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, December 31, 2015

Minako Yoshida -- Rainy Day

(Unfortunately the Yoshida version was taken down
but here is Yamashita's take on it.)

Earlier today, I wrote about Tatsuro Yamashita's(山下達郎)great album "Ride On Time", and I included a number of tracks in the article but not this particular one here. The main reason is that "Rainy Day" was also sung by the other co-creator of the song, singer-songwriter Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子), and I wanted to get her take since her songs often deserve their own spotlights.

And sure enough, Yoshida's "Rainy Day" will get it! This is one soulful tune with that laid-back piano anchoring but also undulating things forward. And the lady's vocals are the aural equivalent of your comfy armchair; you almost want things to be precipitating outside to get into the proper mood to enjoy this song.

Yamashita had created the song specifically for her friend and collaborator as a track on her 7th album, "Monochrome", released in October 1980, but with the usual logistics involved in an LP's release, it ended up that Yamashita's cover of "Rainy Day" was the earlier one to see the light of day when "Ride on Time" had been released a month before "Monochrome". His version can be found in the bottom-most video of my article on the album at 30:53 with the late Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博)handling keyboards (Yoshida took care of her keyboards for her version). Still, I think the Queen of Soul in Japan is the better of the two here.

Tatsuro Yamashita -- Ride On Time (album)

Well, Happy New Year to everyone who has already entered 2016 (and that would include Japan). Hope you enjoy the o-sechi.

As you can see above, I just had to get Tatsuro Yamashita's(山下達郎)5th album "Ride On Time" after so many years of owning mostly his BEST compilations. In fact, I just heard it in its entirety within the last hour or so. Plus that cover is one of the most recognizable in Japanese pop music with the man's cheerful knock-kneed stance.

Although the above video has the opening and closing credits of the Fuji-TV drama "Good Luck" starring Takuya Kimura, the closing does have the TV-sized version of the ending theme of Tats' iconic "Ride On Time" single. After so many years, this song still manages to put a thrill up my back, especially when that first blast of horns comes in.

"Ride On Time" was the first single by Yamashita that I had written about on the blog and the opening track on the September 1980 album, "Itsuka"(いつか)had been the latest one, so there is some sort of kismet for me to write about the two songs' originating album. In any case, Track 2 is "Daydream", another sway-worthy collaboration between Yamashita and lyricist-singer Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)with the former praising the latter as the greatest song that she has written for him. There is joy in this one as he raps out all of the different colors in the sky over the big city as if he were just a kid lying on the hill. It's probably the only song I know, Japanese or English, which actually used the colour carmine!

Another Yamashita-Yoshida creation is "Silent Screamer", a super-funky piece which could easily describe either a Tokyo superhero or one massively cool car careening over the highways. Even the chopper-riding punks would have to get out of the way in fear.

(instrumental version)

"My Sugar Babe" was something that Yamashita had written and composed as the bluesy theme song for his old band, Sugar Babe, back in the 1970s. But the lyrics make it sound as if it were a serenade to a lover after that wonderful evening date. The ballad also became his 7th single released in October 1980 which only got as high as No. 90. The aforementioned "Daydream" was the B-side here.

"Ride On Time" went all the way to No. 1 and eventually became the 39th-ranked album of the year, selling at least over 200,000 copies.

And for those folks who are still on the 2015 side, hope all of you enjoy your New Year's Eve! Stock up on the Advil!

Noelle's views on the 66th Kohaku Utagassen & Fantasy Kohaku Teams

And with that, another year has gone by. 2015 was an interesting year for me; it had it's peaks and dips, and I got to experience a number of new things like taking boat ride in a dinghy in southern China during a study trip, seeing enka-yo stuff in stores for the very first time since I took a liking to the genres while on vacation in Taiwan recently, and... learning why beer is a popular drink and how low my tolerance for alcohol is... Yup, this is the year where I'm of the legal age to consume the hard stuff, or at least in Singapore I am.

Moving back to the topic at hand, I ended off the year with the 66th Kohaku Utagassen. It was my 2nd viewing of this annual musical affair, and having sat through 2014's edition I was actually a little worried about what was in store for this year. Thankfully, it was so much better than I had anticipated, with the selection of songs being more invigorating and the different segments being a lot more fun. I shall share my highlights of the show, and I apologize beforehand if this article is very lengthy, especially with it containing my fantasy Kohaku teams later. I'll try to run over it briefly.

Let's get started, shall we?

First off, I'd like to mention a few pop acts encountered that impressed me - the songs they sang I found surprisingly good. These acts were Gen Hoshino's (星野源) "SUN", AAA's "Koioto to Amazora" (恋音と雨空) and Ikimono-gakari's (いきものがかり) "Arigatou" (ありがとう). I thought EXILE... well, more like ATSUSHI, was cool too when "Rising Sun" came on.

Next on the list would be the "Anime Kohaku" segment where theme songs of animes new and old were featured, including that of Sailor Moon, Chibi Maruko-chan, Yokai Watch and my personal favourite, Pokemon. Hiromi Go (郷ひろみ) had a go (haha) at one of the Pokemon theme songs (I wasn't sure which season it came from as I didn't watch much of the anime. I'm more a fan of the games), backed up by Ash Ketchum and a number of Pokemon... it was so cute.

Now for the funny moments. Comedic duo Banana Man were one (two) of the emcees on board, and when it came to young singer-songwriter miwa's appearance, the pudgy mushroom-haired Yuki Himura (日村勇紀) joined her backup dancers. This meant that he too wore the pink Takashimaya-female-service-staff-like suits (according to Mom), and boy, he was adorable and rocking it! Then about mid-way through the second half of the show - when I was beginning to get bored - rock band Golden Bomber showed up with their nutso performance that included the guy with the painted face being stripped of his (female) kimono and being randomly (supposedly, but I think it's rigged) pitted against one of the celebrity guests in a sumo wrestling match. The band member won, but had his head smashed against a large temple bell at the end of the song. That was probably one of the weirder things I've seen on the Kohaku too.

For the enka-yo portions of the show (most in the first half), I'd say all of them did a fine job with their songs, and I was glad Hiroshi Miyama (三山ひろし) managed to hold back his tears as he belted out the very song that got him his first ticket to the annual competition, "Oiwaki Yama" (お岩木山). As expected, Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし) performed his crowd-pleaser "Otoko Bana" (男花) - just saying that I couldn't resist the temptation and finally gave in and bought the single... A-type... - but I wasn't expecting him to appear with a hoard of rugby players and in a sapphire-blue, flamboyant outfit that made him look like a pirate captain. Akiko Wada (和田アキ子) did look like one too during her turn where she sang "Waratte Yurushite" (笑って許して), just that she had no cape and was in bright red. Yoshimi Tendo (天童よしみ) also did a wonderful job with Hibari Misora's (美空ひばり) "Jinsei Ichiro" (人生一路), and at times, I felt that Tendo sounded a little like the Queen of Kayo.

