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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Michiya Mihashi -- Ako to Guitar to Uramachi to (アコとギターと裏町と)

I was doing some more rifling through Dad's ol' collection of 33s and 45s when I came across an old single by the late Michiya Mihashi(三橋美智也)from 1964. The A-side is "Yoru no Buranko"(夜のブランコ...Night Swing)which I couldn't find anywhere on the Net, but strangely enough, I could track down the B-side "Ako to Guitar to Uramachi to" (Ako and a Guitar and the Back Streets).

The old 45 was written by Ryosaku Yano(矢野亮作)and composed by Toshio Shiraishi(白石十四男), and I couldn't quite peg whether the ballad was in the enka or Mood Kayo territory. I'm tending toward the Mood Kayo side of things since it is about Mihashi as this lone wolf guitar-toting balladeer seemingly continuing on his endless quest walking through the dimly-lit byways of the drinking establishments, the prime environment for such a song although these places seem more solidly working-class rather than the high-priced bars of Akasaka or Ginza. Also, the somewhat mournful horns and the guitar backing Mihashi up sound appropriate for musical accompaniment in some swanky nightclub.

Although I never saw this sort of person with my own eyes walking through the seedier areas of Shinjuku or Shimbashi during my years in Tokyo, apparently there were (and perhaps still are?) these balladeers who would be plucking away at their guitars singing the sad songs in the nomiya-filled back streets as they leisurely did their walk and occasionally popped into one of those watering holes fulfilling any requests by the customers. I always saw these folks pop up on variety shows from time to time. The particular balladeer in "Ako to Guitar to Uramachi to" seemed to be hell-bent on carrying out his life's work even at the sacrifice of any potential romance with Ako. The story almost sounds ideal as a movie with the final scene of The Balladeer walking away from the camera and down the deserted bar alley into the bright glare of the neon lights before it consumes him. The End.


  1. "Ako to Guitar to Uramachi to" does sound more like a Jazz Mood Kayo tune, but the lone electric guitar gives it a slight Hawaiian Mood Kayo sound. However, there are some instances where "Ako to Guitar" sounds a little enka. I think this is the first time I've heard Michi tackle Mood Kayo. I usually see him singing something more enka/Minyo-like.

    When you mentioned about the balladeers wandering around the bar-lined streets of Tokyo, it reminded me of a scene from one of Yujiro Ishihara's movies where he roamed around strumming his guitar and crooning (I have a feeling it's "Akai Handkerchief") while a bunch of sleazy ne'er-do-wells stalk him; Ishihara later beats them up of course - wouldn't be an Ishihara movie if there's no one being beaten up.

    1. Yeah, the song initially threw me for a loop since I remember writing about his "Kojou" which was most definitely an enka tune.

      I figured that there would be old movies with scenes where the balladeers would be accosted by the lowlifes. It's almost something out of a chambara except the hero is wielding a guitar rather than a sword.

    2. Now that you mention it, those scenes are indeed reminiscent of the showdowns in samurai flicks where the lone protagonist has to face off with a bunch of goons who charge at him one at a time to just get slashed to bits by his sword. Well, in the balladeer's case the bad guys would get a face full of splinters and wood chips from the guitar that would be smashed (against them) to smithereens.


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