I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Koichi Sakata -- Theme from "Oshin"(おしん)


Many was a night while I was studying in my room or cramming for an exam as a high school student that I would hear the television in the family living room and copious amounts of sniffling. I had to close the door at times when it got particularly annoying. The reason for that was the fact that my parents used to borrow multiple VHS tapes from the local Japanese video rental store not too far away, and the title on the labels of all of those cassettes was "Oshin".

Yup, my parents along with millions of other folks not just in Japan but in many nations around the planet were watching the toughest trials and tribulations of Shin "Oshin" Tanokura(田倉しん)in the NHK morning serial drama that lasted for an entire year between 1983 and 1984. From what I read on the Wikipedia entry for "Oshin", the story by Sugako Hashida(橋田壽賀子), who has been considered to be Japan's most successful television drama scriptwriter, was especially harsh on the title character throughout her life to the extent that the commercial TV networks, and even NHK initially, had rejected the idea to create the show until the government national broadcaster finally relented. It was no wonder that fans were grabbing the Kleenex in a lot of the episodes, and perhaps in Japan, new salty rivers were probably created by all of the tears generated.

And yet, "Oshin" managed to become a huge hit internationally as the serial showed Oshin through all stages in her life from the Meiji to Showa Eras, as portrayed by child actor Ayako Kobayashi(小林綾子), Yuko Tanaka(田中裕子)as the young adult Oshin and finally the late Nobuko Otowa(乙羽信子)as the character in her later years. I even recollect seeing Ronald Reagan, who was the US President at the time, even make a taped broadcast to the Japanese people which referred to the show (although he pronounced the name "ocean").

Hashida passed away at the age of 95 a couple of days ago, and so in tribute to her magnum opus, I've decided to devote this article to the theme from "Oshin". Since each of those tapes that my parents rented contained seven to eight episodes each, I heard the theme over and over.

Until I looked it up, I hadn't known that this delicate and elegant theme song for "Oshin" was created by composer Koichi Sakata(坂田晃一), who was also responsible for the soundtrack for the show. Sakata's compositions are already represented on KKP, including "Sayonara no Natsu"(さよならの夏), a 1976 song originally recorded by folk singer Ryoko Moriyama(森山良子), later to be used as the theme song for a 2011 Studio Ghibli movie "Kokurikozaka kara"(コクリコ坂から)as sung by Aoi Teshima(手嶌葵).

I'm not sure whether Sakata had intended to do so, but I think the "Oshin" theme, with its combination of strings and ocarina/shakuhachi (?), is divided into segments representing the three stages of the title character's life.

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