Credits

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, August 31, 2017

Yujiro Ishihara -- Minato (港)


I was watching NHK News this morning when I heard that the Yujiro Ishihara Memorial Hall(石原裕次郎記念館)was to be closed as of today. It seems like declining attendance and a building that was starting to feel its age were the reasons behind it. To be honest, I wasn't sure when I would ever get the opportunity to head up to Otaru, Hokkaido where it is located but it's a pity that I definitely will not be able to take a look in it now.

Fortunately, though, one of our collaborators, Noelle Tham, was able to visit it last year so she was kind enough to write an article about it which you can read. I hope that she isn't taking the news too hard.


Today, I will be covering one of the Tough Guy's earlier songs, "Minato" (Port) from 1960. I think Noelle is more of the Yujiro expert than I am, but now that I've been doing the blog and covering some of Ishihara's songs, I've started to form some impressions about his music during the decades from the 1950s to the 1980s.

I got to know Ishihara first through his 1970s balladry with the lush arrangement...his songs then almost seemed to be surrounded by cigarette smoke and whiffs of brandy. But his earlier works when he was still quite the lean and mean guy sometimes tended to smell of cold sea air. "Minato" has that air about it.

(karaoke version)

I was struck by composer Hiroshi Kuji's(久葱ひろし)determined yet plodding rhythm which kinda takes this Mood Kayo away from the swinging nightclubs to the dark alleyways to the titular port. There is something rather resigned about the feeling evoked here. And Ikuo Shibuya's(渋谷郁夫)lyrics have Ishihara mourning about another lost love while weaving plenty of his own mood ranging from the crushing feelings of love he had to the lowering fog to the hometown that now has nothing for him. This is not a happy man. The whole thing sounds as if he is marching to his own execution...pretty dramatic for a harbour.

Perhaps that may be the collective feeling for a lot of Ishihara fans right now as the biggest institution of their hero closes for the final time. However, although I'm not an optimist by any stretch of the imagination, Otaru isn't exactly the most central location for a museum dedicated to a singer who has fans not just in Japan but all around the world. Maybe if some enterprising fellow opts to build a Ishihara Museum in Tokyo, all those artifacts and fans can still get together happily. In any case, I'm just glad that the memorial hall up in Hokkaido could at least celebrate the 30th anniversary of his passing earlier this summer before the curtains finally fall.

A Small Tribute to Diana Spencer


I got the above photo from today's issue of "The Toronto Star" this morning. It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years since the death of Diana, former Princess of Wales. I'm not a Royal-watcher by any means but the late Diana Spencer and Japan had a connection for me.


For one thing, the wedding between her and Prince Charles took place on July 29th 1981. For all those longtime readers of "Kayo Kyoku Plus", you may have figured out that I was in Japan for that month on my graduation trip. Yep, I was watching the wedding with my uncle's family in that small apartment over his stationery shop in downtown Osaka. I remember snarking in my broken Japanese about how much laundry detergent was needed to wash Diana's wedding gown with that huge train.


That was the beginning of the love affair with Diana as far as Japan was concerned. I was going through university when I read and heard about the princess' first visit to the country in 1986 during which "Diana Fever" was at high pitch. There was even an anime made based on her titled "Shojo Diana Monogatari"(少女ダイアナ物語...The Story of Little Miss Diana).


I was almost 3 years into my second tour of duty in Japan when the news of Diana's death was released on August 31st 1997. With a 7-hour difference between Paris and Tokyo, the crash of her car in that tunnel would have occurred at around 7am on that Sunday, Japan Standard Time, with her death being announced at 11am. I barely remember seeing some sort of news on TV in the morning about the crash involving her and her boyfriend.

On that day, though, I had a lesson in the western part of Tokyo with a young lady who just happened to be the daughter of a famous entertainment journalist. I already had had a few home lessons with her, and strangely enough, both her and her mother were Takarazuka Troupe fans and also fans of the British Royal Family.

By the time I got to their house, the feeling was pretty blue inside with an air of shock as both my student and her mother told me that Diana had died from her injuries. While her husband was on the phone in his bedroom and frantically packing his bags to rush off to London to cover the tragedy, the mother, the daughter and I just ended up talking about the princess for that one hour.


Now I fully realize that the anniversary of Diana's death doesn't really have anything to do with the contents of this blog, aside from the fact that I witnessed the media coverage in Japan. However, I did feel that I wanted to commemorate the day in some fashion, and so last night, I had been thinking about what sort of song would have been reminiscent of her. Well, the truth is that I couldn't find anything new but a couple of ballads that I have already covered fit the bill.

One is Tatsuro Yamashita's(山下達郎)"Your Eyes" from 1982 since Princess Diana's eyes were one of the striking features about what was once the most photographed face on the planet.


The other ballad is Yutaka Ozaki's(尾崎豊)"Oh My Little Girl" from 1983 which just seemed to pop up in my head when I thought about past songs that I have covered.

Every Little Thing -- pray


Haven't listened to these guys in a while so I decided to pop "Every Best Single 2" by Every Little Thing into the player. Indeed, absence makes the heart grow fonder. It was nice to hear Kaori Mochida(持田香織)sing and Mitsuru Igarashi(五十嵐充)and Ichiro Ito(伊藤一朗)backing her up with the ELT sound.


The first track on their BEST compilation was "pray", Every Little Thing's 13th single which could have been one of the first J-Pop singles released in the 21st century since it was put out there on New Year's Day 2000. Starting off with a "Lamp Unto My Feet" organ riff by keyboardist Igarashi (who also wrote and composed the song), "pray" goes off into another uptempo and high-energy ELT round of happiness. Considering it had been 10 months since their previous single, "pray" was a nice way to launch things into the new century.

The music video makes a nice thing of transplanting the band members into different areas of Tokyo. I was quietly making my "I was there!" remarks while it was playing.


"pray" went Double Platinum and peaked at No. 2 on Oricon. By the end of 2000, it became the 62nd-ranked single of the year.


Just to show that Mochida has a sense of humour, she's seen here laughing up a storm as one of those monomane artists, Miracle Hikaru(ミラクルひかる), does her impressions of a whole bunch of female singers including Mochida herself.


And over here, Mochida...and friend...undergo that go-to variety show punishment experience of the shiatsu foot massage. Pray for them!


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Yasuhiro Suzuki -- Suteki ni Cinderella Complex (素敵にシンデレラ・コンプレックス)


Another pleasant discovery. A few years ago, I wrote about the first Hiromi Go(郷ひろみ)song that I had on any media in my household, "Suteki ni Cinderella Complex" (Wonderful Cinderella Complex). It was on a compilation tape of Japanese music that I had purchased at Wah Yueh back in university, and even earlier, I had seen Go himself perform it on the 1983 Kohaku Utagassen. Go sang it like a dramatic disco tango as he took over the Shibuya NHK stage like the world's biggest Latin Lover.