Sayuri Ishikawa (石川さゆり) and Hiroshi Itsuki (五木ひろし) only came on much later during the second half. There is only that much Kohaku one can take, so my brain was quite exhausted by then, but at least they chose some familiar tunes. I was kind of hoping Ishikawa would've sung her dramatic and fierce signature "Amagi Goe" (天城越え), but she went with "Tsugaru Kaikyo Fuya Geshiki" (津軽海峡・冬景色) instead, which was fine too and just as dramatic with an army of shamisen players strumming away behind the demure-looking singer. The dapper Itsuki was up next with "Chikumagawa" (千曲川); I only got acquainted with it recently, but it is a beautiful song. I had my fingers crossed that Itsuki would join Sandaime (三代目) J Soul Brothers and strut his awesome moves as he did on a number of "Kayo Concert" episodes, but alas it never came to be. He's really good.

My favourite part came when it was Takashi Hosokawa's (細川たかし) turn. Dressed regally in his white kimono and haori, the song he chose was none other than his debut hit, "Kokoro Nokori" (心のこり). Witnessing the enka veteran who ranks just below Kiyoshi Maekawa (前川清) in my list of favourites perform, it gave me the good type of goosebumps. Needless to say, I was extremely happy that he sang it. And then halfway through a couple of other comedians came on to dance with him, including some rotund bloke in just his underwear... Man, have the Kohaku standards changed! I was unnerved, to put it nicely, but not Mom. No. She was not unnerved. She was fuming, seeing her beloved Hosokawa (yes, he's also her favourite, besides Misora) being upstaged by an almost-nude fellow who's not a sight to behold.

To wrap up this portion of the article, I'd like to mention that this edition of the Kohaku Utagassen was where Shinichi Mori (森進一) had his 48th and final appearance. He sang his most well known single, "Ofukuro-san" (おふくろさん). Though I'm not a big fan of his, I still found it a little sad to see another Kohaku staple retire, and it makes me wonder who will take his place next year. I hope they'll bring in another enka veteran. Ah yes, and Seiko-chan DID NOT CRY this time. I wonder if that's what finally brought the White team's reign to an end and led the Red team to victory. I wasn't expecting that; I was so sure the White team would win again, but I'm glad they didn't as it would have been boring.

I hope you guys are still tuning in and are not too bored like I was by the tail end of the show. Now it's time for me to share my fantasy Kohaku line-up. I had read J-Canuck's articles on his dream teams, which got me thinking of my own. I did list down who I'd pick for the Red team in the comments for his Red team article, so he suggested that I do my own list on an official article. You can take a look at my original Red team line-up here, but a couple of changes have been made.

Anyway, I took up the suggestion and here it is. Just so you know, I did add pop and aidoru acts too; pure enka and kayokyoku would be bland. Oh, and I'm listing them according to genre in this order: aidoru, pop, Mood Kayo, enka.

Akina Nakamori - Jikai (1984) (十戒 (1984))
Momoe Yamaguchi - Yumesaki Annainin (夢先案内人)
Yumi Matsutoya - Haru yo, Koi  (春よ、来い)
Miyuki Nakajima - Sora to Kimi no Aida ni (空と君のあいだに)
Rimi Natsukawa - Nada Sou Sou (涙そうそう)
Akiko Wada - Waratte Yurushite (笑って許して)
Naomi Chiaki - Tasogare no Beguine (黄昏のビギン)
Kazuko Matsuda - One Rainy Night in Tokyo  (ワン・レイニー・ナイト・イン・トーキョー)
Pinky and Killers - Koi no Kisetsu (恋の季節)
Aya Shimazu - Meigetsu Akagiyama (名月赤城山)
Sayuri Ishikawa - Amagi Goe (天城越え)
Fuyumi Sakamoto - Otoko no Hi Matsuri (男の火祭り)
Masako Mori - Oiran (花魁); with Ryudo Uzaki (宇崎竜童) as a guest playing the electric guitar.
Kiyoko Suizenji - Ippon Doko no Uta (いっぽんどっこの唄)
Yoshimi Tendo - Dotonbori Ninjo (道頓堀人情)
Hibari Misora - Ai San San (愛燦燦); with Kei Ogura (小椋佳) as a guest.

Masahiko Kondo - Sneaker Blues (スニーカーぶるーす); oops, I just realised what I've done...
Hideki Saijo - Jounetsu no Arashi (情熱の嵐)
Anzen Chitai - Kanashimi ni Sayonara (悲しみにさよなら)
Southern All Stars - Erotica Seven (エロティカ・セブン)
Chage and Aska - On Your Mark
Yuzo Kayama - Aoi Hoshikuzu (蒼い星くず)
Hiroshi Uchiyamada and Cool FiveSoshite Kobe (そして、神戸)
Yujiro Ishihara - Yogiri yo Konya mo Arigatou (夜霧よ今夜も有難う)
Ikuzo Yoshi - NDA! (んだ!) 
Takashi Hosokawa - Bokyo jon Kara (望郷じょんから)
Hiroshi Itsuki - Yozora (夜空)
Hachiro Kasuga - Otomi-san (お富さん)
Hideo Murata - Mina no Shu (皆の衆)
Haruo Minami - Omanta Bayashi (おまんた囃子)
Michiya Mihashi - Hoshikuzu no Machi (星屑の町); the Yon'nin Shu will perform together.
Saburo Kitajima - Matsuri (まつり)

Though not listed in exact order - if I did that I might lose it - Kitajima and Misora get the coveted last spots for their respective teams. There were a couple of things that took me some time to consider. One being, who will wrap things up for the White team? I was contemplating on whether to have Sabu-chan or Minami do so as both songs I've chosen are very festive. Eventually, I went with ol' Sab's (my new nickname for him), to fulfill my desire to see the guy perform "Matsuri" in a blizzard of confetti (on the competition) - he retired just a year before I began watching the Kohaku, so I only just missed his "Matsuri"... So close and I'm still feeling annoyed about it!

The other problem was who to put as the final act. I was tempted to go with Sabu-chan as it would mean ending off with a bang, but then I felt that Misora's "Ai San San" was also a good way to end things off too, not with a bang, but with reflection. What helped me with my decision was watching a talk show on NHK Premium that featured the Kohaku with Beat Takeshi (ビートたけし) and the retired Sab's. While they were showing Kohakus from different years with different guests and methods of counting votes in the studio, there was one thing they all had in common: a still of a temple shrouded in darkness and a moment of peace and quiet immediately after the rowdy show. If my memory serves, they were saying something on the line of the new year should be greeted quietly and introspectively (I THINK, I'm not fully sure). With that in mind, I decided the best way was to finish with Madame Misora.

