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.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Masahiro Ikumi -- Say, My Love 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 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
although this wasn't the Kohaku performance)

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)

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.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Well, I was having dinner with my friend Daniel last Friday in Koreatown when he told me about one of his favourite singers, Ayumi Hamasaki(浜崎あゆみ). One of the bits of information I received was that she actually did a rap album. At first thought, I surmised that that it would be possible considering the type of music she did. I don't have a full range of knowledge of her discography so maybe the album was in there, I thought. But then, he told me that she did the album even before she released her first official single, "poker face". In fact, it was almost 3 years before "poker face".

My attention was got. After receiving the link from Daniel, I checked it out and found "NOTHING FROM NOTHING". Released in September 1995 (with an EP coming out later in December), Ayumi Hamasaki was once AYUMI, and her collaborators were DOHZI-T and DJ BASS. Hearing 16-year-old AYUMI rap with the guys kinda reminded me of EAST END×YURI. It's kinda cute...almost like hip-hop-moe. But then there was the dreamy bit where those familiar tones of her singing voice echoed slowly over the cool bass. The overall effect was rather reminiscent of all those R&B tunes during the 1990s before J-R&B became big near the end of the century, so actually I do like it.

DOHZI-T took care of the lyrics while Kazuo Ishijima(石嶋和雄)came up with the music. Unfortunately, "NOTHING FROM NOTHING" got nothing. It didn't get onto Oricon and Nippon Columbia summarily dropped her. Obviously, though, there was a much better fate for her on the horizon a few more years down the line. Wikipedia has stated that the EP and single are out of print so I'm sure the Holy Grail as far as her fans are concerned is this one.

Amazing the stuff one learns over Korean BBQ!

Ken Shimura -- Shimura Ken no Zen'in Shuugo Higashimurayama Ondo (志村けんの全員集合 東村山音頭)

Yup, today is indeed the day of the total solar eclipse and as I am writing this, it is proceeding to get darker although here in Toronto, we will only be getting just 70% of totality. To be honest, I'm not all that enthused about something that I have seen on TV often enough and if I did see directly, I would go blind. But, I still thought I needed to get that out of the way.

In the past several months, I've written about the deaths of a few kayo songwriters but this time, I will be paying tribute to someone from Old Hollywood. Jerry Lewis passed away yesterday morning at the ripe old age of 91. Back when the United States had plenty of comedy duos on stage and in the movies, I was born early enough to remember folks like Hope & Crosby, Abbott & Costello, Meara & Stiller, etc.

Then, there was Martin & Lewis. I saw Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as the younger version of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Hope and Lewis were the doltish halves of their respective teams but while the former was known for his glib tongue, Jerry Lewis was Jim Carrey before Jim Carrey. He was all about the physical funny: gangly extremities and rubber face. My brother and I always threatened to laugh up our insides like sea cucumbers watching Jerry. In fact, the above video is a scene from "Money From Home" (1957) which is the one scene that defined the comedian for me.

Now, the one fellow in Japan who still reminds me of the crazy antics of Lewis is Ken Shimura(志村けん)of the comedy troupe The Drifters(ザ・ドリフターズ). He was the one guy that we always looked forward to seeing on their long-running TV show "Hachi-ji da yo! Zen'in Shuugo"(8時だョ!全員集合...It's 8 o'clock! Everyone Assemble)because he would always pull off the funny face or do something outrageous...often to the point where the TBS switchboard would light up like a Christmas tree due to parents calling in to complain.

Shimura has been around forever now and I think he's greatly toned down his stuff due to age but today I found a song that he covered back in the heyday of "Hachi-ji da yo!". With the elongated title of "Shimura Ken no Zen'in Shuugo Higashimurayama Ondo" (Ken Shimura's "Everyone Assemble" Higashimurayama Ondo) , this was his cover of "Higashimurayama Ondo", a traditional march that was first created by Chuuji Tsuchiya(土屋忠司)and Junichi Hosokawa(細川潤一)for the city of Higashimurayama in Metropolitan Tokyo back in 1963.

The comical version by Shimura was divided into three different parts called "-chome" with the 4th chome (done first) being the most similar to the original song in style but then going down into the 3rd chome and 1st chome (no idea why there is no 2nd chome), things get progressively whackier. The 3rd chome was actually whipped up by Drifters leader, the late Chosuke Ikariya(いかりや長介), and the 1st chome done by Shimura himself. The song was the B-side to the single "Kato Cha no Hajimete no Boku desu"(加藤茶のはじめての僕デス...Cha Kato's First Me)which was released in September 1976.

To give credit where credit is due, though, here is the original version. A number of singers have covered it over the years. J-Wiki has mentioned veteran singer Michiya Mihashi(三橋美智也)and minyo singer Fumiko Shitaya(下谷二三子), and here they are performing "Higashimurayama Ondo" together.

And to wrap it all up, at Higashimurayama Station, a brief snippet of the song is used to signal the train's impending departure.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

fourfolium -- SAKURA Skip (SAKURAスキップ)

"NEW GAME!" has joined my short list of anime along with "Aho Girl"(アホガール)and "Love Lab"(恋愛ラボ) that didn't quite past muster with my anime buddy but had some earworm-y theme songs. But unlike the last two items, he did show me the first two episodes of "NEW GAME!" last year before deciding to reject it. It's kinda too bad since it seems like the humour really started coming in from Episode 3, especially with that famous scene of misunderstanding involving sleeping in the office without pants that was on the level of a typical "Three's Company" episode.

In any event, the opening theme by some of the seiyuu from "NEW GAME!" under the umbrella name of fourfolium is very chirpy and catchy. "SAKURA Skip" has got all of the cute voices backed by a synthesizer melody that kinda takes some from the Swinging 60s of Burt Bacharach (as far-fetched as that may sound). It doesn't has lodged into my brain like a Ceti Eel.

fourfolium consists of Yuuki Takada(高田憂希), Megumi Yamaguchi(山口愛), Megumi Toda(戸田めぐみ)and Ayumi Takeo(竹尾歩美)with "SAKURA Skip" written by KOCHO and composed by Kosuke Okui(奥井康介). The show has now gone onto a second season which started last month with an extra exclamation point in the title "NEW GAME!!".

Well, if worst comes to worst, I'll just get my own copy of the first series around Xmas.