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.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Mieko Makimura -- Koi Ningyo(恋人形)

Last year, I mentioned about enka singer Mieko Makimura(牧村三枝子), someone who we, as a family, used to see rather frequently on the old VHS tapes of music programs from Japan. Apparently, according to her J-Wiki article, she has been performing again since 2004 after several years of serious illness.

(Commenter Kaz has given corrections to my description below but I'm keeping the text intact so that future readers will want to know what was corrected. Of course, though, I have changed the title above.)

Makimura had her big hit in the late 1970s with "Michizure"(みちづれ)which was an enka love proposal, but tonight, I wanted to go further back in time to her debut. After her first single "Shojo wa Otona ni Narimashita"(少女は大人になりました...The Girl Has Become A Woman)in July 1972, her second single came out in December of that year. Titled "Koibito Katachi", I initially had wondered about how to read those three kanji as you can see as usual at the top. Those three kanji could conceivably be read as "Koi Ningyo" which would translate as "Love Doll", but I don't think the lyrics by Takao Yamada(山田孝雄)seem that racy.

Instead, "Koibito Katachi" (The Shape of Lovers) has Makimura singing from the man's point of view as he wistfully remembers the names of past paramours and wonders why he can't seem to find that Ms. Right. In the end, he resignedly leaves Tokyo to head for his hometown and his mother. Yamada's lyrics are pretty melancholy but I have to say that the music by Mitsuyoshi Yanagida柳田光義...I hope that his given name is pronounced correctly)sounds pretty Mood Kayo; in fact, I could even imagine the Cool Five covering this one easily. But, of course, this is Makimura instead of Kiyoshi Maekawa(前川清)extolling the stories of lost loves, and the teenager had quite the powerful voice...something along the lines of a Keiko Fuji(藤圭子)with a bit of Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子)in there.

The whole song is all very pleasingly nostalgic, and although it wasn't a hit for Makimura, it's a nice discovery for me.


  1. Hello Canuck,

    Regarding the title in question, your initial reading is correct. It IS read "Koi Ningyou". Although it wasn't a big hit, I know the song. My late grandfather was a huge music fan (an Enka fan to be exact), and I grew up listening to a lot of songs by many singers of this genre. This was one of them.

    The lyrics have no direct reference to the title, but I would assume that it is saying that the protagonist (it is a young woman and not a man by the way) is like a doll, a symbol of innocence, who yearns for romance. The Japanese word 恋人形 does not carry the same connotation as Love Doll.

    Most likely, the story of the song is about a woman who works as a hostess in a night club in Shinjuku (many of these enka songs tend to be about such women), and the couple of female names she mentions are her friends/colleagues.

    In the first line of the first verse, Mayumi leaves town, and the next line tells us that the protagonist will be leaving the next day as well.

    In the second verse, she talks about Junko, who had told her that Shinjuku is a city where dreams live, but she doesn't think her shy and naive personality allows her to be more assertive and forward to find romance in Shinjuku.

    The final verse tells you why she feels the city life is not for her. She doesn't know anyone, and everyone's too busy looking around to engage in true relationships. So, she decides to go home to the countryside where her mother still lives, thinking that maybe, she belongs with a nice country boy she feels comfortable with.

    As you can see, I am reading a lot into the lyrics, filling in the blanks in the rather bare-boned lyrics with information that's not there. The thing is, all Enka lyrics are so cliche-ridden. This particular story has been told thousand times in other songs. It's always the same. All you need is the information that this girl is heading back home leaving Tokyo. The rest of the story instantly writes itself in the listeners' heads.

    Yes, the pronoun 私/わたし/watashi is not gender-specific, but in the world of Enka, a man NEVER calls himself that.

    Anyway, I am amazed that you came across this little gem.

    1. Hey, Kaz.

      Thanks for the corrections and I have written the disclaimer above. Personally, though, I prefer the second reading as the title.

      Yep, I realized that the lyrics were pretty much the standard story for an enka tune but I gotta admit that the song was quite nice to listen to. :)

    2. Hello again, Kaz.

      Also I wanted to ask you about the name 柳田光義. Is that correctly written in the article?

  2. Hi Canuck

    Yes. Yanagida Mitsuyoshi is correct. ;)


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