Well, that about does it for my Kohaku article and thank you for sticking through despite its length (or at least reading some of it). I've been writing on this blog for quite a while now (mostly the enka stuff), and I hope that you guys enjoy what I've written and really hope that I didn't disappoint anyone. But on a lighter note, I wish you guys (readers and bloggers alike) a good year ahead of you. Happy New Year!

One more thing (sorry), if you've read my article on Itsuki's "Hakata a la mode" (博多ア・ラ・モード), then you might remember that I had been contemplating on getting the gentleman's 2016 calendar. Guess what? I got it (reimbursed by Dad). It's a wall calendar and it's bigger than I thought.

I now have 13 huge pictures of Itsuki (1 for each month, 1 bonus one on the cover).

I love it.

I can now flip it open. If I remember, I'll post the pictures of him for each month. Since it is now the first month of the year, here's January's.

Awww yeah.

Yoshimi Tendo -- Tonbori Ninjo (道頓堀人情)

Yoshimi Tendo (天童よしみ) was one of those singers whom I'd acknowledge for having an amazing voice and would be glad to see them on regular music shows like "Kayo Concert" as I think they can pull of pretty much any kind enka/Mood Kayo. But other than that, my interest in the likes of Tendo usually ends about there because I haven't yet found a song under their own repertoire that I like a lot. Other singers in this category include Aya Shimazu (島津亜矢) and Kouhei Fukuda (福田こうへい).

A few weeks ago during the Osaka Special on "Kayo Concert", Tendo graduated from that category, so to speak, when she sang one of her signature tunes, "Tonbori Ninjo". I did hear it on last year's edition, but I only paid attention to it recently... Mostly because "Juso no Yoru" (十三の夜) - again - and "Osho" (王将) were not sung; needless to say I was not particularly pleased about that. Well, listening to "Tonbori Ninjo" sort of cheered me up.

What drew me to Tendo's hit from December 1985 this time was the contrast between its elegant melody by composer Toshiaki Yamada (年秋山田) and the lady's fruity and powerful vocals that gives "Tonbori Ninjo" an edge. And I noticed that this contrast is more prevalent when Tendo sings this song later in her career. Though she sounded as impressive as she does now, I feel that her current voice has more depth than it did back then; perhaps due to cigarettes and consuming some of the hard stuff, plus the added confidence from years in show business. That reminds me of Takashi Hosokawa (細川たかし).

Writing the lyrics to "Tonbori Ninjo" was Kahoru Wakayama (若山かほる). As you can already see from the title, it features a popular area in the Minami part (entertainment district) of Osaka that would seem like a good place for foodies to gather due to the number of restaurants there, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization website - probably why the song regularly appears on the Osaka Special. Anyway, from what I gather from the lyrics, it looks to be about an Osakan woman in Tokyo trying to get over the one who got away and encouraging herself to be strong. Tendo's growling delivery at the chorus makes our heroine in "Tonbori Ninjo" appear more determined and confident that she'll rise above her predicament rather than brooding and sulking over her sake.

Tendo, born in Wakayama, began singing at a young age after being influenced by her music-loving father, and she won a couple of singing competitions, including "Nodojiman". In 1970, she debuted as Yoshimi Yoshida (吉田よしみ). She changed her stage name to what it is now in 1972, but did not do particularly well in the years that followed. From the J-wiki page I think I read that she was contemplating on giving up all together. And then came "Tonbori Ninjo" years later which slowly became popular with the crowd and she regained her popularity. I also read that another enka singer, Goro Kagami (鏡五郎), had sung this song too in 1986, but it didn't do as well. Unfortunately I'm not able to find his version.

Tendo sang this song on the Kohaku twice, during her 5th appearance in 2000 and 13th appearance in 2008. Speaking of Tendo on the Kohaku Utagassen, she'll be on tonight for her 20th appearance singing one of Hibari Misora's (美空ひばり) invigorating hits, "Jinsei Ichiro" (人生一路). I'll be looking forward to that!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sachiko Nishida/Yujiro Ishihara/Keiko Fuji -- Akasaka no Yoru wa Fukete (赤坂の夜は更けて)

The Force may be with me tonight. Just hours away from the 66th edition of NHK's Kohaku Utagassen(紅白歌合戦), I decided to take a time trip back 50 years and see what was going on with the 16th edition in 1965, 2.5 months after my birth. In the lineup for the Red Team from that year, I came across Sachiko Nishida's(西田佐知子)name and the title "Akasaka no Yoru wa Fukete" (Akasaka After Dark) written and composed by Domei Suzuki(鈴木道明). And boy, is it a winner for me!
(karaoke version)

When it comes to the tony Tokyo district of Akasaka and Mood Kayo, I always had the impression of Latin music. However, "Akasaka no Yoru wa Fukete" is a lovely jazz ballad that came out as a single for Nishida and several other singers at around the same time near the end of 1965, but it looks as if Nishida was the winner of those sweepstakes. And I would say no wonder. Her evocative and echoing delivery breathes life into those lyrics about a woman pining away in some ritzy bar in the title area for her lost love. I can imagine the sadness, the diluted glass of scotch-on-the-rocks, the ashtray filled with plenty of lipstick-stained butts and a tousled head on the counter. This is what Mood Kayo is all about. For Nishida, her performance of "Akasaka" marked her 5th consecutive time on the Kohaku.

Since then, I think "Akasaka no Yoru wa Fukete" has become a Mood Kayo standard of sorts considering how many other artists have covered it since its release 50 years ago. The Big Man himself, Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎), has also given the song its due, but his version has that Cool Cat Jazz arrangement compared to the Akasaka nightclub atmosphere evoked by Nishida's original. As someone as I've seen as the Japanese equivalent of Frank Sinatra as the leader of the Rat Pack, he and this version fit hand-in-glove.

Then we have Keiko Fuji's(藤圭子)take on "Akasaka no Yoru wa Fukete" which also has its own intriguingly different arrangement. With the accordion in there, the setting seems to be somewhere in some lonely bar in Paris with a bit more anguish from Fuji. All of the versions here are fine and there are quite a few more covers on YouTube as well.

Not Akasaka but Asakusa

Rumi Shishido -- Konbini Tengoku (コンビニ天国)

Really, I bought it for the songs!

Slowly going through the various CDs that I purchased for the Holidays. I managed to buy a compilation titled "Techno Kayo -- The Ultimate Collection 1". Being a fan of Yellow Magic Orchestra and reading nikala's article on the genre, I became interested in finding out some more examples so I was finally able to get this album this month. As for the cover of a bikini model by the name of Rie Amano standing in the middle of a sento (public bath), I will leave that to your fertile imaginations.

