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.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Yumi Matsutoya -- Dasanai Tegami (出さない手紙)

I've been throwing out quite a few of the 78s this week. Nope, not referring to the really old records but the fact that I've been writing about songs that came out in 1978. I think this might be the third in as many days. Well, perhaps it's a vintage year.

Furthermore, this is a Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)song and I've not written about the Queen of New Music in some time so I think this would be the ideal song to finish off June 2017.

Around 18 months ago, I wrote an article on one of her tracks from her 5th original album "Benisuzume"(紅雀)from March 1978 which was also her first album after officially changing her name from Arai to Matsutoya (marriage can do that to you in Japan). I had said that the album didn't exactly light any fires under me on first listening which was quite surprising but I also allowed for the fact that it would most likely grow on me over time.

Well, perhaps it's a matter of listening to each track separately. This song "Dasanai Tegami" (A Letter I Won't Send) is from Side B of the original LP, and listening to it away from any of the other tracks, I have found it to be another lovely Yuming(ユーミン)ballad. I love the lush piano (I'm assuming that it is the singer herself on the keys) and the harmonies created by her and the backup chorus. Plus, back then, her voice wasn't quite as sharply nasal so there was that wonderfully mellow delivery.

There's even a bit of Bacharach in the arrangement as Yuming sings about getting on in life after a romantic breakup. The lady in question was feeling stifled in the relationship so she felt it was time to move on in separate directions. The letter in question was perhaps an emotional request for help to her old flame to be sent out at a point of weakness but as long as she's getting back on her feet again, it will probably stay firmly gathering dust in her drawer.

Yes, perhaps it's time to give "Benisuzume" another listen.

Kyoko Koizumi -- Nagisa no Haikara no Ningyo (渚のはいから人魚)

Zukin, zukin...

Good heavens! I should have remembered this song from that phrase uttered by Kyon-Kyon.

That doesn't mean I knew the title for the song. I actually found it again by accident a few nights ago on YouTube after having seeing it performed by Kyoko Koizumi(小泉今日子)way back in the 1980s via VHS. This would be "Nagisa no Haikara no Ningyo" (The Stylish Mermaid of the Beach), her 9th single from March 1984, and it's about as early 80s aidoru as it can get with this one. The arrangement of the chorus, the catchy summer beat and the coquettish vocals by Kyon-Kyon just spell it out for me.

Written by Chinfa Kan(康珍化)and composed by Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二), "Nagisa no Haikara no Ningyo" relate the story of spotting and lusting after that beauty on the sands, and I'm pretty sure that a lot of the fans were casting the aidoru as that beauty.

The song was Koizumi's first No. 1 hit on Oricon and it would get the lass her very first ticket to the Kohaku Utagassen later on in the year. It sold somewhere around 330,000 records and by the end of 1984, it would become the 25th-ranking single.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tomokazu Miura -- Hohoemi no Tobira (ほほえみの扉)

Well, I've covered a lot on Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)of course as one of the biggest singers in the 1970s, and I just provided an article on her son, singer-songwriter-actor Yutaro Miura(三浦祐太朗), so why not the husband/father as well? Actually, I say this because I had encountered to my surprise that Tomokazu Miura(三浦友和)had also contributed to the music industry way back when.

I had never gotten into pure Japanese dramas on either the big screen or the small one but I did know on a rudimentary level about some of the actors and actresses who were in them. One of them was Tomokazu Miura and I've long known that he and Yamaguchi had gotten married which sparked the latter's retirement from show business in 1980. My impression of him is sourced basically on his appearances in recent years so it's that of the nice and slightly adorkable if quite capable middle-aged daddy. However, decades ago, I guess he was quite also capable of providing some of that beefcake according to the above video.

Strangely enough, he also provided some songs onto his resume. In fact, he recorded three singles and eight albums between 1978 and 1984. That debut single turned out to be a rather contemplative ballad titled "Hohoemi no Tobira" (Door of Smiles) from November 1978.

Marcos V. and I plus at least one commenter have spoken on how Japanese songwriters were able to amp up the quality of a song even if the singer wasn't exactly the most vocally talented person. Well, indeed the great sibling songwriters Etsuko and Takao Kisugi(来生えつこ・来生たかお)provided the words and music for "Hohoemi no Tobira", but the crazier thing is that Miura actually sounded surprisingly good (if a tad hammy) for a person who has only been tagged as a thespian.

Hearing the ballad for the first time, I wouldn't have automatically pegged the words and music as a Kisugi creation. The sophisticated and sweeping melody was something that I had heard from other songwriters such as Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)and perhaps even Kozo Murashita(村下孝蔵), but as soon as I read the information on the creators, I did go naruhodo. The Kisugis were always very good at tenderizing love songs in the way that I tenderize my steaks. Plus, the way Miura sang the tune, I could easily see him on one knee in front of Momoe while spouting love poetry.

"Hohoemi no Tobira" almost broke through into the Top 10 by reaching No. 11. His next two singles didn't fare nearly as well but his albums were fairly competitive on the charts, so I'll have to further explore Miura's surprise discography. It's quite the revelation to find out that Momoe Yamaguchi's future family would be quite a musical one.

Yutaro Miura -- Hoshikuzu no Merry-Go-Round (星屑メリーゴーランド)

Over the last several years, the inevitable signs of my aging have come to the fore: graying hair, joints that snap, crackle and pop even more than my morning cereal, and the fact that I can barely last one visit to the buffet table (that last one especially hurts). Another sign is hearing and seeing the children of some of my favourite singers from Japan firmly in control of their careers in the geinokai.

Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)daughter, Sayaka Kanda(神田沙也加), has been entertaining for the past several years, folk singer Ryoko Moriyama's(森山良子)son, singer-songwriter Naotaro Moriyama(森山直太朗), is a fairly common presence on the telly, and from the pages of this blog, I read that former aidoru Naoko Kawai's(河合奈保子)daughter, kaho, has started her own singing career.

And just within the last few days, I found out that one of Japanese entertainment's longest-lasting couples, actor Tomokazu Miura(三浦友和)and 1970s aidoru Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵), have two sons continuing on the family business as it were.

I saw one of their sons, Yutaro Miura(三浦祐太朗), on some NHK music variety show a few nights ago and although I didn't hear him sing there, I could see some of Tomokazu and some of Momoe depending on which way the singer-songwriter-actor turned his face.

Between 2002 and 2010, Miura was part of a rock band by the name of Peaky SALT whose activities came to a halt when the members had differing views on the future direction of their group. So, Miura went solo with his debut single coming out in 2012. His third single, "Hoshikuzu Merry-Go-Round" (Stardust Merry-Go-Round) came out in January 2015.