The legendary lyricist Yu Aku(阿久悠)and Off-Course(オフコース)member Yasuhiro Suzuki(鈴木康博)collaborated to create yet another hit for Go. What I didn't realize that Suzuki himself did his own cover of "Suteki ni Cinderella Complex" the following year in 1984 as the B-side to his 4th single, "STARLIGHT SERENADE" when it came out in November.

Suzuki's version is quite different with more of a City Pop vibe, especially one felt while driving down a highway to the nearest resort. The drama is still intact but instead of the action happening at a night club downtown, the setting might be more apropos to a beachside inn. In any case, it's a refreshing cover of the old Go hit.

TM Network -- Get Wild


One thing I learned from "Banana Zero Music"(バナナ♪ゼロミュージック)the other day was that Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉), songwriter, producer and owner of his own musical boom in the mid-1990s, revealed on the show that he had his own key to creating at least some of his big hits. Apparently, whenever he started working on his songs, he began with the chords A-minor, F, G and C. He said that "DEPARTURES", his successful tune with his band globe, was based on this golden combination.


And when Komuro was with his old band TM Network, the chords came in handy for one of that band's signature songs, "Get Wild". Now, Marcos V. provided the article on the 1989 version of the catchy hit but I also wanted to talk some about the original version (the band's 10th single) which had come out in April 1987 as the first ending theme for the anime "City Hunter".

"City Hunter" has had plenty of cool songs...certainly enough to have had a lot of different soundtrack albums provided at the CD shops. But I think "Get Wild" may be the theme song for the show (and one of the great anison) although personally it's a flip between it and the very first opening theme "Ai yo Kienai de"(愛よ消えないで)by Kahoru Kohiruimaki(小比類巻かほる)as to what my favourite "City Hunter" song is. It is probably also TM Network's most famous contribution to its discography.


The original version may not be quite as zazzed up as the 1989 retake but "Get Wild" still packs a lot of punch with Komuro's keyboard work and that kickass line "GET WILD AND TOUGH!". Run through West Shinjuku among the skyscrapers at night while listening to the song at full volume (I won't take any responsibility for any claims of deafness) and see how energized you feel. That rather reminds me to take photos of the area at night next time I return to Tokyo; I've got quite a few during the daytime as you can see at the very top.


The crazy thing is that I had only known "Get Wild" as a TM Network song for many years before I discovered that it was connected to "City Hunter" as a theme. One day, the show was on TV when I was living in Japan and saw the closing credits to the first season. Ah, naruhodo, I went.

Komuro was indeed behind the music but the lyrics were provided by Mitsuko Komuro(小室みつ子), who actually doesn't have any familial relationship with Tetsuya at all. "Get Wild" peaked at No. 9 on Oricon and went Double Platinum, appearing also as a track on the band's first BEST album "Gift for Fanks" from July 1987. That went all the way up to No. 1.

Ichiro Fujiwara/Chieko Baisho -- Natsu no Omoide (夏の思い出)


I never went there myself but my English circle of housewives, being quite adventurous and having traveled together to all sorts of place within and outside of Japan (including my neck of the woods), has visited Oze(尾瀬), the famous marshland that straddles the three prefectures of Gunma, Fukushima and Niigata. Oze has been characterized by that man-made wooden pathway that snakes through the entire area.


Last night, NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)came back on and the theme was the end of summer. One of the songs featured was "Natsu no Omoide" (Summer Memories), a very sepia-toned tribute to the Oze marshland.

Written by Shoko Ema(江間章子)and composed by Yoshinao Nakata(中田喜直), "Natsu no Omoide" was first heard on an NHK kayo radio program in 1949 when it was performed by chanson singer and essayist Yoshiko Ishii(石井好子). However, her version was never released as a 45". In fact, it wouldn't be released as a single until 1954 when venerable singer Ichiro Fujiyama(藤山一郎)did a cover version with the Columbia Women's Chorus Group.

"Natsu no Omoide" hasn't belonged to any one singer but has been covered by a variety of artists over the years. It has become a standard, and the song which seems perfectly made to be sung by high school chorus groups has been listed in school textbooks and music books, and even became a part of the long list of tunes introduced on the NHK five-minute music program "Minna no Uta"(みんなのうた...Everyone's Songs)in 1962.


As I said, it's been covered many times but I have to say that I adore Chieko Baisho's(倍賞千恵子)own version. It just seems so motherly. Lyricist Shoko Ema grew up close to the mountains of Iwate Prefecture in the north, and the area was known for mizubasho, a plant known as the white skunk cabbage. In her thirties during World War II, she occasionally visited Oze which also had plenty of white skunk cabbage as well as other examples of flora. As the name hints, the mizubasho isn't exactly the sweetest smelling flower but in spite of that, Ema found the area to be a wonderland and in 1947, when NHK asked her to come up with a song that would embody dreams and hopes, Oze apparently popped up in her head. "Natsu no Omoide" was the result.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

FUNK THE PEANUTS -- Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai! (ハイッ! ハイッ! ハイッ! ハイッ!)


When I first heard the name of this Dreams Come True side project involving vocalist Miwa Yoshida(吉田美和)and singer Rinko Urashima(浦嶋りんこ), I think I did a figurative spit take...since I heard something else at first. I do like my peanuts, after all. My first thought was how in the world did those guys come up with FUNK THE PEANUTS? J-Wiki was not that much help in clarifying matters. Supposedly, whenever Yoshida and Urashima shared the mike during specific tunes in a DCT concert, the duo was simply called FUNK THE PEANUTS.


(excerpt only)

The duo (who went by the names of MIWA and RIN under FTP or FUN P1 and FUN P2 respectively) debuted in July 1995 with "Koi no Wana Shikakemasho!"(恋の罠しかけましょ...Let's Set A Love Trap!)which was made the theme song for FUNK THE PEANUTS. To be honest, I'm gonna have to re-acquaint myself with the four singles that Yoshida and Urashima had released, although on hearing their 3rd single from January 1997, "Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai!" (Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!), my memory was once again jiggled to remember. It was quite the popular song on one particular Saturday-night karaoke show.


For FUNK THE PEANUTS, the schtick was for Yoshida to whip up songs that came off like comical banter between two girl friends. And with "Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai!", the song sounded like a telephone call between Yoshida and Urashima over the latest romantic failure with one being the sufferer while the other one acted as the shoulder to cry upon/the eye-rolling buddy who has to absorb the moaning and groaning (thus the title). However the refrain lets it be known that any cynicism is trumped by love and support for getting out of the doldrums. Yoshida is credited for composing this one although she went under the pseudonym of Sumire Kannonzaki(観音崎すみれ)when she wrote the lyrics.


The music goes for some good ol' R&B and with the crisp delivery of the "Hai!" by the singers as well as their refrain-ending "HA!"(must be some primal therapy involved), I can only imagine that Yoshida was also inspired by a bit of Akiko Wada(和田アキ子). "Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai!" peaked at No. 6 on Oricon. It was also used for a Suntory beer commercial.


