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.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

J-Canuck's Graduation Songs


Until I saw last night's "Uta Kon" (うたコン), I had completely forgotten that this was the graduation season in Japan. After all, in a few days, it will be the beginning of a new fiscal year including a new school one. So, there are plenty of cherry blossoms to scatter, tons of tears to be shed, and lots of uniform buttons to be given by the guys to the girls.

Basically, this Author's Pick isn't really a list of revelatory favourites but more of a summary of some of the graduation-themed songs that I've already written about in the blog and have known for decades. At least two of them were played and sung by the teachers for the graduating senior year students in my junior high school on the JET Programme with the tear ducts flowing like crazy.


H2O -- Omoide ga Ippai (1983)

It may have started life as an anime theme song but it's grown into one of the big graduation songs to elicit tears.


Hi-Fi Set/Yumi Arai -- Sotsugyo Shashin (1975)

My fellow teacher on JET who lived in the next village once remarked that he wanted to smash this song into smithereens (he's more of a rock guy anyways) after hearing it so often during graduation season. Well, to each his own. But I still like Hi-Fi Set's old-style version.


Kaientai -- Okuru Kotoba (1979)

Along with "Omoide ga Ippai" above, this was the other song that had my students' waterworks starting up. And who better to send the grads off to a new chapter in their lives than the ultimate TV teacher of Japan himself?


Yuki Saito -- Sotsugyo (1985)

I don't know Saito's "Sotsugyo" as well as the others on the list but I have to say that having young Saito sing it brought that feeling of sweet innocence to the proceedings of leaving school.


Misato Watanabe -- Sotsugyo (1991)

This may be a graduation song but I keep getting the expression "insurance company" popping in my brain whenever I heard this one. Mind you, it was used as the campaign song for Meiji Insurance, and there's nothing like a life-changing event to think of life insurance.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mari Amachi -- Futari no Nichiyoubi (ふたりの日曜日)


The above is Den'en-Chofu Station which is on a Tokyu Railway line going west of Shibuya. I used to come here biweekly on Sundays to teach a student who lives in the neighbourhood. It's one of the tonier areas of Tokyo with quite a lot of nice houses although they are not nearly as big as the mansions of Beverly Hills. In fact, when my student picked me up and drove me over to his home, we sometimes passed the house of then-Prime Minister Hatoyama and depending on the level of the crisis hitting the Diet, there could be anything from one to a handful of security officers in front of his house.

It is rather interesting comparing my biweekly Sundays now and then. Over 5 years ago, it was my student and me as the duo of the day taking care of a private English lesson; now it's my buddy and me taking care of private anime viewings.


All that prelude to present early 1970s darling, Mari Amachi(天地真理), and her 5th single from December 1972, "Futari no Nichiyoubi" (Sunday For Two). Another characteristically jaunty outing from Amachi about going out with that special someone on that Sunday, it seems to be more fit for spring or summer than the technically autumn release but I gather that when meeting the one you love, any Sunday of any season is a grand one.


Masaaki Hirao's(平尾昌晃)bouncy melody seems to fit the mood of the young lady or perhaps the entire couple walking down that park lane, supporting the cheerful delivery of Michio Yamagami's(山上路夫)lyrics. It was the lone No. 3 hit in the middle of a series of No. 1s for Amachi and it became the 13th-ranked single of the year, ultimately selling a million records. The song also spearheaded her 4th album "Ashita e no Melody"(明日へのメロディー...Melody for Tomorrow)which did hit No. 1 on the album chart.

Hopefully, that nice sunny Sunday will come up this weekend, but knowing Toronto weather, it could be anything approaching early summer weather or a snowstorm.

Shoji Koganezawa -- Negai, Ichijomodori Bashi (願・一条戻り橋)


I was surprised that I hadn't done an article on enka singer Shoji Koganezawa(小金沢昇司). I've seen and heard the man a few times now so I'd assumed that he did get into the blog somewhere. However, such was not the case so I'm rectifying it here.


A few days ago, I was watching NHK's "Nodo Jiman"(のど自慢)when Koganezawa and Sayuri Ishikawa(石川さゆり)appeared as guests. One of the amateur songsters performed one of the former's songs on his behalf, "Negai, Ichijomodori Bashi" (Please, Ichijomodori Bridge) which I thought was pretty good as a heartfelt crooning ballad.


The singer came out with this one in October 2012 and was created by lyricist Yuriko Shima(志磨ゆり子)and composer Meiyu Otani(大谷明裕). I've spoken sometimes about how enka and Mood Kayo like to focus on certain areas in Japan. Well, I think geographical structures have also come into play as well, notably bridges and airports. I guess with bridges, they have also been seen as settings for fateful meetings and departures, and so they have been used in the titles of many a song, and not even restricted to the traditional Japanese genres. In this case, Ichijomodori Bashi is a bridge in Kyoto.


Koganezawa sings about some wistful reminiscings about a past romance and how he would dearly like to have the lady back, preferably meeting on the titular bridge.


The singer was born in the city of Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture in 1958. In his teenage years, he did go through a period of hard knocks as he became a delinquent, and according to one interview, Koganezawa admitted that he spent most of his high school years at police stations in his home prefecture. However, he somehow came under the tutelage of enka legend Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎)to learn how to become an enka singer himself. Another padawan of Kitajima, George Yamamoto(山本譲二), even revealed that out of all of Kitajima's proteges, Koganezawa was the one who got yelled at the most.