The title just seems like a match-up of two words that have been used over and over again for kayo titles but the ballad itself doesn't sound too bad at all. Considering the music video, it almost has a Xmas-y vibe to it and Miura has a decent if not outstanding voice (it doesn't quite stand out from some of his contemporaries). "Hoshikuzu Merry-Go-Round" managed to get as high as No. 46 on Oricon.

I was able to find this video of Miura singing his mother's eternal classic "Ii Hi Tabidachi"(いい日旅立ち)with the man who created it, Shinji Tanimura(谷村新司), and with Ryudo Uzaki(宇崎竜童), who also helped come up with a lot of Yamaguchi's later hits, on guitar (Sorry but that video has been taken down, but the above still has Miura performing the song).

At this point, I think this isn't even to the level of wishful thinking anymore but more of wistful fantasy, but there's still some part of me who would love to see Yamaguchi do a surprise appearance anywhere to sing a song.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ami Ozaki -- Kimagure Yohou (気紛れ予報)

Another lass that I hadn't written about in a while. It's always nice to hear Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美)from time to time since whenever her vocals come out, they're very refreshing and sweep any existential gloom. That is especially true when it comes to her early material.

Case in point: one track from her 4th album "PRISMY" from November 1978, "Kimagure Yohou" (Moody Forecast). Mind you, it's one of those typically Japanese tunes that has some potentially stormy times hidden in the lyrics while the music is lovely and congenial. Written and composed by Ozaki, a young lady is perhaps accompanying her mysteriously tight-lipped boyfriend for a drive while cheerfully denying any of those rumours of him sowing his wild oats with other women. Frankly, if he doesn't 'fess up to anything, the lass should dump the jerk but that's just my opinion.

Still, there's no denying the breezy 1970s pop feeling of the music, although it starts off with a riff that sounds strangely ELO. It's definitely a nice tune to listen to in the summer, and I could imagine Anri(杏里)covering "Kimagure Yohou" with ease in her early years. It's also got quite the field of musicians helping her out: Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂)on guitar, Tsugutoshi Goto(後藤次利)on bass, Tatsuo Hayashi(林立夫)on drums, Nobu Saito(斉藤ノブ)on percussion, Hideki Matsutake of YMO fame(松武秀樹)on synthesizer programming, and two members of the band Off-Course(オフコース)as backup singers, Yasuhiro Suzuki and Kazumasa Oda(鈴木康博・小田和正). Thank you, J-Wiki for that information.

Sachiko Kobayashi -- Futatabino (ふたたびの)

It's been some months since I've written about this kayo legend so I'm happy I'm able to talk about her again.

This is one of those songs by Sachiko Kobayashi(小林幸子)that I let slip through my memories perhaps because a later hit "Moshikashite"(もしかして)pretty much embedded itself in my head as her trademark song from the 1980s. Still, now that I've become reacquainted with "Futatabino" (The Second Time), I do remember that it was popping up on those music programs via rental video tapes from Nippon Video.

Appreciating it again after so long, I've found Kobayashi's 36th single from January 1983 to be another one of those kayo that might straddle the line between enka and Mood Kayo. Certainly looking at her appearance in the above video, I can envisage "Futatabino" to be a tune that can bring up images of being in a swanky nightclub in Tokyo and in fact, the lyrics by Etsuko Kisugi(来生えつこ), talk of a lady walking through the side streets of an entertainment district bumping into an old flame again and wondering whether the embers of love can be rekindled.

It's pretty interesting how much more conservatively dressed Kobayashi was back in the day. To be honest, I kinda prefer that way instead of the more glamourous threads she's been wearing in recent years.

Anyways, there is also something about that melody by TAI that hints at enka so you can imagine why I'm slightly stuck to definitively categorize "Futatabino" one way or another. I was surprised to find out that it was Kisugi who came up with the lyrics since I'd always thought her to be purely providing for regular pop singers.

There is no mention on J-Wiki about how the song did on the charts but it did get her another opportunity to appear on the 1983 Kohaku Utagassen. I'm pretty sure at that time, Kobayashi had yet to begin that custom of enswathing herself in yards of epic fabric on the level of an Eiko Ishioka(石岡瑛子)creation.

The late Teresa Teng(テレサ・テン)had also released her version of "Futatabino" later in October of that year but unfortunately I couldn't find her take on YouTube.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

1986 Omega Tribe -- Crystal Night

Summer has begun. I've already brought in the beer-friendly TUBE for the season so it's time to also bring in the mellower mineral water/cocktail side of summer J-Pop via one of the incarnations of Omega Tribe, namely 1986 Omega Tribe(1986オメガトライブ). I listened to the above album "Downtown Mystery ~ 'Night Time' Version" yesterday and it was the nostalgic 80s of the season once more.

The song here wasn't placed on that particular album but it was the title track for 1986 Omega Tribe's 2nd album "Crystal Night" from February 1987. Carlos Toshiki(カルロス・トシキ)is at the mike for his light and creamy delivery of some nighttime light funk. Ahhh....I can see the Mai Tai being served in front of me right now. It may have been guitars for TUBE but it's those crystalline synths for Omega Tribe.

"Crystal Night" the song was written by Toshiki and Koichi Fujita(藤田浩一)and composed by Tsunehiro Izumi(和泉常寛)for the album which peaked at No. 1.

Basically when I see any Japanese song from the 1980s with the word crystal in the title such as this one here, all of the pop images from that decade come flooding into my head ranging from the neo-zoot suit fashion for the guys and the big hair for the gals to the bright-lights-big-city feeling. Perhaps that is because of a 1980 novel that I had heard about years ago while in university titled "Nantonaku Crystal"(なんとなく、クリスタル...Somehow, Crystal)by Yasuo Tanaka(田中康夫), who would later become the governor of Nagano Prefecture in the first half of the 2000s. The story involved a college kid and a part-time model living their modern Tokyo lives and apparently according to the review of the novel, Tanaka even provided tons of footnotes about the various products and cool places that the reader "needed" to know.

I never read "Nantonaku Crystal" but it seems like it can be treated as an indictment of the empty materialistic society of modern-day Japan or as a bible for the kakkoii kids at the time. In any case, I'd be interested in taking a look at an English translation of it just to confirm what was big in those early days since I had my first, brief and ultimately everlasting taste of it during my summer trip in 1981 there. Strangely enough, perhaps all those Future Funk/Vaporwave videos up on YouTube might reflect what Tanaka had been up to decades ago.

