There is another theme song that Momoe recorded for another segment in the "Akai Series"(赤いシリーズ...The Red Series) which you can take a look at right here.


  1. I absolutely adore this song, not just for its melody, but also for Momoe's performance of it. Plaintive is the right word, and vulnerable.

    Several Akai series were remade during the mid-2000s, and a singer called Yuki Otake sang the theme songs to at least a couple of them. Quite creditable efforts too.

    Arigatou Anata (theme song of Akai Giwaku, b-side of Sasayaka na Yokuko)

    Akai Unmei

    1. Hello there and thanks for commenting. Yes, I came across the fact that there was this "Akai" series via J-Wiki, with "Arigato Anata" as one of the theme songs. I also haven't heard that song in a long, long time. It was included in one of my "Sounds of Japan" tapes which had a tribute to Momoe.

  2. Akai Unmei was even adapted into a song in the Malay language, titled 'Ku Ingin Bahagia' sung by singer Rina Rahman. When I heard the original by Momoe Yamaguchi, I thought it was much more beautifully sung; there's power in her voice, emotion subtle and passionate at the same time.


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