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.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Akira Fuse -- Kiri no Mashu-ko (霧の摩周湖)

I saw the week's "Kayo Concert", and the theme for the show was cover versions. The episode was rather different since the lighting at the hall (not sure if it was in Tokyo or Osaka) was a bit more subdued, and there were only four singers: Akira Fuse(布施明), Aya Shimazu(島津亜矢), Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)and Rimi Natsukawa(夏川りみ). It was as if NHK was trying for its equivalent of a more intimate setting of a nightclub than the usual grand stage. The interesting thing was seeing Natsukawa perform Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)debut song of "Slow Motion" and Shimazu doing Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You". That was quite the karaoke stuff happening there.

However, in the latter half of the show, the four of them went back to doing their trademark songs. The one that caught my attention was Fuse doing one of his very early singles, "Kiri no Mashu-ko" (Foggy Lake Mashu). For a bit of background, Lake Mashu happens to be in Hokkaido in Akan National Park, and according to Wikipedia, the body of water is supposedly the clearest on the planet. It is also famous for the thick cloud of fog that obscures the surface during the summer. In fact, it's bad luck if one does get to see the surface of the lake. Lake Mashu also cannot be accessed by law so as to maintain its pristine existence; you can only view it from designated observation towers. It's quite similar, then, to Peyto Lake which is one of our Canadian treasures in Banff National Park.

Listening to the original recording via the video above, it's interesting to listen to Fuse's voice back then. He was almost 19 years of age at the time his 6th single was released in December 1966. I knew him from the 1970s onwards, so he possessed that boomer of a voice from that point, but his first performance of "Kiri no Mashu-ko" had him sounding like a slightly less quavery Shinichi Mori(森進一)but with no less the passion that I've heard in his later hits.

"Kiri no Mashu-ko" was written by Tetsu Mizushima (水島哲...also a newspaper reporter) and composed by Masaaki Hirao(平尾昌晃). Although the song comes across as something that would figure at some bar in Shinjuku's Golden Gai, its theme of a volcanic lake up in Japan's northernmost prefecture had one staffer at Watanabe Productions, the company that Fuse had belonged to, grumbling that this song about this place in the middle of nowhere would make no money. None other than Shin Watanabe(渡辺晋), the founder himself, countered that it's especially because it's a place that no city slicker knows about that the allure would make listeners wonder...and hopefully buy. I say, good for him. I think there are a lot of regional areas in the country that are getting short shrift because they are not named "Tokyo" or "Kyoto". They need the exposure.

The song was released in the pre-Oricon era so no idea how it ranked but Hirao earned himself the prize for Best Composer at the 1967 Japan Record Awards.

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