It's kinda ironic, though...supposedly Tanaka took some sneering swipes at aspects of the domestic pop culture in lieu of the "superior" Western stuff such as music in his book while I am the fellow who absolutely embraced the former (and the latter)!

You can take a look at the review of "Nantonaku Crystal" here.

Hiromi Go -- COOL

You go, GO!

Well, here I was thinking that I may have exhausted the Hiromi Go(郷ひろみ)file after so many years but I'm starting to realize that the dandy man had a good dalliance with City Pop and the more urban contemporary style of music during the 1980s. Yup, I remember nikala's 2015 article on "Irie Nite"(入江にて)which had the Go man singing the urban genre as early as 1979, but I've always seen the lad as the regular face on Japanese TV, including his long stay on the Kohaku Utagassen, while singing those Oricon-friendly dynamic teen aidoru hits back in the 1970s and those man-about-town favourites in the early 1980s.

My memories of the Kohaku Utagassen go pretty hazy beyond 1983. I guess those three years of 1981, 1982 and 1983 will be the only golden ones for me so it was with some surprise on finding out that Go had sung the cool "COOL" on the 1985 Kohaku. I think I barely remember this one and I rather felt like giving myself a slap on the back of my head a la the Gibbs Smack from "NCIS" since on hearing the original recorded version here, I wanted to exhort "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!"

This was Go's 56th single from October 1985 and apparently it didn't quite chart too highly or at least J-Wiki didn't want to bother posting the results this time. However, it still registers with me as a fairly slick City Pop production (J-Wiki still has the song categorized as an aidoru tune!), and the YouTube commenters seem to be comparing it favourably to Vaporwave. I think there's even a bit of technopop in there although it wasn't enough for me to categorize it thusly. But no doubts...I think it is cool.

Maybe it was just that it seemed rather out of character for Go when I originally saw his performance on the 1985 Kohaku that the memories of it didn't really stay on in my head. Considering how soon to the New Year's Eve show its release was, I was surprised that he did get onto the show for this particular song, but then I read on the J-Wiki article that Go had announced his departure from entertainment activities from 1986 for a while (I believe he wanted to head to New York for several months) so his 13 straight Kohaku appearances would be coming to an end on December 31 1985. I gather that NHK was feeling rather sentimental so the network let him on for one final go (no pun intended). However, he would return to the Shibuya stage for the 1990 show.

The one other surprise was that singer-songwriter Senri Oe(大江千里)was the man behind the words and music to "COOL"! He always struck me as the one to create those happy-go-lucky pop tunes for singers such as Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里)at the time and for himself so I didn't realize that he was able to create something as funky and downtown as this one. I'm not sure whether "COOL" ever got onto an original album although it may be on one of his BEST compilations. This would be another one that I would like to track down someday.

As a P.S., the single has the Japanese version as the B-side. The A-side has the English version of the song with Linda Hennrick providing the lyrics. Would be interesting to hear that version.

(English version)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Yujiro Ishihara -- Shiroi Machi (白い街)

This morning, I saw something rather unprecedented on NHK's "News Watch at 9". I saw the news program devote over half an hour of its hour-long coverage to something that wasn't political, economic or meteorological. Instead, the broadcasters and commentators were all gushing about a self-effacing teenage boy who just happened to win his 29th consecutive shogi match, breaking a record. In fact, part of the reason that there was such a full-court press was that the match was in the middle of its endgame during the broadcast so that NHK and perhaps other channels could catch the moment when 14-year-old shogi wunderkind 4-dan Souta Fujii(藤井聡太)confirmed his status.

Perhaps the only thing I could think of here that would be equivalent to the media hysteria surrounding Fujii and his achievement was probably when Toronto's No. 1 NHL draft pick from 2016, 19-year-old Auston Matthews, proved his worth right in his first hockey game with the big boys and scored 4 goals against Ottawa last October. Boy, were folks in Canada chattering the next day. But even that didn't extend to 30 minutes on the telly.

So here I was thinking about how I should pay some tribute to Fujii. Well, the obvious choice was "Osho"(王将)by Hideo Murata(村田英雄)but Noelle has spoken up about that enka, and since I couldn't really find any other shogi-themed kayo, I decided to check out the wunderkind's home prefecture of Aichi whose biggest city is Nagoya.

It didn't take me too long to track down a kayo related to that city (although Fujii was actually born and raised in Seto City in Aichi Prefecture). I just so happened to find "Shiroi Machi" (White City) by Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎). The Tough Guy is definitely one for geographical kayo with him singing the Japanese blues in Yokohama and Tokyo, and this time, his ballads have brought him to Nagoya. "Shiroi Machi" was written by Naoya Uchimura(内村直也)and composed by Shinichi Nozaki(野崎真一)as a song for Ishihara in October 1967 and has him singing about another love in Nagoya.

(empty karaoke version)

It's another one of Ishihara's Mood Kayo tunes but the notable thing about is that instead of the customary saxophone greeting the listener, it's actually a clarinet doing the honours before Ishihara starts crooning. For me, the feeling is that of having a drink in an even classier and older nightclub. I have to admit though that I am biased since I did play the licorice stick for a few years back in junior high school.

Nagoya was one city that I did visit a few times during my odyssey in Japan and it takes about a couple of hours by Bullet Train from Tokyo. At times, I did hear that the city used to get short shrift when compared to bigger metropolises such as Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka. However, from personal experience as a foodie and as a visitor, I think it's great for its unique dishes such as ten-musu (little shrimp tempura squished into rice balls), miso katsu (deep-fried pork cutlet slathered in a miso sauce) and their own version of tebasaki (sweet-and-savory chicken wings). An old friend of mine was born and lived there, and she took me to a lovely hotel in the downtown district of Sakae for a dessert buffet while a jazz duo was playing.

Well, perhaps my tribute is somewhat oblique to the kid's shogi achievement but still all of my respects to him in his career. To be honest, I am actually more partial to I-go than shogi but even with that former game, I couldn't quite figure that one out either.


Happy Monday! Well, after an unusual absence of about a month, our food-and-anime routine was back on top yesterday, and just in time, too, since anime's Spring 2017 is about to end. That also sadly means that "Little Witch Academia"(リトルウィッチアカデミア)is finishing its run. In fact, I think the final episode aired yesterday (though I probably won't see it for another couple of weeks).