There were a number of songs that stood out on the album and a few of them I have already covered such as Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)"Kinku"(禁区)and Chika Takami's(高見知佳)"Kuchibiru Nude"(くちびるヌード), but the final track also caught my eye...I mean ear (Ms. Amano caught my eye). This would be "Konbini Tengoku" (Convenience Store Heaven) by cute aidoru Rumi Shishido(宍戸留美).

Marcos V. first talked about her in his article for her song "Otoko no Ko Ga Naichau Nante/Dance no Kamisama"(男のコが泣いちゃうなんて・ダンスの神様)as this aidoru who explored the more technopop side of things. I found out about her through the above commercial (sorry but that particular commercial has been taken down) in which her twinkling eyes and her hip-shifting moves were the two things that stood out for me. But I had no idea about her singing career.

"Konbini Tengoku" was not an official single but a track on her debut album from 1990, "Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do-Shi-Shi-Do-Ru-Mi"(ド・レ・ミ・ファ・ソ・ラ・シ・ド・シ・シ・ド・ル・ミ). And as limited as her vocal abilities were, there is something adorable about how she delivers her paean to all things konbini via Yumiko Ishijima's(石嶋由美子)lyrics such as the cakes and ice cream and shampoo available there, and screaming with her buddies when they try to sneak a peek into the porn mags. Plus the melody by Hirohiko or Yasuhiko Fukuda(福田裕彦)is catchy as all heck.

As someone who used to live within walking distance to 5 or 6 convenience stores, the Japanese konbini (7-11. Lawson's, am/pm, etc.) is truly convenient. Not only can you get bento and other household goods, but you can pay just about all of your bills, purchase airplane and concert tickets, send parcels out, copy documents and even recharge cellphone batteries. As Rumi bleats out, it is really konbini tengoku.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

J-Canuck's Favourite 6 Mariya Takeuchi Songs

Well, seeing that we're just another couple of days before the end of 2015, I thought it was time to put up another favourites list featuring one of my favourite singers, the mellow Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや). With the last couple of lists covering two of my favourite aidoru from the 1980s, Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)and Akina Nakamori(中森明菜), I think having someone in the pure pop vein would be quite nice. Ironically enough, although I've often characterized the wife of Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)as being this singer who had initially emulated the styles of American pop singers from the 50s and 60s, my Favourite 6 are straight pop or City Pop pieces.

6. Kon'ya wa Hearty Party (今夜はHearty Party)1995

Having KimuTaku of SMAP coming to your Xmas party? Flatter (or annoy) the heck out of him by playing this one on the stereo! Still, it's a fun song by Mariya which captures the feeling of a Christmas in Tokyo with all of the flashing LEDs on the streets, young folks in all their finery and rows of buffet tables, although this was once the go-to song for Kentucky Fried Chicken during the Yuletide season.

5. Kokuhaku (告白)1990

This was my re-introduction to Mariya after having heard her a number of times on "Sounds of Japan" in the early 1980s. It was great to realize that she was still releasing some fine music going into this decade as well. And to think, it wasn't because of the Tuesday evening suspense drama or any performances on the music shows that got me to listen to this one, but a simple visit to a household goods shop in Numata, Gunma Prefecture. That is indeed my confession.

4. Genki wo Dashite(元気をだして)1987

Originally a song for the sweet-sounding Hiroko Yakushimaru(薬師丸ひろ子), I've always enjoyed the Takeuchi self-cover more. The musical equivalent of a relaxing walk in the woods, it can also provide inspiration and reflection along with a couple of emotional thrills in that organ which races in and the final cameo chorus by Yakushimaru herself at the end. Arguably, if there is to be a tribute to Takeuchi someday, this would be the one song.

3. September 1979

The first song that I had ever heard by Mariya and one of the first songs to make me realize that Japanese pop music was not just all enka and aidoru. Western-sounding but not something that I would have imagined hearing in the West at all, "September" is as goofy and adorable as that beloved uncle in the family (which would be me). Every time, the 9th month comes around, the Takeuchi classic and the other "September" by Earth Wind & Fire are always played in my room.

2. Morning Glory 1980

"September" would have been in this position if it hadn't been for "Morning Glory". If anything, this song created by Tatsuro Yamashita is happy and even more adorable to me. It might be fully enjoying its status as a J-AOR/City Pop tune but I can also hear a bit of that old-style American novelty pop charm that I've always equated early Mariya to within "Morning Glory" as well. And with some of the big names in American pop music at the time helping out on the album that the song came out on, it was perfect for radio.

1. Plastic Love 1984

Yup, my favourite  Mariya Takeuchi song could probably be the Steely Dan tune that was never created nor sung by Walter Becker or Donald Fagen. Kudos to her for storing up all of that creative energy for her post-extended break album "Variety" to come up with all of the tracks including "Plastic Love" which for me is one of the great City Pop songs. I can only think of evenings in the most popular neon-lit areas of Tokyo whenever this is played. Mind you, the remix version above rather emphasizes some of the excess in extended versions way back when so have a listen to the original through the link.

My personal list is obviously not a comprehensive one since Takeuchi has gone through a fairly wide gamut of genres in her nearly 40-year career, but it does kinda show where I reside in the musical spectrum that is Mariya.

Yoshimi Iwasaki -- Rain (レイン)


We finally got our true first taste of winter weather last night due to a storm of precipitation which slammed into the GTA. And unfortunately it wasn't a particularly clean blanket of snow, either. What was left on our roads and sidewalks has been a sludgy mess of snow, freezing rain and just plain rain. It wasn't exactly pleasant walking over to the nearby shopping centre, let's say.

In any case, what was far more pleasant to the ear was Yoshimi Iwasaki's(岩崎良美)"Rain", one of the tracks on her 7th album from November 1983, "Save Me". Written by Masao Urino(売野雅勇)and composed by Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二), the song may have been a creation from the early 1980s but the nice techno kayo arrangement had me thinking late 80s aidoru. I have often thought that Yoshimi may have been singing in the large shadow of her elder sister, Hiromi, but it's her songs like these that have also made me think that she was able to carve a solid niche in the hearts of even casual fans like myself.

Asami Kobayashi -- Hatsukoi no Melody (初恋のメロディー)

Basically all those years that I've known about model/actress/singer Asami Kobayashi(小林麻美)mainly revolves around her 1984 cover of Gazebo's "I Love Chopin" given the title of "Ame Oto wa Chopin no Shirabe"(雨音はショパンの調べ)in Japan. It was an introspective ballad delivered with a sense of ennui by Kobayashi which rather matched her lovely looks. And frankly, I had thought that her music career started from there.