Banana Zero Music (バナナ♪ゼロミュージック)


With the grande dame of NHK's music programming "Uta Kon"(うたコン)off for half the summer (mind you, it's coming back tonight), some of the other NHK music shows have been coming to the fore on TV Japan. There has been "Utau! SHOW Gakko"(歌う!SHOW学校)hosted by enka legend Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)but it seems as if the national network has been much more strict in ensuring that even small scenes from that show don't get up on YouTube.

However, there is the other NHK program "Banana Zero Music" hosted by the comedic duo Bananaman(バナナマン). The two shows make an interesting contrast. Both of them made their debut in April 2016 but whereas "Utau! SHOW Gakko" has Itsuki-sensei instructing his guest "students" (tarento and enka singers) while taking part in some of the old kayo in an ancient junior high school classroom, "Banana Zero Music" goes into the relatively more recent J-Pop stuff on a bright day-glo typically variety-show set.



Plus, it is truly a variety show with a capital "V". Along with the usual appearances of singers, producers and songwriters, there's some location shooting and quiz games involving music with Bananaman and friends even getting in on the singing act. Both "Banana Zero Music" and "Utau! SHOW Gakko" go heavier on the talk and hijinks side compared to "Uta Kon" and "Nodo Jiman"(のど自慢)but I get to learn some more about the lyrics and even some of those songwriters' tricks of the trade sometimes.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Off-Course -- Natsu no Hi (夏の日)


Yup, it was a pretty short summer here. There were some hot days in July but now nearing the end of August, those low temperatures are getting quite low...10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I think that would constitute close to winter in Tokyo.


Therefore with the dog days of summer now looking to be over, I think it's time to put on an appropriately seasonal Off-Course(オフコース)tune, "Natsu no Hi" (Summer Days). Written and composed by Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)as the band's 26th single in July 1984, it's as perennially pop as Off-Course ever became in the 1980s when compared to their folk days in the 1970s. That intro with Oda tapping the keyboard and drummer Jiro Ohma(大間ジロー)smacking the syn-drums even had me thinking more along the lines of Yellow Magic Orchestra. Still, when Oda started singing away, I had no doubts about who the band was.

Written as a elegy and a plea for a romance to come back together since the whole thing started in the sunny season, "Natsu no Hi" got an even bigger boost of drama through its own music video. It even starred Ohma as the lovelorn guy trying to make that second chance with his girlfriend, played by TV drama vet Misako Tanaka(田中美佐子), although I think that prologue with presumably Misako's parents waiting for a call from her kidnapper didn't quite the fit the circumstances.

Still for an Off-Course fan, it was a pretty epic experience since according to J-Wiki, it was the first time that Oda and company ever participated in a conceptual music video, and the setting included filming at a cafe/restaurant called Marlowe (yup, it's still there) in the city of Yokosuka and Narita Airport. The song itself starts from 2:09 above.


The single itself got as high as No. 15 while it ended up as the 182nd-ranked song for 1984. "Natsu no Hi" also belonged to Off-Course's 11th album "The Best Year of My Life" which did far better. It hit No. 1 for 2 weeks straight and became the 17th-ranked album of the year after its release in June.

Mirei Kitahara -- Ishikari Banka (石狩挽歌)


On that episode of "Itsuki Sensei no Utau! SHOW Gakko"(五木先生の 歌う!SHOW学校.)which featured Hokkaido kayo such as "Souran Wataridori"(ソーラン渡り鳥), I also got re-acquainted with another tune that sparked my memory engrams due to the onomatopoeic lyric "Onbororo, onborobororo..."(オンボロロ、オンボロボロロー). However, I couldn't just pay tribute to this song by simply calling it the "Onbororo" tune.


It is, in fact, titled "Ishikari Banka" (Ishikari Elegy). The song has been covered by a number of enka singers over the decades but ultimately, the most famous version is the first one as sung by Mirei Kitahara(北原ミレイ)when it was released in June 1975. J-Wiki mentions it became a huge hit for her and arguably the most famous tune by the singer but I couldn't find out how it did on Oricon. She is also famous for an even darker ballad.

I would probably have to listen to a number of interviews about why "Ishikari Banka" has been so popular with the kayo artists. However, I can speculate that it could be the power of the arrangement (pride mixed in with tragedy) including the trumpet intro and the personal story permeating the lyrics that have probably attracted so many to sing it.

Keisuke Hama(浜圭介)was the composer behind "Ishikari Banka" but the lyrics belong to longtime lyricist Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼). And Nakanishi based the words on his seemingly cursed ne'er-do-well older brother who just couldn't get his life together. One incident involved his brother managing to get a huge catch of herring one time but instead of getting his money in Hokkaido, he decided to roll the dice and move it down to the main island of Honshu where he could potentially get even more money. Instead, his bountiful haul ended up rotting on the way and he was left owing a ton of money. It's from here that Nakanishi came up with the song although his lyrics state that the poor fisherman here lost his catch due to a torn net.



As for the "Onbororo, onborobororo...", I'm not completely certain what it is referring to, although I think it is the audio equivalent of that crushing feeling of disappointment.  In any case, the song generates that power from the synergy of two enka sources, the manly-man out-on-the-sea music and the overall woe-is-me theme.

Mentioning above all those singers who have covered "Ishikari Banka" since the Kitahara original, Aki Yashiro(八代亜紀)is one of them above. And then there is Kouhei Fukuda(福田こうへい)below. But looking at the list of videos on YouTube, there are quite a few covers available so you can choose which one you really like.


Michiru Oshima -- Chariot's Theme


The latest incarnation of "Little Witch Academia"(リトルウィッチアカデミア)finished its run several weeks ago but my anime buddy just got the soundtrack for the show a few days ago, and he's been quite smitten with it.


Furthermore, the folks who did the design for the soundtrack probably were inspired by "Chariot's Theme". Have all of the main characters dress up like a marching band a la "Hibike! Euphonium"...check. For the Little Witch Academia category, I've already talked about a couple of the theme songs bracketing each episode but the overarching song that truly accompanied the adventures of Akko, Lotte, Sucy and Diana has been "Chariot's Theme".


But even though composer Michiru Kojima(大島ミチル)titled this grand march for Shiny Chariot, the heroine and inspiration for Akko's quest, I think "Chariot's Theme" probably applies as the theme for the entire series and perhaps even as the school anthem for Luna Nova (plus if anyone needed a song to commemorate any sort of proud declaration anywhere at any time, it's this song). It's as if John Williams decided to go for a re-do for the theme for "Harry Potter". As such, I think for me to just categorize it as a "Pop" song would be somewhat insulting to the composer so it's getting the first nod to belong to the "Orchestra" category (which means that I will have to search for similar orchestral pieces on the blog and re-categorize them).


Since Oshima has been involved with "Little Witch Academia" since 2013 when it began as an Anime Mirai project (which I did see), I think my memory recalls the theme being used for that first short. In any case, if a new movie or new series ever comes out in the future, those heralding horns will get everyone's attention and perhaps stop a few hearts as well.