Going on for two continuous seasons left a lot of time for character and story progression although I think it was more on the latter end. So, in contrast to some of the "I Love Lucy" dealings among the original triumvirate of Akko, Lotte and Sucy in the first 12 episodes, things got more serious in the 2nd half with Akko being pulled in opposite directions by the good-but-flawed Chariot and the bad-but-perhaps-redeemable Croix. It's been fun and I'm hoping that perhaps another season may be coaxed out of Trigger in the near future.

Again, there haven't been any immediate earworms for me among the four anison that have come from "Little Witch Academia", and that includes the first ending theme "Hoshi wo Tadoreba"(星を辿れば)by Yuiko Ohara(大原ゆい子). But like that one, the second opening theme has begun some slow inroads into my head.

YURiKA's "MIND CONDUCTOR" , which was released as her 2nd single in May 2017, is your typically galloping pop-rock piece meant to get everyone's blood coursing a bit faster at the events to come. The opening credits certainly have the characters getting ready for battle in comparison to those from the first half of the series. Looking at the translation for eNu's lyrics on Lyrical Nonsense, it might be the song to wake folks up on a Monday. The music was provided by R・O・N. In a way, YURiKA sounds like how Akko would have sounded if she had been holding a mike instead of the Shiny Rod. And Akko's seiyuu, Megumi Han(潘めぐみ), is no slouch in the singing department, either.

The Saitama Prefecture-born YURiKA has loved singing from a very early age according to her J-Wiki bio. In fact, she used to sing her favourite Morning Musume(モーニング娘。), Aya Matsuura(松浦亜弥)and Ayumi Hamasaki(浜崎あゆみ)songs daily in the middle of a rice paddy as a kid. She got into anison due to particular phrases she liked in those anime themes and as a high school senior, she won some accolades after appearing in the Animax Anison Grand Prix for the first time.

The first opening theme for "Little Witch Academia", "Shiny Ray" was YURiKA's debut single from February 2017, and apparently she even had a very small role in Episode 13 of the show as one of the students at the Luna Nova Academy.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Takako Okamura -- Yume wo Akiramenaide (夢をあきらめないで)

Well, I just saw the penultimate episode of this season of "Doctor Who" (yes, I am a well-rounded geek, literally and figuratively), and though, I've found some of Steven Moffatt's episodes lacking, "World Enough and Time" definitely ramped up the suspense and horror and reminders of the old days. Those annoying trailers negated any delightful surprises but knowing Moffatt, he will sneak in some more wham shots and lines before the Twelfth Doctor takes his final bow this Xmas.

Anyways, I should finish off Saturday night with my other geeky love...Japanese popular music. Furthermore, it should be something light and peaceful to counteract all that sci-fi doom and gloom. And I've got just the singer and song.

The wonderful thing about singer-songwriter Takako Okamura(岡村孝子)is that I can never ever imagine her going into death metal or neo-punk. She will always provide material that is as light and puffy and happy as a PreCure fairy. I actually saw her for the first time in a very long time on last week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)as she performed the song of this article in a hall in Aichi Prefecture, her home province. The lass looked downright nervous when she sang "Yume wo Akiramenaide" (Don't Give Up Your Dreams) but I found that quite adorable, actually.

This was Okamura's 5th single from February 1987. I haven't gone too deep into her works but I just knew that "Yume wo Akiramenaide" would be quite the tonic for a rainy day. Her high quavery vocals and those often-angelic keyboards certainly speak truth to power for the title as she sounds like a girlfriend gently encouraging her boyfriend to go farther. However her lyrics actually have the now ex-girlfriend wishing her former beau well and to continue going for his dreams as the two go off on their separate paths. So, it's definitely a pretty song but methinks that it probably wouldn't be played at a wedding reception in Tokyo.

"Yume wo Akiramenaide" only reached as high as No. 50 on Oricon but in the years since, it has become one of Okamura's signature songs. It was also placed on her 3rd album "liberté" released in July 1987 which peaked at No. 5.

Come to think of it, perhaps this song would be quite appropriate for the remaining episodes of this season of "Doctor Who" and Peter Capaldi's Doctor.

Shigeru Amachi -- Showa no Blues (昭和のブルース)

When it comes to cop TV nowadays, most of the various series consist of the police procedural teams such as "NCIS" and the now-departed "CSI" franchise. Back when I was a kid growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, though, a lot of those shows were productions starring rebellious lone-wolf detectives with "name" titles such as "Cannon", "Barnaby Jones", "Columbo", "McCloud" and "Banacek". Mind you, Leroy Jethro Gibbs of "NCIS" probably could earn his own show on his supremely crusty personality if he were ever to leave the agency and go solo.

During that same time period, though, there were the Japanese cop shows, and my impression of them has always been of the elite team at the Tokyo police department with the wise commander at headquarters, the field boss and a whole bunch of junior tecs willing to whip out the guns and run for lots and lots of kilometres. I will have to talk with JTM about this since the old shows are more his forte.

However, I have found out that there was at least one show back in the 1970s which dealt with one ippiki ohkami (lone wolf) who looked so hard-boiled that even Dirty Harry would have taken a step back if he were to meet him in a dark alley. The show was titled "Hijo no License"(非情のライセンス...Extraordinary License), no connection to the song performed by the late Yoko Nogiwa(野際陽子)that I had written about recently, and the star was singer-actor Shigeru Amachi(天知茂)as Detective Aida, hero to the defenseless...bane to the police chief. The guy struck me as a particularly seen-it-all, done-it-all Japanese Michael Caine doing his version of Peter Gunn.

Amachi also sang the ending theme "Showa no Blues" (The Showa Blues) which didn't directly reference the Showa Era but just his character's probable philosophy toward life that involved struggling, pushing and slogging through the years toward the inevitability of death that awaits us all. I gather that Detective Aida wasn't exactly the life of the party at the year-end celebrations.

But I gotta say that "Showa no Blues" seems perfect for the character. The music by Masaru Sato(佐藤勝)is languid and oh-so-shibui, and matches Detective Aida's measured strolls through the lonely byways of the city. This is a guy who doesn't need to go anywhere fast since there is nothing novel for him to catch and there is no place where the bad guy can hide from him. His eyes alone could probably take down the perp. Meanwhile, Michio Yamagami's(山上路夫)lyrics repeat Aida's cynical view toward life even at the cost of happiness with the lady who loves him.

I can also say that this is the type of song that Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎)would probably raise his glass of whiskey on the rocks to. Perhaps Amachi and the Tough Guy even met up for drinks at some hole-in-the-wall in shitamachi.

The link below will take you to another rendition of the song but with scenes from "Hijo no License".