So, imagine my surprise some time ago when I discovered that she had actually been singing since the early 1970s. "Hatsukoi no Melody" (First Love Melody) was Kobayashi's debut song as an aidoru from August 1972 which was written by Jun Hashimoto(橋本淳)and composed by ever-prolific Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平). Tsutsumi's melody absolutely fits the times for a young pop singer with the gentle guitar and horns in the background (the breadth of what the fellow has been able to weave over his decades-long career is evident especially considering another Tsutsumi song that I wrote about last night).

But according to the J-Wiki article on Kobayashi, despite the above picture of the record cover, she would often have a dour countenance (the first emo aidoru?) in contrast to the usual fresh-faced and smiling image of the aidoru. It took another 4 years and 6 more singles but her initial singing career did the slow fadeout. As it was, though, Kobayashi's 1st single peaked at No. 18.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mami Yamase -- Modern City

I just got to see the veteran tarento Mami Yamase(山瀬まみ)on her regular NHK variety show "Tameshite Gatten"(ためしてガッテン). Usually the show is broadcast on Thursday nights on TV Japan, but since we are in the Holidays, tonight's episode was shown on Monday night as an extended year-end special.

Just a few days ago, I came across one of her old songs when she was a late 80s aidoru. Titled "Modern City", I was rather struck by this particular song which was actually the B-side to her 4th single from New Year's Day 1987, "Strange Pink". I mentioned once before that I've observed that a number of the aidoru tunes during this part of the decade had somewhat lusher and more exotic arrangements such as a more European twist as if Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)had come to the rescue.

The title "Modern City" had me intrigued enough as it was, but the actual song itself didn't strike me as being the run-of-the-mill aidoru tune. I gather that one reason would be the songwriters behind this one: lyricist extraordinaire Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and singer-songwriter Yoshitaka Minami(南佳孝)with arranger Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂)at the helm as well. Quite the pedigree here. It's light and airy enough to be an aidoru song but there is also a bit more refinement with "Modern City" that could have brought Yamase into the straight pop category. And once again, Yamase's singing voice reveals that her squeaky speaking voice on various programs is a TV artifice.

C-C-B -- Lucky Chance wo Mou Ichido (Lucky Chanceをもう一度)

Wow! It's been 30 years and I completely forgot about this one. CCB's "Lucky Chance wo Mou Ichido" (One More Lucky Chance) is somewhere in one of my Wah Yueh-bought compilation tapes, and I believe I've seen the band perform it on one of the music shows.

And dang, listening to it again, I just realized how funkily catchy it is. Written by Takashi Matsumoto (松本隆)and composed by Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)as CCB's 5th single in August 1985, the famed songwriting duo had also been responsible for the band's first big hit, "Romantic ga Tomaranai"(Romanticが止まらない), earlier in the year. "Lucky Chance" has a bit more of the funky synth giving it a melody that had me reminiscing about The Dazz Band, and another part of the appeal lays in the syncopated delivery of the lyrics. It's nowhere near rap but it certainly sounds interesting.

Although "Romantic ga Tomaranai" was the more successful single, CCB got onto the Kohaku Utagassen for 1985 for their first and only time with "Lucky Chance" as you can see above. It peaked at No. 3 and later became the 50th-ranked song for the year.

Shiro Hamaguchi -- Senshado Koshinkyoku! Panzer Vor! (戦車道行進曲!パンツァーフォー!)

This was taken a couple of days before the
premiere of "The Force Awakens". My friend who runs the
movie theater told me that within a few hours of opening day,
BB-8 was summarily decapitated by Dark Side vandals.

Several hours ago in movie theatre not too far away, I finally got to see "The Force Awakens" in IMAX 3D. Well, my verdict is that it's a fine movie far better than the prequels but I don't think it is quite up there with "A New Hope" or "The Empire Strikes Back" (to be honest, it seems like an alt-universe version of the former movie), and it is certainly not The Movie of the Year as one Toronto Star critic gushingly described. Without going into a full review, I can say that I enjoyed myself and despite all of the many characters in it, it is definitely Rey's movie!

A few years back, just some months after returning from Japan for good, my anime buddy and I started our now-long-running routine of meeting up on alternating Sundays for food and anime. One of the first programs on the slate was "Girls und Panzer" which was pretty much as it stated in the title: girls and panzers. I think my friend did forgive me when my face showed some skepticism about the concept.

So the screen went on and the first scene from "Girls und Panzer"(ガールズ&パンツァー)was the view seen through the scope of a tank with girls just nattering on for several seconds before the first sightings of said girls in high school uniforms improbably took their stations in the tank and rolled on. Then this march promptly started which immediately had me thinking of music from "The Dirty Dozen" and "Bridge on the River Kwai".

Although "Girls und Panzer" from 2012 had its proper opening and closing themes, "Senshado Koshinkyoku! Panzer Vor!" (The Way of the Tank March!), I think, will always be THE song when I think of the anime. As crazy-amazing as the whole premise of uniformed Japanese schoolgirls driving tanks while studying and living on massive community-carriers is, "Girls und Panzer" has an adorable beating heart which is essentially what I look for when I want to enjoy any movie, TV show or anime for that matter. And "Panzer Vor!" rather reflects that heart through the cheerful pluckiness of its melody composed by anime composer Shiro Hamaguchi(浜口史郎). It is the true theme for the tank club at Ōarai Girls' High School.

Shortly after viewing the entire series, my anime buddy even made the trip to the real Oarai in Ibaraki Prefecture. The town is sleepy but apparently the charms of the series were not lost on the folks there. One tonkatsu restaurant had their own tank-shaped deep-fried pork cutlet on the menu, and there was plenty of "Girls und Panzer" paraphernalia at the local train station. I'm sure while my friend was walking through the area, the march was happily playing in his head.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tomita Lab featuring CHEMISTRY -- Zutto Yomikake no Natsu (ずっと読みかけの夏)

Christmas has come and gone for another year, and so I am left with another round of purchased Japanese CDs to peruse for the next several days, including the above one. Yep, I bought another couple from the "Light and Mellow" series of Japanese pop music with oodles of City Pop and J-AOR tunes over the last few decades.

One of the tracks that stood out from the compilation was Tomita Lab's(冨田ラボ)"Zutto Yomikake no Natsu" (which I will translate as That One Summer) featuring the R&B duo of CHEMISTRY. I thought it rather fateful to have two musical acts named CHEMISTRY and Lab get together to concoct one lovely smooth ballad which turned out to become the latter's 4th single from September 2005.