ORESAMA -- Trip Trip Trip/TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND feat. Bonjour Suzuki -- Round&Round&Round


It was another loaded anime-and-meal routine Sunday with my anime buddy. However, we did actually meet up with another couple of friends who were part of my movie circle for dinner at a relatively new Taiwanese restaurant called Zen-Q, just north of the Toronto border. On the way back home, my anime buddy agreed that we've been on a roll for the past several months from last year with there being at least a goodly sum of enjoyable shows from each season, this one included.


One of the shows that we've been watching is "Mahoujin Guru Guru"(魔法陣グルグル...Magical Circle Guru Guru)which has had previous iterations on TV since 1994. Although the above video doesn't have a great example of the humour, the show is pretty close to scatterbrain comedy with tsukkomi coming out of the wazoo pretty much minute-by-minute.


Perhaps it's a bit weird to proclaim, but the animation and the humour remind me of the drollery I remember from episodes of "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" that I had caught on Sunday mornings when I was a kid. Of course, the 2017 edition of "Mahoujin Guru Guru" (which is the first time that I've seen any of the franchise) is a bit naughtier at times.


Nothing better than an anime with earworms in both the opening and ending themes. And "Mahoujin Guru Guru" was the first program past the post this season whose themes grabbed my ears.

No wonder! The show has got ORESAMA and TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND who've come up with some catchy themes and songs in general over the past few years. ORESAMA has been the newer-bie for me since I first heard about them through the anime "Alice to Zouroku"(アリスと蔵六)from earlier this year, which incidentally my buddy abandoned a little over halfway for losing focus. The duo of Pon(ぽん)and Hideya Kojima(小島英也)has come up with another uptempo and happy tune in "Trip Trip Trip", their 4th single released on July 26th, to set the mood of adventure and fun for each episode.



(3:55)

Not sure how long the above video will stay up but it does have the opening credits with the Mahoujin dance accompanying "Trip Trip Trip". My buddy says he's heard that there are real-life folks trying to do the dance on YouTube but haven't come across any examples as of yet. I figure that they're still rehearsing.


This is where my friend and I disagree but if I had to choose between "Trip Trip Trip" and the ending theme "Round&Round&Round", I would go with the latter (although I do like both). I simply like the no-less-cool but slightly more dramatic arrangement of this song better by TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND, who are also responsible for the music in "Mahoujin Guru Guru" in general. Plus, the music video shows the mysterious singer-songwriter Bonjour Suzuki(ボンジュール鈴木), and even reveals her (kinda, sorta) singing the words as well. Another check on the 2017 Bucket List!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Komadori Shimai -- Souran Wataridori (ソーラン渡り鳥)


Back in the postwar period, there were a lot of songs recorded and released about regular folks having to come into the big city or elsewhere away from their hometowns to find work. They may be working hard and saving up for their families but they truly miss their furusato. One big representative of that type of song is "Ahh, Ueno Eki"(ああ上野駅)from 1964 by Hachiro Izawa(井沢八郎)who sang about the young people flowing into Tokyo's Ueno Station from the various regions.


Another similarly-themed song came in a bit earlier. That would be "Souran Wataridori" (Souran Migratory Birds) from April 1961 by the Komadori Shimai(こまどり姉妹), Eiko and Yoko Namiki(並木栄子・並木葉子). I caught an episode of NHK's "Itsuki Sensei no Utau! SHOW Gakko"(五木先生の 歌う!SHOW学校...Itsuki-sensei's Singing Show School)on Tuesday..."Uta Kon"(うたコン)has been on summer hiatus...in which the theme was Hokkaido songs, and "Souran Wataridori" was on the playlist.

The thing about "Souran Wataridori" is that the melody by Minoru Endo(遠藤実)and the the lyrics by Miyuki Ishimoto(石本美由起)are very familiar to me especially the chorus of  "yaaren, souran, souran, souran"(ヤーレン、ソーラン、ソーラン、ソーラン)that the sisters chant out. Unlike "Aah, Ueno Eki" with its setting of a major station in the capital, I think "Souran Wataridori" is more likely set at one of the larger but regional port cities employing fishery workers who may have come south from Hokkaido or moved to one of the coastal cities in Japan's northernmost prefecture.


What I found out from jisho.org is that a souran bushi(ソーラン節)is a "traditional work song of Hokkaido herring fishery workers, performed by school students in modern choreographed interpretations". So, perhaps the workers didn't actually sing and bring in the fish in a rhythmic fashion but the teachers and kids interpreted their work that way.

In the first verse, though, there was a mention about someone plucking away at the shamisen so maybe the song wasn't just devoted to the migrant port workers but also to all those who left their hometowns (labourers, entertainers, etc.) to find work in the big cities. The Komadori Shimai themselves were born in Hokkaido and came to Tokyo to work as strolling musicians on the streets.



Being able to remember the song is probably not so surprising considering that it has probably been covered countless times since the 1960s. Above we have Toshimi Tagawa(田川寿美)and Natsuko Godai(伍代夏子)among others providing their version. The songwriters, by the way, also provided the Komadori Shimai with their first single, "Asakusa Shimai"(浅草姉妹)back in 1959.

Misato Watanabe -- My Love, Your Love


Happy Weekend to you all! It's been a long time since I put up a Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里)song and as much as she loves you, we all love her so it is indeed time to rectify that situation.


My impression of Watanabe as she entered her 2nd decade of show business is that she was starting to get mellower. She still possessed that boomer voice from her beginnings in the mid-1980s but I think she was no longer bouncing off the walls like that eternal teen with the huge anime eyes as she entered the mid-1990s..

Her 31st single was "My Love, Your Love" with the Japanese subtitle of "Tatta Hitorishika Inai Anata e"(たったひとりしかいない あなたへ...To You, The Only One)from June 1996. Now if my memory serves me correctly, the song had been used as a campaign song for the Atlanta Olympics in the summer of that year for one of the commercial networks. Maki Ohguro's(大黒摩季)"Atsukunare"(熱くなれ)was the pop/rock barnburner for NHK, while Anri's(杏里)"Ano Natsu ni Modoritai"(あの夏に戻りたい)was the relaxing and tropical entry for TV Asahi's contribution to the Games. "My Love, Your Love" then was more of the pub-friendly singalong for those folks who may have wanted to watch the Olympics on the bar TV with buddies.

The song got as high as No. 13 on Oricon. It made its debut on an original album via Misato's 10th release "Spirits" which was released in July 1996. That album peaked at No. 5 and ended up as the 93rd-ranked album of the year. It's also included on her 15th-anniversary BEST album "Sweet 15th Diamond" from July 2000. And no, it's not on "She Loves You" which was her 10th anniversary album since it was too early.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Noriyuki Makihara -- SPY


Watching the NHK music-variety show, "Banana Zero Music"(バナナ♪ゼロミュージック)the other night, singer-songwriter Noriyuki Makihara(槇原敬之)appeared and brought out his 12th single from August 1994, "SPY" to be analyzed by the hosts and guests.