Top 10 Albums for 2011

1.  Arashi                                   Beautiful World
2.  AKB48                                 Koko ni Ita Koto
3.  EXILE                                  Negai no Tou
4.  Lady Gaga                            Born This Way
5.  Shojo Jidai                            GIRLS' GENERATION
6.  Namie Amuro                       Checkmate!
7.  KARA                                   Super Girl
8.  Keisuke Kuwata                    MUSICMAN
9.  SMAP                                   SMAP AID
10.  Ikimonogakari                    Ikimonobakari: Members Best Selection

Top 10 Singles for 2011

1.  AKB48                                Flying Get
2.  AKB48                                Everyday, Katyusha
3.  AKB48                                Kaze ga Fuiteiru
4.  AKB48                                Ue kara Mariko
5.  AKB48                                Sakura no Ki ni Narou
6.  Arashi                                  Lotus
7.  Arashi                                  Meikyuu Love Song
8.  Kaoru to Tomoki                 Maru Maru Mori Mori!
     Tama ni Mukku
9.  SKE48                                 Pareo wa Emerald
10. Kis-My-Ft2                        Everybody Go

Friday, June 23, 2017

hi-posi -- Shintai to Uta dake no Kankei (身体と歌だけの関係)

Early in the lifetime of "Kayo Kyoku Plus", I wrote about the quirky "Jenny wa Gokigen Naname"(ジェニーはご機嫌ななめ)originally performed by the band Juicy Fruits and then covered by a number of artists, notably a duo called hi-posi(ハイポジ). In the article, I also mentioned that my first encounter with hi-posi was through this slightly avant-garde video that I saw one night on TV. Vocalist Miho Moribayashi(もりばやしみほ)definitely made an impression on me...looks and voice.

Well, I didn't know the title of the song back then but I finally found the video on YouTube. The title is "Shintai to Uta dake no Kankei" (A Relationship of Just Body and Song) which was their 2nd single from 1995. And yep, all that out-of-focus fuzziness, sometimes herky-jerky camera work and closeups of Moribayashi's face are back to enhance that dreamy nature of the song and its video. I think hi-posi must have represented the cool beatnik corner of Shibuya-kei especially with the singer's whispery voice. Her feathery vocals remind me of the voice of CHARA if that singer had decided to adorn herself in the atmosphere of beads and lava lamps.

Moribayashi (partnered with guitarist Kenji Kondo/近藤研二) came up with both words and music for "Shintai to Uta dake no Kankei" as she sensually encourages the listener to develop that relationship between body and music together. The lyrics are pretty vague but I think they pretty much come down to "making beautiful music together". No complaints here. A mini-album and a full album with the same title as the single were released in 1994 and 1995 respectively with the band's own translation of the title, "BODY meets SING".

Suchmos -- STAY TUNE

Here I was lamenting about how current J-Pop didn't have the old soulful groove tunes of the late 1990s and early 2000s when I encountered this band called Suchmos through a browsing of YouTube last night.

I decided to try out this one song of theirs which had come out in January 2016, "STAY TUNE", and suddenly the good vibes came back. Memories of Misia, bird, Sing Like Talking and Jamiroquai came flooding back into my head and Suchmos provided me with a goodly dose of endorphins. This is some fine groovin' for a Friday night!

According to the Wikipedia bio of Suchmos, the group started up officially in 2013 and consists of six fellows who have known each other since grade school. And in the J-Wiki article on Suchmos, vocalist YONCE followed in his older sister's footsteps by taking up ballet at the tender age of 3 and listening/dancing to her favourite singers who were the aforementioned Misia, TLC and other R&B acts.

Suchmos covers a number of genres: rock, hip-hop, soul and jazz according to Wiki and J-Wiki but after giving a few more of their songs a shot, I think they are quite comfy in that third genre. Certainly I hope they stay comfy there, too. Apparently, the origin of the name Suchmos was derived from jazz legend's Louis Armstrong's nickname Satchmo.

YONCE, bassist HSU and the rest of the band took care of words and music for "STAY TUNE" which got as high as No. 10 on the Billboard Hot Japan 100. It also went Gold as the song was also included on Suchmos' 2nd EP, "LOVE&VICE" which peaked at No. 15 on Oricon after its release in January 2016. The song was also on the band's 2nd album "THE KIDS" which was released a day earlier.

Gonna have to keep my eye on these guys!

The music video was partially filmed on the 33rd floor of this
building in Roppongi Hills, the Mori Tower.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dorian -- summer rich feat. hitomitoi

I came across some of this fellow's material on YouTube and when I saw that chanteuse Hitomitoi(一十三十一)was involved for one of his songs, I gave it a try. Nothing that broke the mold but it was still nice and sunny.

There's barely anything about this lad by the name of Dorian outside of a short blurb on this site called "felicity" but he has been doing his best to spread the word of gospel for urban dance music. I'm not quite sure that his "summer rich" with Hitomitoi would be something to boogie down to, but it does make for some pleasant listening. It's included on his third original album "Studio Vacation EP" which was released back in August 2011.

Along with Hitomitoi, Dorian has worked with folks like Towa Tei and ZEN-LA-ROCK. The only other information that I could find about him is that according to the music video for "summer rich", he can apparently shred a mean shovel!

Yoshimi Iwasaki -- Anata Iro no Manon (あなた色のマノン)

I had been thinking about doing Yoshimi Iwasaki's(岩崎良美)"Koi Hodo Suteki na Show wa Nai"(恋ほど素敵なショーはない), forgetting that nikala had beaten me to the punch a couple of years ago, and her description pretty much nailed my impressions of the song. Plus, I gave my response to it underneath. It's a wonderful, short and sweet tune that had me thinking Carpenters and was quite the revelation considering that my entire world view of Hiromi's(岩崎宏美)younger sister was tied with her most recognized song "Touch"(タッチ). Therefore up until I started the blog, I only knew Yoshimi for a 1950s rock n' roll sound.

Gonna have to listen more to that lone Yoshimi BEST compilation that I got last Xmas. To paraphrase from my own article on her debut single "Aka to Kuro"(赤と黒), I think she covered a larger area musically than earlier thought. There was that 1970s West Coast breeziness of "Koi Hodo Suteki na Show wa Nai", and then I believe I had read earlier through another one of nikala's other articles on Yoshimi that despite her status as an aidoru, she had actually ventured more into City Pop and J-AOR in her early years.