Considering how much I really liked a number of the tracks from Tomita Lab's debut album, "Shipbuilding" in 2003, I'm slightly smacking myself upside my head for not having been aware of "Zutto Yomikake no Natsu" in the 10 years since its release. Composed by Tomita Lab and written by veteran lyricist Shigesato Itoi(糸井重里), the song has that particular summery laid-back vibe which I've characterized as being Lab's sound. And the accompanying music video of a young teenager knowing love and heartbreak in a span of a day goes very well with the song.

"Zutto Yomikake no Natsu" is a track on Tomita Lab's 2nd album from 2006, "Shiplaunching" and also CHEMISTRY's "the CHEMISTRY Joint Album" from 2009. The single itself got up to No. 37. It's almost a shame to read that since I think it deserved even better but perhaps it just wasn't the era for that sort of song.

Kyoko Nakazawa -- Machi-wabite (待ちわびて)

Well, I hope everyone has enjoyed their Xmas. Perhaps some of you are already getting into Boxing Day Sale mode. As for me, I was on turkey roasting duty today, and I realized how much of a Halo game making a traditional Xmas dinner can be. The bird took longer to defrost and took longer to roast, and the stuffing didn't quite work out by my estimation. All I can say to you who may be interesting in taking up the baster someday, DO NOT take any advice from the Internet at face value; take it as a guide but not as the hard rule.

In any case, now that I've gotten that (and other things) out of my system, allow me to give you (and me) some mellow time with Kyoko Nakazawa's(中沢京子)"Machi-wabite" (Pining For You). Who she, you ask? Yes, well, that was something I was also pondering myself. Her brief story reminds me a lot of another young singer of the 1970s who had also come and went like the wind, Kayoko Ono(小野香代子)with "Sayonara no Kotoba"(さよならの言葉).

Like Ono, Nakazawa had entered the Yamaha Popular Song Contest  (the 1974 edition) with her own creation of "Machi-wabite", won a prize, and then basically left show business. Mind you, Nakazawa had written and composed a few more songs whereas Ono made just the one, but "Machi-wabite" was Nakazawa's only single released in April 1975. And although I admit I haven't nosed around too hard, I think there is even less information on this singer than what I could find for Ono.

Ono's "Sayonara no Kotoba" is this sweet innocent waltz but "Machi-wabite" seems to be a somewhat more grounded and wistfully introspective ballad with the girl from the first song becoming the more mature woman in the second, still pining for that lost love whether he was a love-'em-and-leave-'em cad or a boy who just merely drifted away into history. There is something about this song that would make it sound perfect for listening in some cafe during a rainy day.

In any case, this is another one of those intriguing musical mysteries. By the way, the video directly above is a radio broadcast which only seems to come through just one speaker so please be advised.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Suppose You Bump Into Your Ex One Day... (Scene 1)

久しぶり。It's been a long time.  Merry X'mas.

Sorry I have not written anything for almost an entire year.  What can I say?  Just plain laziness and lots of things happening, work as well as personal.  It's been a pretty rough 2015, and I can't wait for it to be over.  Meanwhile, looking back on the past year, I think I've still achieved something.  At least, I feel like I've corrected some mistakes, or bad decisions really, that dated back 4 years ago.  I think what I've corrected is going to pave for a better future, or at least that's what I hope.

Before we jump into the topic of the day, a few words about Kouhaku (紅白歌合戦).  First, I'm happy to see new faces for the hosts.  Technically, Haruka-san (綾瀬はるか) is not really a new face since she had hosted before.  On the other hand, if my memory serves me well, it's been a while since they have a new host for the white team that's not called SMAP or Arashi (嵐).  Second, I hope Seiko-san (松田聖子) would redeem herself from her subpar performance last year.  They honor her again as they make her the last red team singer.  I wish her well and hope she doesn't screw up.  Lastly, I like Akina (中森明菜), but I don't hate Matchy (近藤真彦).  I don't know any of his songs because I don't listen to them.  I hold no grudge against him.  So, I also am going to wish him well and a sparkling performance.  Sorry to all Akina fans out there but it's been 26 years since the "incident".  I think Akina herself has already moved on, so I think it's time for all her fans too...  I mean, it's as though you guys got hurt more than Akina herself...

Sometimes, I wonder why such a strong emotional attachment still exists among some of Akina's fans.  In fact, some of harshest critics of Matchy are female fans!  When we fall in love with our idol, are we unconsciously personalizing our idol's experience, albeit filling in a lot of spaces with our own imagination?  When we saw first reports of Akina dating Matchy, did we feel as if we ourselves fell in love with Matchy too?  And therefore when Akina and Matchy finally broke up, did we feel the same outrage and heartbreak as if we were breaking up with our lovers?  Now, 26 years later, when NHK announced that Matchy will be performing at Kouhaku, did it invoke a kind of feeling akin to bumping into our ex-lover?

And so, suppose you bump into your ex one day at a train station or bus stop on your way home after work, what would be your first reaction?  If he/she didn't see you, would you alert him and say hi to him/her?  Or would you rather put your head down, trying to hide from him/her?  What if he/she recognized you and said hi to you?  Would you feel bitter?  Would you feel nostalgic?  Would you secretly glance at his index finger, trying to spot any signs of a wedding ring?  What if he/she deliberately hide his/her hand in the pocket?  Would you feel jealous? Would you have mixed feeling?  And if you're still searching for your true love, how would you feel when you're walking alone towards home that day?

So, here's Midori Karashima's (辛島美登里) story in her song "Ieji" (家路), or "Way Home".

Why are you calling my name?
Didn't we agree that we would not see each other ever again?
Time has stopped for the two of us
While the crowd is hurrying home

The days when there's nothing but love between us
The days when we both hurt the person we cared
"Now that I understand everything, however...."
Those were the last words you softly whispered

Please don't let my memories come back to you, I'm begging you
Your kindness, once again, makes me crumble
Your clothes and hair have changed
But how could this alone suppose to make me forget that it's you?

You're trying to hide the wedding ring in your pocket, aren't you?
I knew it already... but still I can't overcome my endless jealousy
I cannot bring myself to treat this as just two friends meeting coincidentally
On the other hand, I feel a never ending nostalgia

Without asking me anything, you sent me off
There's no one home waiting for me, however
I begin walking under the twilight
As none of us are able to return to those days


Do you have similar experience and feeling like the girl in the song?

In scene 2, Midori Karashima will tell her 2nd story of "Suppose you bump into your ex one day..." through another song of hers.  I hope you don't need to wait too long.  Until then, enjoy this X'mas holiday season.

Once again, Merry X'mas!

Thursday, December 24, 2015


It's been well over a year since I put up a globe article. To be honest, I've put up pretty much all of the songs by Tetsuya Komuro's(小室哲哉)band that I've really enjoyed, so "FACES PLACES" wasn't exactly one of my favourites with the biggest proof being that I never bought the CD single when it came out in March 1997 as the band's 9th single. I think the biggest reason was that the music was more in a rock format instead of the technopop that I had usually associated the band with.