I haven't heard from Mackey for quite a while so when I was listening to "SPY", I was reminded of what a pure voice the fellow has. "SPY" is still not in my Top 3 favourite Makihara singles but it was interesting with the analysis of the lyrics by the "Banana Zero Music" crew since it was about a man catching sight of his girlfriend and deciding to surreptitiously follow her, much to his ultimate heartbreak. Ironically, the official music video seems to take the opposite tack of a woman tracking her target for even worse ends. The spy theme is also not lost on Makihara since there is a slightly twangy guitar in there although I would never mistake the song for anything from James Bond or Peter Gunn.

"SPY" was the third No. 1 hit for Makihara and his final one to date as it sold about 860,000 copies. It is also included on his 5th album "PHARMACY" which came out in October 1994 and was also a No. 1 hit and a million-seller. The single itself would end up as the 25th-most popular song of the year. Finally, "SPY" was the theme song to a TBS comedy-drama "Otokogirai"(男嫌い...Manhaters)about a group of four sisters who have some major grudges against men.

Seiko Matsuda -- Hoho ni Shiokaze (頬に潮風)


Well, TGIF! I guess this can be considered an anniversary of sorts since I am writing the 50th article for Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)on "Kayo Kyoku Plus". My last article on the quintessential aidoru of the early 1980s, "Sukoshi Zutsu Haru"(少しずつ春)had that hint of spring...appropriate since we were technically still in that season, so for this one, let's go with the summer theme.


As I mentioned in "Sukoshi Zutsu Haru", I've pretty much done all of the A-sides of her singles from her heyday in the early 1980s at least, so I'm now going onto her B-sides. And as much as "Sukoshi Zutsu Haru" was the B-side to "Cherry Blossom"(チェリーブラッサム), "Hoho ni Shiokaze" (Sea Breeze On My Cheek), was the flip side to Seiko-chan's April 1981 5th single, "Natsu no Tobira"(夏の扉), the very first Seiko song that I had ever heard.

The intro sounds almost suited to a light City Pop/J-AOR number, especially with that saxophone, but then the melody kicks into high gear into something that we've all been familiar with when it comes to early Seiko and those slightly raspy and earnest vocals of hers back then. The beat starts galloping, the strings start soaring and Seiko starts singing about that happy summer on the seaside.

(vocals only, sans instruments)

The song was created by a couple of songwriters that I had never heard before: lyricist Sakiko Asakawa(浅川佐記子)and composer Jukichi Moriie(森家住吉). Since "Natsu no Tobira" was another No. 1 hit, the A-side has appeared in a lot of albums, but "Hoho ni Shiokaze" has only shown up on three of Matsuda's BEST compilations: "Seiko Box", "Complete Bible" and "Touch Me, Seiko II".

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Second Chance - Larry Chan

This is the continuation of The First where I talked about my first Japanese song that got me into Japanese music.  Technically, it's not a single song but rather Akina Nakamori (中森明菜) herself.

Departure

As I progressed through secondary school, I rarely listened to Japanese music. I would sometimes listen to that Akina tape that I made back in my cousin's home in the summer of 1984. And as the Hong Kong music scene grew, I paid more and more attention to Hong Kong singers. DJs rarely played Japanese songs anymore. If I remember right, there's probably one hour per week on Radio Hong Kong dedicated to Japanese music. But I wonder if that program survived after a few years. I knew no friend in my secondary school who listened to Japanese music.

In the 80s, Japanese songs were covered left and right by Hong Kong singers. I looked up the year 1985, the Top Ten Chinese Songs of 1985, sponsored by Radio Hong Kong, registered 7 songs of foreign origin, 6 of them were Japanese songs!  I always joke that Hong Kong should give Kisugi Takao (来生たかお), Tamaki Koji (玉置浩二) and Tokunaga Hideaki (徳永英明) a Hong Kong Lifetime Music Award as they really contributed greatly to Hong Kong music :)  Naturally, one may think that I would go behind the cover song and seek the original Japanese song. But I didn't. Somehow I had no interest.

I still got entertainment news from Japan from time to time, like Akina's attempted suicide, but these are passive information that I got while reading the entertainment section. In the 90s, I went to Madison Wisconsin for my undergrad and that further insulated me from Japanese music. Not just Japanese music, but anything Japanese.

First Japanese Album Owned

In 1996, something happened. There was a "must see" Japanese drama among my Hong Kong friends -  Long Vacation, starring Kimura Takuya (木村拓哉) and Yamaguchi Tomoko (山口智子).  Well, I guess the "must see" crowd mainly consisted of girls who found the drama extremely romantic.

As I mentioned in The First, I never bought any Japanese music.

And I did not buy my first Japanese album, it was more like a gift.  Also, it was not from a singer or a group, but a sound track!

In 1996, I met the future founder of YesAsia by chance (friend of friend). In 1997, when he's just started his business, he told me that my first order would be free over lunch.  And so, I ordered the original sound track of Long Vacation. Looking back, I was surprised at myself that I got that CD.  I think I ordered it out of fashion at the time.  I liked the piano piece played by Kimura in that last scene in the drama, but I didn't really like the rest of the music. I probably played that album once or twice, and a few years ago, I donated it to the local library, upon finishing the Marie Kondo exercise.

After Long Vacation, there was a period of a few years when I watched quite a number of Japanese dramas including Love Generation, Hitotsu Yane no Shita (ひとつ屋根の下) etc., and I even went back and watched the legendary Tokyo Love Story. But still no Japanese music in my life.

First Japanese Album I Bought

In 2009, I asked a friend of mine to download the Japanese drama Galileo for me.  It was adapted from various short detective novels from Higashino Keigo (東野圭吾), starring Fukuyama Masaharu (福山雅治) and Shibasaki Kou (柴崎コウ).  When he gave me the DVD, he said he downloaded a "bonus track" for me. It turned out to be another detective drama called Triangle, starring Eguchi Yousuke (江口洋介, Moriyama Chisato's 森山千里 husband), Inagaki Gorou (稲垣吾郎, he's a SMAP), and Hirosue Ryouko (広末涼子).

I love Triangle, especially the first half, when it kept me guessing about what happened, and the story was unfolding at a fast pace.  The latter half of the drama was slow and there's too much back and forth. The ending is surprising though.  I highly recommend the drama.

Not only did I found the drama exciting, I also love the music and decided to buy the sound track from Amazon Japan.  In my experience, most of the sound tracks are disappointing because you can't listen to it alone. It's meant to be an accompaniment to the movie or drama.  But Triangle is different. Its music can stand on its own.  It's so rare that I love every piece of music in there.  Every piece is my favorite.  I also want to note that the theme song is called Sayonara wa Iwanai (さよならは言わない) by Koda Kazumasa (小田和正).  I like the song too.  Too bad they can't put that into the sound track (I downloaded it later from the Internet). Maybe I can write about it sometime.