Despite that rock-like blast to introduce "Aka to Kuro" and intermittent interjections of brass, her debut quickly ventured into some of the usual sweeping aidoru tunes of that age. For tonight, I want to show her 3rd single "Anata Iro no Manon" (Manon of Your Colour) which embraces even more of the City Pop aesthetic while still hewing to those aidoru roots. Released in August 1980 and created by the same duo behind "Aka to Kuro", Rei Nakanishi and Fujimal Yoshino(なかにし礼・芳野藤丸), the arrangement brings nothing less than life in the big city, thanks to that brass and bass plus the relentless guitar.

The one thing that had me scratching my head initially was the title. Was this about a French artist? For years, artists' names ranging from Chopin to C. Claudel have been used in kayo titles. However in this case, the title of this aidoru tune refers to the title of an early 18th-century novel by Abbe Prevost titled "Manon Lescaut". I'm just going by the Wikipedia article here but apparently the novel was about the title character, a young woman with a taste for the high life who forces her lover to scrounge about for the money and luxury to keep her happy.

In Yoshimi's song, the protagonist declares boldly "I am Manon Lescaut" although there is not much of a hint that she's stringing her boyfriend along aside from pretending to have sprained her ankle so that he would carry her home on his back. Mind you, I think most fans were just wondering at the time about who the heck Manon Lescaut was.

Still, it was pretty interesting to hear this mesh of French literature (very loosely, I know) and Japanese City Pop sung by an aidoru. Furthermore, I think I have mentioned it before but Yoshimi tried to follow in her older sister's larynx with that delicate yet fairly rich delivery in her early years. And to add more to my knowledge, the younger Iwasaki actually made it onto the Kohaku Utagassen for the first and only time to perform "Anata Iro no Manon" at the end of 1980 with the elder Iwasaki lending moral support, of course. There were three ladies in slinky green dresses behind her also providing backup chorus: singers Sayuri Ishikawa(石川さゆり), Ikue Sakakibara(榊原郁恵)and Mako Ishino(石野真子).

"Anata Iro no Manon" reached as high as No. 22 on Oricon and won Iwasaki a Newcomer's Prize at the Japan Record Awards that year.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Spiders/C-C-B -- Summer Girl (サマー・ガール)

On TV Japan just following the weekly "Uta Kon"(うたコン)on Tuesday nights, there has been that 10-minute vignette from NHK called "Ano Hito ni Aitai"(あの人に会いたい...I Want To Meet That Person)which focuses on a certain notable person who has left this mortal coil. Last night's focus was on Hiroshi Kamayatsu(かまやつひろし), the singer and guitarist from Group Sounds band The Spiders(ザ・スパイダース)who had only passed away a few months ago in March.

Of course, a number of his songs during his time with The Spiders and on his own played in the background while we heard some of his comments over the decades. Most of the songs have already been covered in the pages of this blog, but I did hear something new, and that would be "Summer Girl" which came out in July 1966 as the band's 6th single. Written by Hiroto Sasaki(佐々木ひろと)and composed by Kamayatsu, the beach ballad has that bittersweet mood of love with a bit of appealing early Beatles rawness.

But I have to admit that the version by 80s pop band C-C-B is one of the few instances in which the cover actually sounds even better than the original. The arrangement by the band and Yasuo Sako(佐孝康夫)injects a lot of Beach Boys into C-C-B's take on summer love, and I have to say that the vocal delivery is a lot more solid, and it was a nice touch to have a Duane Eddy-like guitar instrumental in there, too. "Summer Girl" was included on C-C-B's 1985 album "Tanoshii Natsu Yasumi"(楽しい夏休み...Fun Summer Holiday).

TUBE -- Natsu da ne (夏だね)

It's been officially summer now for over 12 hours. Therefore, I think it is that time of year to bring in another TUBE tune.

Considering the overall melodic familiarity of the TUBE discography, I sometimes think that listening to an entire BEST compilation of the band can reach a certain level of monotony. However, in short bursts and with the appropriateness of the season, Nobuteru Maeda(前田亘輝)and his crew can bring on that appreciated feeling of summer into our ears.

Case in point: "Natsu da ne" (It's Summer). This was their 14th single from May 1992 and I guess this would be the ideal song for a sunset on the beach. Something about that soprano sax brings that feeling for some reason. I'm not a Kenny G. fan by any stretch of the imagination but having it included in this beach ballad helps things go down nice and smooth, and it's always reassuring to hear Maeda issue in the season.

Written by Maeda and composed by TUBE guitarist Michiya Haruhata(春畑道哉), "Natsu da ne" was used as a campaign song for a Pocky commercial, although I would have thought the famous Japanese confection would have been more for a season other than summer. Y'know...I'm not sure how long a Pocky stick would last in the sun, especially in Japan.

Maeda may have gained some weight over the years but his voice is still in fine fettle. So, hopefully, TUBE will continue to entertain audiences on the beaches everywhere in Japan, Hawaii and other tropical climes. The song peaked at No. 2 on Oricon and became the 24th-ranked entry for the year. "Natsu da ne" was also included on TUBE's 12th album from June 1992, "Noryo"(納涼...The Cool of the Evening)which got as high as No. 3 on the album charts and then finished the year in the 31st position.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fence of Defense -- SARA

A week ago, I wrote an article on Tomoko Aran's(亜蘭知子)"Hitonatsu no Tapestry"(ひと夏のタペストリー)which was this slice of Japanese funk that had been composed by bassist and keyboardist Masatoshi Nishimura(西村麻聡). Well, not too long after that, Nishimura started up this rock band with vocalist and guitarist Kenji Kitajima(北島健二)and drummer Wataru Yamada(山田わたる)called Fence of Defense.

Coming up with their first single in 1987, Fence of Defense hit pay dirt in September 1988 when the band released "SARA" which also turned out to be the second opening theme for the second season of the ever-loved "City Hunter" anime franchise. "SARA" may have been a rock song but there was still something of the "Bright lights, big city" feeling in there that the very first opening theme by Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる), "Ai yo Kienai de"(愛よ消えないで)had in abundance. Some good times in Tokyo!

Will you get a load of that 80s hair?! I think TM Network and Fence of Defense should have had a hair-off at a joint concert. J-Wiki mentions that "SARA" was one of the band's smash hits but there is still no individual article for the song nor any indication of how it did on Oricon, and the actual Oricon website was no help itself, but I can only assume that it did quite decently on the charts. Fence of Defense took care of the lyrics with Nishimura himself taking care of the big-city melody.

I have heard the song and the band name before but didn't make the final connection until sometime in the last few days which will indicate how much I know about "City Hunter". But from what I've seen of the show's theme songs, it looks like I made the right decision in providing the show with its own category in Labels. Perhaps there's even a CD floating about with all of the theme songs included.

