Reading J-Canuck's article on "Ginza Kankan Musume" (銀座カンカン娘) had me thinking of other tunes like it - jaunty, post-war, and hugely popular even in the current millenium. And the song that popped into my mind first was Ichiro Fujiyama's (藤山一郎) "Aoi Sanmyaku". The fact that it's been requested twice in a row during the recent "Omoide no Melody" (2014 and 2015) and sung from time to time on music shows like "Kayo Concert" and "Thursday 8 o'clock Concert" just proves its popularity - though I've not yet heard it in its entirety, much to my disappointment.
I was first introduced to "Aoi Sanmyaku" through a snippet of the aforementioned "8 o'clock Concert" (link above) where the night's guest performers were split into two teams of four, the Mountain Team and the Sea Team, and each member singing songs based on their given theme. I watched that quite a while back, around the time that I was still unfamiliar with most old enka/ryukoka and even some of the singers present, so most of the tunes just flew over my head. The only one that managed to make an ever so slight impression (it only made me familiar with the title and probably just one sentence) was "Aoi Sanmyaku", sung by the Mountain Team's captain, Kiyoshi Maekawa (前川清) - maybe because he was also the only one I bothered to listen to at that point in time - but that was about it. As to how I came to truly enjoy ancient number is still a bit of a blur, but I have a feeling that it might have been at the start of an older episode of "Nippon no Uta".
Anyway, as with most songs, what drew me to "Aoi Sanmyaku" was none other than its memorable score that makes one want to clap along to, and it definitely has a knack of getting stuck in my brain often too. Composed by the same person responsible for the music to "Ginza Kankan Musume", Ryuichi Hatori (服部良一), the trumpets blaring away in that brisk pace brings the image of an old, smoke-spewing locomotive chugging along through the mountains to mind. In a carriage sits our protagonist who's anxious yet pumped about the changes and challenges he may face upon arriving at his new destination. To take his mind off such worrying thoughts, he looks out the window to admire the hilly terrain of the blue mountain range. Get it? Sorry. Poet and lyricist, Yaso Saijo (西條八十), penned the lyrics.
"Aoi Sanmyaku" was released in 1949. It was originally a duet between Fujiyama and Mitsue Nara (奈良光枝) back when it came out, and it was used as the theme song to a movie of the same name. But when Nara passed away in 1977, the song became Fujiyama's. Strangely enough, Fujiyama sung "Aoi Sanmyaku" once (or twice, if you count his special appearance medley in 1979) on the Kohaku in 1989, despite being that well received. Well, but it did come in first out of two hundred Showa era songs in this NHK show "Showa no Uta Kokoro ni Nokoru 200" (昭和の歌・心に残る200) that aired in 1989.
Many singers, young and old, have done covers of this song, but out of those that I've seen, the name I was most taken aback by when reading the "Covers" portion of the tune's J-Wiki page was Hiroshi Tachi (舘ひろし). From his overall bad boy persona, it did not occur to me at all that he'd have a go at "Aoi Sanmyaku", of all songs. However, I must say that Tachi's funky rendition of this ryukoka with that low, gentle voice of his - a stark contrast to Fujiyama's nasally warble - was interesting to hear. I kinda like it... What? No..., it's not because Tachi sang it... ... Okay, well, sort of... but still, it's a cool take on the song. His version was titled "Aoi Sanmyaku '88", released in October 1988, and it was also used for the theme song to, well, "Aoi Sanmyaku '88" (I think it was a remake of the original movie too), starring the actor himself.