So, like my first Japanese Album, my first "paid" Japanese album is also a sound track.

Studying Japanese

In winter 2009, I took a trip to Hokkaido, visiting Sapporo (札幌)  and Biei (美瑛), among other places. This was my 2nd time in Hokkaido, and my 6th time in Japan. In Biei, I stayed at a family owned bed and breakfast place called Jacatra.  The best part of this b&b is that you can request a paid photography tour, where the owner would drive you to all the scenic spots around Biei and take photographs.  I took the tour with 3 other Japanese residents, all of them serious hobbyists, if not professionals.  They're shooting wide format (120) color slide films with their Pentax 645s.  It was very very memorable.  This is a photo I took during the tour:


I highly recommend this b&b if you are staying in Biei.

After the trip, I had an unusually strong urge to study Japanese. I guess the trip was so fun that in the back of my mind, it'd be super exciting if I could speak the language, especially during the photo tour.

In April 2010, 4 months after the trip, I decided to enroll in Beginning Japanese at Foothill College.  Initially, I thought my enthusiasm would die down quickly, but now I've been studying Japanese for 7 years already and still going!

Back to Akina

Shortly after I started my Japanese studies, I decided that I need to find something Japanese that I'd enjoy.  This was the lesson I learned when I was studying English.  English was part of the curriculum and I was forced to do it. That's why it was so tough because I never found anything related to English that I enjoyed reading or listening.  This time, I decided that I need to find something Japanese that I  would regularly read, watch, and listen. What better place to start than listening to Japanese music, I thought. And what better place to start than picking up where I left  off in that summer of 84, when I stumbled into Akina.

So, I was searching on YouTube fanatically.  At that time, there were a lot of Akina's live performances, mostly on TV like The Top Ten.  I found myself rediscovering Akina in a whole new way.  First of all, I realized how good she was when  she sang live.  Many idols, regardless of era, do not perform well live.  They're called idols for a reason, I guess.  And I always wonder if the TV appearances of AKB 48 had a prerecorded track to make them sound better than they are .  Akina's live performances, on the other hand, sounds authentic -  authentically good.  Second, I like that Akina doesn't hide her emotions when singing live.  I'm mostly talking about her TV appearances singing Nanpasen (難破船) and Yokan (予感) in her concerts .  In one video, I saw her hands trembling upon finishing her performance of Nanpasen.  In another, I can see tears coming from her eyes while performing it .  And in one concert, she bursted  into tears at the end of Yokan, as she was singling the last line: もう疲れたの (I'm already tired) , as if it invoked her  painful  memories with Kondo Masahiko (近藤真彦).  Unlike most celebrities, Akina feels close because I can see her human side.  Last but not least, Akina can really dance, compared with most idols around her time.  It just made her so much more special.

I have a bad feeling that in a few months, these videos would have been erased by YouTube police.  But I'll still post them here for you to enjoy, albeit for a short period.

Akina Yokan Live
https://youtu.be/xWlQeth-wVg

Akina Nanpasen Live
https://youtu.be/srBusfN4C3c
https://youtu.be/6e1bJ05a__s

So, to answer J-Canuck's question, "Which song triggered my final plunge into Japanese music?" - my answer is Nanpasen.  Not only the song itself but Akina's stunning live performance as well.

First Japanese Song Album

By now , you would have guessed that my first Japanese song album is from Akina.  And yes, it's Akina Ballad Best 25th Anniversary Selection.  Interesting enough, there're 2 versions - the Japanese version vs the rest of Asia version.  I have the latter only and so I can't confidently say there are no differences, but the list of songs are definitely the same.  However, the price doubles for the Japanese version!  So if you want to go for the cheap, you should get it from YesAsia or something like that, or maybe get a 2nd hand CD in Japan.  Like J-Canuck said, 2nd hand CDs  from Japan are usually very good deals.

Last Words

Japanese music entered my life in a weird way.  If not because of my Japanese study needs, I probably would not have discovered Japanese music. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it.  I also learn quite a lot of vocabulary through song  lyrics. It just shows how unexpected life can be.  I never thought I already sowed the seeds of Japanese music in 1984 for myself in 2010.  It's fascinating!



Tatsuhiko Yamamoto -- Saijoukai (最上階)


Well, I plunked some more yen into the coffers of CD Japan since there were a couple of albums that I wanted to peruse. One of them was a compilation album "70s & 80s Best" by Tatsuhiko Yamamoto(山本達彦)who I have written about in the last year starting with his single "Last Good-Bye" from 1982.

As with a number of singers in the City Pop genre, there isn't a whole lot of information on Yamamoto. For one thing, the J-Wiki article for him has only deposited the singles and albums that actually scored relatively high in the rankings which means that only his 80s output is listed. It would be easy to make the mistake of assuming Yamamoto debuted in that decade as a solo singer (he had been with the band Orange in the mid-1970s). Plus, his website is sorely lacking in material, including any sort of discography which has been categorized as "under construction".


However, I managed to find out that Yamamoto started his solo career in 1978 with his album "Toppuu〜SUDDEN WIND"(突風). One of the tracks from that release and the first track on "70s & 80s Best" is "Saijoukai" (Top Floor) which was composed by Yamamoto and written by Ayumi Date(伊達歩). It's a melancholy if hopeful ballad about a man standing on the top floor of a building sometime around the Holidays while paying tribute to the love of his life who may in fact have died tragically. My impression is that instead of wallowing in eternal grief, the protagonist is coming out of his mourning and thanking her up in heaven for the good times they had together.

The one thing that got my interest about Yamamoto was that from listening to some of his other songs on YouTube, he wasn't just another singer specializing in the City Pop genre. He started to come across as a pop balladeer. The piano also seemed to be an extension of himself with that symbolism further reinforced with the faded picture of the instrument on the front cover of "70s & 80s Best". I gather that he was the Piano Man of Japan, somewhat comparable to the Piano Man of the USA, Billy Joel, who is also very popular in Japan.

"Saijoukai" is definitely not City Pop but it is somewhat wistful 70s New Music to me. In a way, he rather bridges the gap between two other Japanese balladeer-songwriters, Junichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一)and Takao Kisugi(来生たかお). Yamamoto isn't quite as nasal as Inagaki or dips quite as deep as Kisugi in terms of his voice (although this isn't to say that Takao is a basso profundo by any means); he occupies the middle between those two fellows. Another insight is that when listening to Disc 1 of "70s & 80s Best" last night, Yamamoto struck me as a singer who may be quite comfortable in the pop realm but, like Inagaki and Kisugi, hasn't minded going a bit rock or even jazzy at times.

Will be listening to Disc 2 later on tonight. But this one is definitely a keeper.