Still, when it comes to songs titled "Sara", I can't help but remember the one by Starship from a few years before the Fence of Defense song came out. And yep, I will always like "We Built This City".

Naoko Kawai -- Aoi Sanmyaku (青い山脈)

I've been enjoying Naoko Kawai's(河合奈保子)"Jewel Box 2" set of 5 CDs (with thanks to Michael Wishlow) from 2003 over the last number of months. Disc 4 has been quite interesting since it has all of the rare takes of the singer...songs that were never placed directly into Naoko-chan's discography but were contributions to other compilations or media. I read that there were a couple that had never been placed on any listenable media before "Jewel Box 2" since they were only utilized as music on her videos.

One of the rare songs was Track 12, Kawai's rendition of the kayo classic "Aoi Sanmyaku" (Blue Mountain Range) which I have already written about. What struck me about it was the arrangement by composer-arranger Katsuhisa Hattori(服部克久), the son of the original composer Ryoichi Hattori(服部良一). From my ears, Hattori fils seems to have given "Aoi Sanmyaku" a taste of 1970s disco orchestra as applied to some of the anime back then such as "Uchuu Senkan Yamato"(宇宙戦艦ヤマト...Space Crusier Yamato)and "Macross"(マクロス). Being fans of both shows and their soundtracks, Kawaii doing this number immediately perked up my ears. I was half-expecting a fleet of Black Tigers and Valkyries to come storming over that mountain range.

It took a bit of tracking down but I found out that this somewhat funkified version of "Aoi Sanmyaku" had originally been part of a 1985 tribute to Hattori pere in the form of a two-record (2-CD?) album titled "SHOWA RHAPSODY ~ Hattori Ryoichi Sakuhinshuu"(服部良一作品集...The Ryoichi Hattori Collection). Not sure if this collection is even available outside of scouring the auction sites since I didn't see the album pop up readily on the search engines. As a kayo fan, I would be intrigued in finding out what some of the other tracks are like.

Yoshio Tabata -- Zundoko Bushi (Machi no Date Otoko) (ズンドコ節 (街の伊達男))

Although I'm a fan of Yoshio Tabata (田端義夫), it took me quite a while to get myself one of his albums. I had meant to get it a couple of years ago but only got it a couple of months ago, since most of his songs are readily available online and, as a result, other albums/singles by other singers are prioritized over his during my CD hauls. Only after tuning in to a video playing his BEST album from 1965 was I reminded to get something of that sort. And so I got his 68th anniversary album,"Osu! Tabata Yoshio Meikyoku Shu" (オース!田端義夫名曲集), that's even got a recorded message of the still spunky (at that time) 88 year-old ryukoka singer mentioning how far he's come in the entertainment world - feels special to be listening to what he had to say.

Moving on, out of the all the tracks I was formerly unacquainted with, "Chonmage Mambo" (ちょんまげマンボ) and "Zundoko Bushi (Machi no Date Otoko)" were the two I enjoyed the most. The former is absolutely boisterous and the way a young Batayan goes "OSU!!" in every stanza is cute, but I've yet to fully make out what on earth is going on there so I've decided to write about the latter, which is something I'm more familiar with.

A comparison of the "Zundoko Bushi" versions (Hikawa's, Kobayashi's, and Tabata's).

As I had first learnt upon being acquainted with enka, there have been many variations of the "Zundoko Bushi" over the decades, the most popular of which are those by action star Akira Kobayashi (小林旭), enka prince Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし), and comedy group The Drifters. All have a Latin flavour and the rhythmic "Zun, zun, zundoko" to kick things off, with only the number of "Zun-s" and lyrics varying in each version. On the other hand, Batayan's rendition differed quite a bit from what I had just described. For one, it follows the original war song in the sense that he goes "Toko, zundoko, zundoko" instead. Then there's the just as catchy, happy-go-lucky arrangement fronted by the low twang of Tabata's famous electric guitar that's much more 40's/50's rock'n'roll than it is Latin. I found myself liking this arrangement very much and I tend to listen to it when weary as it never fails to lift my mood. Perhaps it was meant to do just that, considering it was released not long after WWII in 1947.

This "Zundoko Bushi", also called "Machi no Date Otoko" as its lyrics were about a Date Otoko's (dandy guy) love story, was the first pop music take on the naval ditty. According to the J-Wiki, it was a hit back in the day. Sadly though, it doesn't seem to be featured on kayo shows often (if at all) in this day and age. Penning the lyrics to "Zundoko Bushi" was Einosuke/Hanosuke (?) Sasaki (佐々木英之助), and composing it was Hachiro Noshiro (能代八郎).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sakiko Ito -- Kimi Kawaii ne (きみ可愛いね)

The name Sakiko Ito(伊藤咲子)barely rings a bell but somehow I think I may have seen her through some variety shows in Japan. However, she did start her professional life as a 70s aidoru. Ito had a successful run on the audition show "Star Tanjo"(スター誕生!...A Star Is Born)when she was 15 back in 1973 and then made her debut the following year with "Himawari Musume"(ひまわり娘...Sunflower Girl).

Nearly a couple of years later, she had her 7th single, "Kimi Kawaii ne" (You're Cute) from March 1976 which became one of her bigger hits since it punched her ticket for her lone appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen that year.

Written by Yu Aku(阿久悠)and composed by Takashi Miki(三木たかし), the springtime release was an appropriate one since the song was all about falling in love and having things being all wonderful in the world. Watching her perform in the video of her Kohaku appearance, she almost sounds like the second coming of earlier 70s aidoru Mari Amachi(天地真理)although Ito's vocals have a little less fragility.

That Kohaku performance was notable in that her backup singers were Hiromi Iwasaki(岩崎宏美), Hiromi Ota(太田裕美), Masako Mori(森昌子)and the Candies(キャンディーズ). Also, the other thing I noticed which was quite quaint was the fact that Iwasaki and the bunch were all wearing red jackets to signify their team in the NHK special. Yup, it was a different time back then.

(empty karaoke version)

"Kimi Kawaii ne" broke into the Top 10 with it peaking at No. 9. It also became the 56th-ranked song of 1976. Ito continued her career until her 22nd single in 1985 before calling it a day on the recording front, at least. However, she released a couple of additional singles in 2010 and 2014.


Well, NHK (and most likely all of the commercial TV networks) has been reporting that three of the five SMAP members will be leaving their Johnny's home for perhaps hookups with other talent agencies later this year. The trio consists of Goro Inagaki(稲垣吾郎), Shingo Katori(香取慎吾)and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi(草彅剛). Although SMAP officially disbanded at the end of 2016, the fandom has apparently been in quite the lather since the news broke.