However, it was a song that got lots of airplay on the various music shows in Japan whether they were the late-night ranking programs or the performance shows. globe was still very much a band on a high in the late 90s, and it seemed as if it took up permanent residency in the wee hours for some reason. I always saw Komuro's proteges, Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵)and Tomomi Kahala(華原朋美), as being the early evening entertainment followed by the prime time TRF. Not that I thought that globe was too subversive for the early hours but it just looked like they popped up past midnight.

In any case, there were a couple of things I did wonder concerning "FACES PLACES". One was the significance of the title and the other was the significance of the years that popped up in Komuro's lyrics (as usual, TK was responsible for words and music with co-writing credits going to bandmate Marc Panther). The years 1970, 1981, 1984, 1994 and 1997 were sung by lead vocalist KEIKO, and I was wondering whether they were thrown into the song in the same way certain years were plugged into the Pet Shop Boys' "Being Boring".

Well,  I could finally find out thanks to the article on the actual song on J-Wiki. They all signified important landmarks in Komuro's life. So, to translate that particular excerpt:

1970: Osaka Expo 70. A 12-year-old Komuro discovers electronic music pioneer Isao Tomita(冨田勲), synthesizers and multi-monitors.

1981: Komuro joins the rock band Speedway, a predecessor of sorts to TM Network.

1984: TM Network debuts.

1994: TMN (the name of TM Network from 1990-1994) disbands. Komuro starts work as a producer.

1997: The year that Komuro changed psychologically.

I translated the above statement from "Seishinteki na switching no toshi"(精神的なスイッチングの年). And I couldn't quite glean any further insight from this even though I checked Komuro's own article in J-Wiki. However, in the Wikipedia article on him, he started his overseas career as a musician-composer by creating his own version of the theme song for Keanu Reaves' "Speed" for its sequel. I remember his version fondly although it was too bad that the movie itself sank underwater.

As for the title, I felt that Komuro was talking about all the people and places that had influenced him through the years whether it was Tomita, his old bandmates from TM Network, and perhaps even his young padawans in TK World.

"FACES PLACES" peaked at No. 3 on Oricon and eventually became the 82nd-ranked song for 1997, going Platinum.

Yurie Kokubu -- Refrain(リフレイン)

Hope you folks are enjoying your Xmas wherever you are. It's Xmas Eve here as I write this but Japan is enjoying Xmas morning while many commuters there may be "enjoying" a hangover after the annual hijinks the night before. We've probably broken several weather records here in Toronto including the high temperature which reached a torrid 15 degrees Celsius today. Definitely a Green Christmas here.

Anyways, this isn't an Xmas article. Thought it might be nice to throw in an 80s City Pop tune by one of the singers of the genre, Yurie Kokubu(国分友里恵). Found this one on YouTube, "Refrain", which happened to be the B-side to one of her singles, "Nagareru Mama ni" (流れるままに...Letting It Flow)from 1986. Couldn't find out who created the funky tune (love the bass as usual) but it was placed as an extra track on a remastered version of her 2nd album from 1987, "Steps".

"Refrain" doesn't exactly break the mold when it comes to classic City Pop but it makes for a pleasant enough song of the genre to listen to. A couple of vets were behind this one: Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)and Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司).

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Show Hayami & Saori Hayami -- Daydream Cafe

Yes, I guess I'm on the "GochiUsa" kick tonight after writing about "No Poi!"(ノーポイッ!)earlier. But I came across a rather delightful version of the first opening theme "Daydream Cafe" so would like to show that to you but allow me a little space for some prefacing.

Along with the main female cast of "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?"(ご注文はうさぎですか?...Is The Order A Rabbit?), there are a couple of minor characters. One is Blue Mountain (Midori) Aoyama(青山 ブルーマウンテン), the somewhat spacey-sounding author as played by Saori Hayami(早見沙織)whom I've seen in other anime such as "Mangaka-san to Ashisutanto-san to"(マンガ家さんとアシスタントさんと...The Comic Artist and Assistants)as the oft-harassed Sahoto Ashisu and "Soul Eater Not!" as the slightly snooty Anya Hepburn. In "GochiUsa", her character of Blue Mountain is truly mellow (maybe that's not just coffee in her cup) although she has a rather disturbing habit of staring at Sharo's lower extremities.

The other character has far less time on the show: Chino's father, Takahiro Kafuu(香風タカヒロ), the master of Rabbit House the Bar, and a truly amiable ex-soldier with a darn fine voice. He is played by veteran seiyuu Show Hayami(速水奨), who is incidentally no relation to Saori Hayami (as you can tell from the kanji). I was surprised to find out that he had voiced Maximilian Jenius, the bespectacled ace pilot from the original "Macross" decades back (only knew Max from "Robotech"; can barely remember him from the "Macross" movie).

I tried to find a scene from the anime with the two of them conversing together but couldn't find the particular scene I wanted, but at least I have them in one short video.

Enough prefacing. Purely by accident, I found a version of "Daydream Cafe" on YouTube featuring the Hayamis dueting. I will always enjoy the original by Petit's Rabbits but this cover has got a fun vibe to it. I'm not quite sure if it's an especially upbeat Xmas version or a take of the song filtered through snazzy Shibuya-kei, and I have no idea where it came from (please let me know if any of you know). Still, it's amusing to listen to especially with Takahiro sounding so self-controlled usually on the show.

Petits Rabbit's -- No Poi! (ノーポイッ!)

Well, almost 3 months ago, I put up an article about what could be one of the most diabetes-inducing anison themes of the year with "Tokimeki Poporon"(ときめきポポロン♪) which has been the ending theme for the mellow "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka??"(ご注文はうさぎですか??)

Now that the 2nd series of moe girls in cafes is about to wrap up this weekend, I thought it was as a good time as any to talk about the opening theme "No Poi!" Compared to the adorable "Daydream Cafe" from the 1st series, "No Poi!" has more of a dynamic streak which rather fits the slightly more fantastical opening credits. I would say that there was even a bit of Swinging 60s pop fueling the song created by Aki Hata and Kaoru Okubo(畑亜貴・大久保薫), the same duo behind "Daydream Cafe".

I've got to give my compliments to XLEZZYTECHNIKA, the YouTube uploader and one of the folks who brought the band together to give their extended take on "No Poi!" After listening to this version, I'm now reconsidering whether I like the opening or ending themes better. I had thought that "No Poi!" was in an unenviable position being the 2nd opening theme after the great and still my favourite of all the themes for "GochiUsa", but listening to the full version on a cloud service, I've come to appreciate the joyful aspects of the song especially with the main voice cast being further challenged here.