Ritsuko Okazaki/Hiroko Kasahara -- Sora no Mukou ni (空の向こうに)


As I mentioned back in August 2013 when I wrote about the lovely ballad "Ame de Musique"(雨のmusique), I never played the computer game, "Symphonic Rain", which it came from. However, I didn't need to play it to know how wonderful it sounded as sung by Masumi Okano(浅野真澄)who voiced one of the characters and the late Ritsuko Okazaki(岡崎律子)who had created the song.


Comparatively though, my anime buddy hasn't played "Ame de Musique" during anison hour as often as he has this other ballad and the actual opening theme from the game called "Sora no Mukou ni" (The Other Side of the Sky). But I don't blame him for his choice because it is also a wonderful song in my estimation. This is another Okazaki creation which shows right from its opening notes that perhaps the singer-songwriter had been a fan of those 80s power ballads by folks like David Foster. The arrangement is such that I could've easily imagined Chicago or TOTO tackling this one. If I'm not mistaken, the above is the Okazaki version from "For Ritz", her 7th album from December 2004.

I read the information today on the J-Wiki article about the album but supposedly this was to have been released in June of that year but with Okazaki's sudden passing the previous month, the decision was made by production staff to hold off on the release for several months and even change the initial title to "For Ritz" in tribute to her.


Supposedly the above video here is the rendition by seiyuu Hiroko Kasahara(笠原弘子)who played the character of Phorni in "Symphonic Rain" but I just found the renditions so similar that I'm kinda wondering if it is also Okazaki here as well. Corrections are welcome.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Masahiro Ikumi -- Say, My Love


Sigh...next time I visit my old stomping grounds again in Chiba Prefecture, I really ought to take more photos of Urayasu(浦安). The above was the only one I took in October 2014 and that was from my friend's car and it was a rainy day.


To give you some geographical perspective, I lived in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture which is an eastern bedroom city for Tokyo. Urayasu is the city that is between Tokyo and Ichikawa. The Tokyo Metro's Tozai Line runs through my old station of Minami-Gyotoku(南行徳)and the one before it, Urayasu Station.

The above video (and I thank you, peakysaltsy for the remembrance of my old neighbourhood) shows the area which I like to call Old Urayasu. Just surrounding Urayasu Station, it has that look of a sub-city centre, and yep, I got off here once or twice a week to teach at my friend's juku which was about 10 minutes away on foot. You may notice the Seiyu Department Store right by the station? I went there fairly often since there was a CD store and also a local MUJI. Another reason is that there was a family restaurant up on the 2nd floor where I ate frequently enough so that I would get some knowing smiles from the staff there whenever I entered. I believe one of the waitresses must have thought on seeing me come in that I would be responsible for helping out the restaurant coffers immensely when I ordered my meal.


To give credit where credit is due, this video is by toki-toki and it is of the area that I call New Urayasu. Although Old Urayasu is the area that I was more familiar with, I actually made the effort to take a bus to visit the new and gleaming part of the city time and again, and it definitely couldn't look more different. With the palm trees, modern condos and a fancy-schmancy shopping mall characteristic of this area by Tokyo Bay, it positively demands a City Pop album.


Well, come to think of it, I did find one some months ago. The above video is of part of the 1983 album "uLAyasu" by jazz guitarist Masahiro Ikumi(幾見雅博). I'm not sure what the really big caps of "LA" in the title are all about but I can speculate that he had wanted to bring some of that LA sound into the Chiba city. Since the new part of Urayasu probably hadn't been developed at the time of the album's release, I don't think Ikumi was inspired by that for his album although New Urayasu looks like a really nice beachside district of Los Angeles.

Anyways, the first track, "Say, My Love" sounds like something that would make for a nice musical accompaniment for another video of New Urayasu. For those who aren't in an aidoru or enka frame of mind, this is a nice gin and tonic to go with that glass of Perrier chaser. Artists like him, Casiopea and The Square were making some fine fusion back then.

As I said, the information on his website isn't particularly comprehensive but Ikumi is also a composer, arranger and producer who has produced a lot of commercial music for companies ranging from Coca-Cola to JAL. Plus, he has had his hand in making anime music and scores, including the one for the 1998 movie "Perfect Blue". He originally hails from Shizuoka Prefecture.


Well, what do you know? peakysaltsy was even able to put up a video of my old neighbourhood around Minami-Gyotoku Station, or as the locals call it, Nangyo(南行)! Ahh...good times.


Mika Nakashima -- Hi no Tori (火の鳥)


Back in 2004, NHK produced an anime based on one of master comic artist Osamu Tezuka's(手塚治虫)greatest works, "Hi no Tori" (The Phoenix). According to Wikipedia, "Hi no Tori" was never finished due to Tezuka passing away in 1989.

I remember catching it on Sundays on the network following the 7pm news and although I couldn't understand the majority of what was going on, I couldn't deny the beauty of the animation and the fact that the story jumped back and forth among different eras in history.


I also couldn't deny the wonder of the ending theme of the show which was also called "Hi no Tori" as performed by Mika Nakashima(中島美嘉). This was her 12th single released in June 2004. Unfortunately, the video above is for the short version but to hear Nakashima's voice even in a truncated format is better than nothing. Still, to see the ending credits for the NHK anime while the song was playing was truly marvelous...too bad that I haven't been able to see it on YouTube.

(karaoke version)

Written by veteran songwriter Reiko Yukawa(湯川れい子)and composed by Hidekazu Uchiike(内池秀和), "Hi no Tori" was arranged by Keiichi Tomita(冨田恵一), although I have used his project name, Tomita Lab(冨田ラボ), to identify him in the Labels. Knowing that Tomita was on the case was my reassurance that this would be a splendidly soulful ballad. And I think fans were aware of that, too, since the song broke into the Top 10 and peaked at No. 9.

It was also included in Nakashima's 3rd album "MUSIC", released in April 2005. "MUSIC" hit No. 1 and went Double Platinum, becoming the 16th-ranked album of the year and selling over half a million copies.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Noboru Kirishima & Misao Matsubara (Miss Columbia) -- Ippai no Coffee kara (一杯のコーヒーから)


Had the usual talk with my anime buddy last night over the phone. It's not new news but he complained again about the poor quality of coffee in Japan. My taste buds aren't nearly that refined so I am perfectly fine with the Japanese java, and frankly that was good, since especially when I became a freelance English teacher in my later years there, those coffeehouses were absolutely necessary for places to teach. I was pretty good with any place ranging from the 80s-style Renoir franchise to the newest Starbucks branch.

However for the discerning palate, I think, really, folks like my friend will need to go to the Mom & Pop places in Tokyo operated by coffee connoisseurs. They look like very fashionable bars with shelves of many kinds of coffee beans, and they serve their cups starting from about a little under a thousand yen. Good coffee, good atmosphere...they cost.


Now, that I've got you in the mood for a cuppa joe perhaps, I can talk about the song du article here. Actually, I got the idea to talk about it from doing the previous article regarding the lineup for the 1982 Kohaku Utagassen earlier today. One of the customs for the Kohaku shows from way back is that both the Red and White teams got together during one segment in the broadcast to do some of the beloved old kayo from decades past. You might say that it's like a mini-version of the regular NHK kayo shows.