Producers for the SMAP piece on "News Watch 9" decided to be a tad clever and used one of their songs to perhaps reflect the fans' feelings on the announcement. "STAY" first appeared as a track on the group's 17th original album "Pop Up! SMAP" from July 2006. The ballad by lyricist Keiko Sahara(佐原けいこ)and composer Genki Hibino(日比野元気)was a musical affirmation of love from one partner to another, and hearing it for the first time, I thought it was quite romantic and inspirational; a break in the clouds after some stormy times.

And maybe it could be used to pray for the guys at SMAP to not totally break apart. Since the official disbandment, the only member that I've heard from via TV Japan has been Kusanagi, and that has only been his voice for an NHK information variety program. It seems like his mellow vocals for speaking have also been in good demand. I've been aware that Takuya Kimura(木村拓哉)was in a recent drama but I haven't cottoned onto any J-Dramas in many years. And the other fellows have been missing from the screen for me.

Still, I can't really imagine SMAP staying scattered into the four (or should I say five?) winds for long. Not that I believe they will re-form on a permanent basis but I think the desire for the guys to get back together for some sort of special concert for charity or otherwise is just too strong. Even with Inagaki, Kusanagi and Katori signing up at other agencies, I'm pretty confident that an arrangement can be made for a future get-together.

As for "Pop Up! SMAP", naturally, it hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies and became the 30th-ranked album of the year.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Angela Aki -- Home

I've found that over the decades, certain singers/musicians held sway over a certain number of years whether it be Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)during the early 1980s, Tetsuro Komuro(小室哲哉)for much of the 90s and Hikaru Utada(宇多田ヒカル)for those years going into the 21st century. And I'm not saying that it was just those artists alone for those periods. Of course, Akina Nakamori(中森明菜), Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵)and Misia among others also held the media gaze during those times.

Then, there was Angela Aki(アンジェラ・アキ). Without looking it up, I couldn't remember when she first burst in on the J-Pop scene but for a time, she was a familiar figure on TV and probably one of the most down-to-earth-looking singers that I had ever seen. In her glasses, jeans and baggy T-shirt, she came off looking like the most comfortable college student that I could have witnessed sipping back a cuppa at a cafe in my university or cramming for an exam in one of the stacks.

One of her most famous songs was her debut single in September 2005, "Home". At the time, I wasn't quite sure what the J-Pop trend was; I think it was just before the alphabet aidoru groups started sprouting and perhaps the J-R&B boom from the turn of the century was beginning to wane somewhat. However, I think "Home" perhaps hit an endorphin-stuffed nerve in the country. From what I've read so far about the single was that it hadn't been part of any commercial tie-up so it was a fairly slow launch but the word-of-mouth started building about Aki's glorious vocals from her hometown area of Tokushima Prefecture.

Perhaps it had also been a while since a Japanese pop song with strong vocals and merely a piano made waves. With all of the production values and computer technology that were force-fed into a recording, something like "Home" made for a very refreshing revelation...again. And Aki had a number of influences ranging from Janis Ian, Coldplay and Fiona Apple to Ringo Shiina(椎名林檎), Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell. With those last two artists being from my country, I would proudly like to shout "Oh, Canada"!

"Home" did have that feeling of home, thanks to Aki. Some of those artists that I mentioned in the previous paragraph were familiar figures on the radio back when I was a kid. And perhaps she has already done so, but I could imagine Aki covering Mitchell's "Help Me" (although one commenter for one YouTube video of the song remarked that perhaps only Mitchell could do it justice) or even Ian's "At Seventeen". In fact, the coupling song to "Home" happens to be Ian's "Will You Dance".

Eventually, Oricon took notice and "Home" peaked at No. 31, and perhaps even more importantly, Aki was invited onto the 2006 Kohaku Utagassen to perform that very song. The singer would have her consecutive string of appearances on the New Year's Eve special from 2006 to 2011.

Saburo Kitajima -- Ginza no Shousuke-san (銀座の庄助さん)

I may have learned how to drink in Japan but that didn't mean I ever became a great lover of imbibing. Therefore, it's a bit of a wonder that I managed to survive the social circuit in my adopted nation all those years, but I'd like to put it to down to a very understanding group of colleagues and friends along with a palate that simply preferred sweets far over alcohol.

Thus, the bars of Ginza barely saw me darken their thresholds. In fact, I barely remember one place in the neighbourhood that I went to, and that was because some of our corporate students had wanted to take a few of us teachers for drinks after successfully completing a course. One of the peppier lads was interested in trying out a Western-style cocktail for the first time, and so one of us suggested a Grasshopper...basically a liquid chocolate mint. He ordered one, gulped it down and the drink basically took him for a spin for the next few hours. Luckily, he wasn't too heavy to carry.

If I'm not in error, this article is the 2nd Ginza-based writing in as many days. But today, I was watching NHK's "Nodo Jiman"(のど自慢)on which one fellow sang one of Saburo Kitajima's(北島三郎)earlier songs from 1963, "Ginza no Shousuke-san" (Shousuke-san of Ginza).

I thought it rather interesting since my whole impression of Sabu-chan was that he was the enka king of all music out in the rough wilderness or ocean. He was the earthy blue-collar guy throwing out nets or hewing wood in the forest. Never thought that the Hokkaido native would sing an enka about the tony district of Ginza, which I had always assumed would be the environment for all things Mood Kayo.

Still, to adapt an old phrase, you can take the guy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the guy. And Kitajima's "Ginza no Shousuke-san" might take place in a very ritzy spot in Tokyo but it sounds like this Shousuke-san still has this country bumpkin air as this interloper from the regions who has made it a habit to barhop all over the area. Not sure through the song how Shousuke has been treated: is he this hail-fellow-well-met or this barely tolerated barfly who spreads out the cash through his visits? But perhaps it is this uncertainty that is the point; it's about Shousuke and his oblivious fun and no one else as long as the flow of booze lasts.

I couldn't find any videos with Kitajima himself singing the song (until recently) so perhaps the fans may not consider "Ginza no Shousuke-san" as one of his major legacies to enka but I did find the two videos here done by other folks through karaoke or cover versions. Tatsumi Miyake(三宅立美wrote the lyrics while Shousuke Ichikawa(市川昭介)came up with the happy-go-lucky melody under the pseudonym of Yutaka Izumi(いづみゆたか). I'm not sure whether Ichikawa went with the fake name just to avoid folks having to wonder whether the Shousuke in the song was Shousuke the composer, although the kanji are completely different.