And as it turned out, "No Poi!" has become the most successful of the themes on Oricon, getting as high as No. 4 on the charts.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

J-Canuck's Fantasy Kohaku Utagassen: The WHITE Team

As with the RED Team article for my Fantasy Kohaku Utagassen, I will be splitting the WHITE Team into 2 sections. One observation is that I've got a lot of bands here.

Tatsuro Yamashita -- Amaku Kiken na Kaori(あまく危険な香り)
Anzen Chitai -- Wine-Red no Kokoro(ワインレッドの心)
Off-Course -- Yes-No
Yellow Magic Orchestra -- Rydeen
Sing Like Talking -- Together
Arashi -- A-RA-SHI
Kozo Murashita -- Hatsukoi(初恋)
Masayuki Suzuki -- Wakare no Machi (別れの街)

I had first thought about starting the White Team's stint with Arashi(嵐)since they would be going up against Pink Lady, but then I decided to go with Sing Like Talking's "Together". The band has never been on the Kohaku, and I think "Together" would be the ideal rocket fuel to get this team going. Of course, with this being a Fantasy Kohaku, SLT would be performing the entire tune including the "Dinah" intro.

Artistically speaking, one missed opportunity was not having YMO on the Kohaku for 1980 or 1981. But logistically speaking, NHK may have had a nightmare trying to build a background set appropriate for the Lords of Japanese Technopop on the Shibuya stage (then again, the 1981 Kohaku did have that light display for "Ai no Corrida"). Plus, I could imagine Sakamoto-san and the guys politely declining the offer, thinking themselves a little too hip for the program. But the band is here on the Fantasy Kohaku, and of course, they are performing "Rydeen". Just imagine if they had been successfully recruited for the 2015 edition. A ton of "Hibike Euphonium" fans would spike the ratings like the tallest stalagmite.

Even though I hadn't even known the term City Pop at the time of the 1981 Kohaku, one of the most successful examples of the genre was performed on the show via Akira Terao's(寺尾聡)"Ruby no Yubiwa"(ルビーの指輪). And yet, one of the masters of City Pop at the time, Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)has yet to appear on the special. Well, his wife, Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや), is on my Red Team so I'm going to include him on the White Team as he does the really mellow "Amaku Kiken na Kaori". I'm sure the horns for the NHK Orchestra would appreciate the opportunity.

Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)has appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen at least once, I believe, I don't think it was to perform "Wakare no Machi". Just bring on the cool lighting performance while Martin is singing this super-cool song. And since Off-Course is on my White Team as well, why not have the guy responsible for crafting the song, Kazumasa Oda(小田和正), backing him up on vocals?

Akira Kurosawa & Los Primos -- Love You, Tokyo(ラブユー東京)
B'z -- Bad Communication
Hiroshi Itsuki -- Aishitsuzukeru Bolero (愛しつづけるボレロ)
Frank Nagai & Kazuko Matsuo -- Tokyo Nightclub(東京ナイトクラブ)
Yujiro Ishihara -- Brandy Glass(ブランデーグラス)
Ikuzo Yoshi -- Yukiguni(雪国)
Kiyoshi Maekawa & The Cool Five -- Nagasaki wa Kyou mo Ame Datta(長崎は今日も雨だった)
Shinichi Mori -- Erimo Misaki(襟裳岬)

Special Guest Star: Kyu Sakamoto -- Ue wo Muite Arukou (上を向いて歩こう)

To start off the second half, we bring back the old-style sophistication of "Tokyo Nightclub" with the original singers, Frank Nagai and Kazuko Matsuo(フランク永井・松尾和子). I've got the urban contemporary City Pop covered in the first half but there is nothing like some good ol' Mood Kayo to bring back the Latin mood of the 1950s and 1960s. Nostalgia is always welcome on the Kohaku.

In addition, I just gotta have my old karaoke tune of "Yukiguni" by Ikuzo Yoshi(吉幾三). Cities like Tokyo and Nagasaki are represented on my White Team but I also have to do my shout out to the north country. My regrets to Osaka fans, though. The reason that Yoshi's magnum opus has been my go-to song at the mike is that the melody and lyrics aren't too difficult to navigate so that even a tone-deaf fellow like me can handle it without too many folks running for the doors. And all you need on the Shibuya stage is a good hunk of snowscape.

Because I have a special guest on the Red Team, it is just proper to offer the same courtesy to the White Team. And who better than Kyu Sakamoto(坂本九)and what better song than "Ue wo Muite Arukou"? You would have everyone on both teams on stage, the judges, the entire audience and the folks around their kotatsu singing along with a goodly amount of smiles and tears. It would be the largest singalong in Kohaku history.

Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎)has retired from the's gonna be hard to imagine life on the Shibuya stage without his figure and the billowing paper snow at the end of the show. I can still put him on here, but I'm going to go with Shinichi Mori(森進一)and "Erimo Misaki" just for argument's sake. Mori has already performed one of his most famous hits on the 2010 Kohaku but I would like him to sing it in the final position. It is an epic enough ballad with his forthright delivery. I don't think he would eclipse Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)but it would still be a fine ending to the White Team's run in my Kohaku.

And that is my 16+1 for the White Team. As for who would win, well, I will leave that up to you to decide since that was never my intention for these articles. Still, despite the large amounts of thinking, the embedding and the typing, I did enjoy this existential blog exercise. Perhaps I might give it another go next year.

Yumi Tanimura -- Santa wo Mukae ni Iku Yoru(サンタをむかえに行く夜)

This is one of those hot-chocolate-with-a-marshmallow type of Xmas songs by Yumi Tanimura(谷村有美). "Santa wo Mukae ni Iku Yoru" (The Night I Went To See Santa) was composed by the singer-songwriter and written by Mitsuko Shiramine(白峰美津子)as the coupling song to Tanimura's 11th single from November 1991, "Eien no Hajimari"(永遠のはじまり...Eternal Beginning).

No matter which song she has created and sung, I've always noticed that child-like clarity in her voice that sets her apart from other singers. I couldn't have asked for a better song than this one, then, for her. Especially when she hit that supremely high note for "...holy night" near the end of "Santa wo Mukae ni Iku Yoru", that wasn't a peak reached by a soprano in an opera; that was definitely more of an innocent kid in a choir. I actually came across the song when I picked up her December 1991 mini-album "White Songs" which was less a Xmas album and more of a release under the theme of winter. I found it in one of the bargain bins at my old Nakano haunt of Recomints one day.

As a bit of a bonus, here is Tanimura's rendition of "White Christmas" by Irving Berlin with accompaniment by fusion band Casiopea(カシオペア).