Although I remember such a segment from the 1981 show, I don't remember the kayo segment from the 1982 edition. But J-Wiki has diligently put up the schedule for that show and apparently there was that segment. Naoko Ken & Hiroshi Itsuki(研ナオコ & 五木ひろし)along with Harumi Miyako & Keisuke Kuwata(都はるみ & 桑田佳祐)did their bit by singing the ditty "Ippai no Coffee kara" (Over A Cup of Coffee).

The original "Ippai no Coffee kara" was released in March 1939 with the singers being Noboru Kirishima and Misao Matsubara(霧島昇・松原操)who at the time was known as Miss Columbia(ミス・コロムビア)since her record company, the current Nippon Columbia, was trying to promote the young singer from Hokkaido. Written by Koh Fujiura(藤浦洸)and composed by Ryoichi Hattori(服部良一), the song told a story about love blossoming for a couple while enjoying the java at a cafe. "Ippai no Coffee kara" may have been rather prescient since Kirishima and Matsubara would end up getting married to each other the same year. It's also interesting to note that Matsubara passed away less than 2 months after Kirishima's death in April 1984.


The above video has Kirishima performing the song with actress/singer Chieko Baisho(倍賞千恵子)from about 3:09.

According to J-Wiki, when Hattori was coming up with the melody, it had been titled as "Ippai no Beer kara"(一杯のビールから)which was fine with him as someone who appreciated the golden brew. However, lyricist Fujiura who wouldn't touch a drop of alcohol was far more of a coffee fan, and somehow the title got changed to the final "Ippai no Coffee kara". Just my opinion, but I think there is something more romantic and right about love over a cup of coffee rather than a mug of beer.

Also I found out from the J-Wiki article that the song stood out for its modern, jazzy beat that was unusual for the times. No other details were given but I can guess that at the time, the Japanese government was probably pushing more for military marches with a nationalistic bent.

J-Wiki even pointed out as a final piece of trivia that in 1939, a cup of coffee cost a whopping 15 sen, and there were 100 sen in 1 yen. I could imagine folks back in the early Showa era doing a spit-take on their cuppa on finding out the costs of a cup of coffee in Tokyo in the late Heisei era.

1982 Kohaku Utagassen (33rd edition)


Can't quite believe that I gave that listing for the 1981 Kohaku Utagassen all the way back in 2012, but then again, I was probably filled with a lot of enthusiasm for telling about one of the sources responsible for me getting into popular Japanese music. Therefore, I'm now bringing this article in the form of its sequel, the listing for the 1982 Kohaku Utagassen(第33回NHK紅白歌合戦).


If I'm not mistaken, this was probably televised in Toronto in January 1983 instead of New Year's Eve 1982...video technology and legal red tape as it was back then. That was also the case for the 1981 Kohaku. There were some distinct highlights that I still have in my brain from the 33rd edition such as Hiromi Iwasaki's(岩崎宏美)rendition of "Madonna Tachi no Lullaby"(聖母たちのララバイ)as above, Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子)pretty number and Hiromi Go's(郷ひろみ)cover of Bertie Higgins' "Casablanca". And Aming's(あみん)"Matsu wa"(待つわ)still goes into my Top 5 Adorably Cute moments from the entire history of the special.


Another highlight was watching Southern All Stars(サザンオールスターズ)performing "Chako no Kaigan Monogatari"(チャコの海岸物語). I had never heard of Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐)and his band before and their out-of-the-ordinary performance on the Shibuya stage had me wondering if these guys were seriously nuts (I think Kuwata was trolling NHK the entire time). My parents were even more unimpressed. However, things are now cool between SAS and me although that is most likely not the case between them and NHK.

Here is the list:

Red Team

Junko Mihara               Honki de Love Me Good! (1st appearance)
Naoko Kawai               Natsu no Heroine (2nd)
Aming                          Matsu wa (1st)
Mizue Takada              Glass no Hana (5th)
Seiko Matsuda             Nobara no Etude (3rd)
Kiyoko Suizenji           Daishobu (18th)
Sugar                            Wedding Bell (1st)
Naoko Ken                   Natsu wo Akiramete (6th)
Los Indios & Silvia      Como Esta Akasaka? (3rd)
Mina Aoe                      Isezakicho Blues (16th)
Chiyoko Shimakura     Kono Yo no Hana (26th)
Mieko Makimura         Kuchinashi no Hana (2nd)
Ikue Sakakibara           Nagori Yuki (5th)
Rumiko Koyanagi       Midaregami (12th)
Junko Sakurada           Sailor Fuku to Kikanjuu (9th)
Miyuki Kawanaka       Anata Hitosuji (2nd)
Hiromi Iwasaki           Madonna Tachi no Lullaby (8th)
Masako Mori               Tachimachi Misaki (10th)
Sayuri Ishikawa           Tsugaru Kaikyo - Fuyu Gesshiki (6th)
Sachiko Kobayashi      Omoide Zake (4th)
Aki Yashiro                  Umineko (10th)
Harumi Miyako           Namida no Renrakusen (18th)



(The "top batter" Junko Mihara)

White Team

Shibugaki-tai               100%...Sou kamo ne! (1st appearance)
Toshihiko Tahara         Yuwaku Suresure (3rd)
Masahiko Kondo         Horeta ze! Kanpai (2nd)
Hideki Saijo                 Sei Shojo (9th)
Hiromi Go                   Aishuu no Casablanca (10th)
Haruo Minami             Chanchiki Okesa (25th)
Southern All Stars       Chako no Kaigan Monogatari (2nd)
Yoichi Sugawara         Ai no Sanka (16th)
Yuzo Kayama              Kimi to Itsumademo (9th)
Frank Nagai                Yurakucho de Aimashou (26th)
Masao Sen                  Kitakuni no Haru (10th)
Kenji Niinuma            Shinsetsu (7th)
Joji Yamamoto            Tabi no Owari wa Omae (2nd)
Toshiyuki Nishida       Aah...Ueno Eki (2nd)
Kenji Sawada              Rokubanme no Yuutsu (10th)
The Cool Five             Uwasa no Onna (11th)
Masatoshi Nakamura  Kokoro no Iro (1st)
Takashi Hosokawa      Kita Sakaba (8th)
Hideo Murata              Fuufu Shunjuu (21st)
Saburo Kitajima          Namida Bune (20th)
Hiroshi Itsuki              Chigiri (12th)
Shinichi Mori              Kage wo Maite (15th)


(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

The other thing I remember from this Kohaku was that the younger singers did a Beatles medley in the early part of show. Quite good but still not quite as slick as their tribute to Quincy Jones' "Ai no Corrida"(愛のコリーダ)in a similar segment on the 1981 broadcast.


Being the immature nerd I was back then, I think I rather giggled at the intro of Mina Aoe's(青江三奈)magnum opus. However, the above video is from the 1968 edition of the show.