Koganezawa made his debut in 1988 with "Omae Sagashite" (おまえさがして...Looking For You) but remained an unknown quantity until sometime in 1992, when he appeared in a commercial for throat spray. The narrator merely identified him as "Singer Shoji Koganezawa" which had viewers wondering "Who the heck is THAT guy?" The question was answered when his 4th single "Omae dake" (おまえだけ...Only You) came out later in the same year and ended up selling 350,000 copies. Thank you, throat spray.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Motoharu Sano -- Angelina (アンジェリーナ)



I came across rocker Motoharu Sano's(佐野元春)March 1980 debut single, "Angelina", a few nights ago. And right from the get-go, it sounds just like the image that I've had for the singer-songwriter. "Angelina" has that old-style rock n' roll with the guitar and the saxes.

There was something downright Early Springsteenian about it, and the image that coalesced in my brain was of teenage rebel-without-a-cause Rocko rumbling down the highway on his motorcycle while dreaming of his darling Angelina the ballerina. Rocko probably stood on a hill overlooking the great big city, smoking away a box of cigarettes and hoping to see the lass. Considering how Japanese pop culture back in those days included a whole bunch of rockabilly wannabes twisting away in Yoyogi Park, perhaps Sano's debut hit a certain chord.

However, there was nothing mentioned in J-Wiki about it hitting the Oricon charts. "Angelina" was also a track on his debut album which came out in April of that year, "Back to the Street". Apparently, that release also didn't chart but no problems. Sano would someday get his fame in the next few years. And this is pure speculation from me, but I wonder if Sano ended up inspiring future artists such as Ayumi Nakamura(中村あゆみ), Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里)and Tomoyasu Hotei(布袋寅泰).


Yumi Matsutoya -- Sunny day Holiday


Happy Monday! For me, Yuming's (ユーミン) best days ended sometime in the early 90s, at least where her albums were concerned. Now, some might say that I've being overly generous while others may posit that I'm being a little harsh, but that is where I stand.


Still, her singles and albums up to the present have still been hitting the Top 10 on Oricon, and I have to admit that some of the singles that have come out from the 90s onwards have resonated to a certain extent. Case in point, "Sunny day Holiday", Yumi Matsutoya's(松任谷由実)31st single from November 1997.

At the time of its release, it got some pretty heavy rotation on TV at least since I could pick up on the melody immediately when I heard it again after so many years. I did get the album that it appeared on "Zuvuya no Nami"(スユアの波...Wave of the Zuvuya), her 29th original release from December 1997 but I only listened to it a couple of times before it was placed on the shelf not to be moved again (perhaps I'll have to give it another try). I do remember talking with an old friend about the album not long after "Zuvuya no Nami" was released, and we both agreed that it was kinda meh.

Listening to "Sunny day Holiday" again, though, I also have to say that it is a pretty nice pop song through the ears of nostalgia although it's not up at the same level as past classics such as "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai" (あの日にかえりたい). Her lyrics are also sweet as she portrays a man verbally gushing out his love and gratitude to the woman in his life despite any of his idiosyncrasies. As the key lyric goes: "Kimi wa Sunny day, boku no Holiday" (きみはSunny day, ぼくのHoliday...You are a sunny day, my holiday).


"Sunny day Holiday" was also the theme song for a 1997 Fuji-TV drama "Narita Rikon"(成田離婚...Narita Divorce)starring SMAP's Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Asaka Seto. On Oricon, it peaked at No. 10.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

GUMI/Ari Ozawa, Nana Mizuki, Sumire Uesaka, Nao Toyama -- Kokoro Palette (ココロ*パレット)


It's been several months since one of my favourite anime from the Summer 2016 season, "Kono Bijutsu-bu ni wa Mondai ga aru!" (この美術部には問題がある!), finished its run, and being a fan of the comedic slice-of-life sub-genre, the show managed to fulfill a promise that any televised project wants to achieve...leave the audience wanting more. I've read that the original manga is still plowing ahead but I don't know whether there will be a second season. However, that ending scene in the final episode was good enough for me.


Of course with this blog, I've brought in the anime for the purpose of introducing anison earworms and near-earworms, and what also helped "Konobi" was the really catchy themes of Nana Mizuki's(水樹奈々)"STARTING NOW!" and Sumire Uesaka's(上坂すみれ)"Koi suru Zukei (cubic futurismo)"(恋する図形). And of course, I already wrote about those two tunes as the series was wrapping up.

However, I neglected to talk about a cute little tune adorably sung by Ari Ozawa's(小澤亜李)main character of Mizuki Usami(宇佐美みずき)during a brief montage scene in the penultimate episode which involved prepping for the annual Culture Day festival at the school. I later found out that the song was titled "Kokoro Palette" (Heart Palette).


Then "Kokoro Palette" came out in its full rousing glory as the ending theme for that final episode with the four main female seiyuu, Ozawa, Mizuki, Uesaka and Nao Toyama(東山奈央)bringing the group effort. I was finally able to get my own copy of "Konobi" and enjoyed my second round; listening to the song once more made me realize that this was a pleasant and worthy song to talk about.


But the final trigger was when I was reading the "TV Tropes" entry on the show and I discovered this kernel of knowledge in the YMMV section. Apparently, the song wasn't a product of the anime and was actually a campaign song for the manga by Imigimuru (いみぎむる) a number of years before. I couldn't be sure of the actual year that "Kokoro Palette" was recorded but considering that the original manga came out in 2012 and the YouTube video above was uploaded in 2013, I think 2013 is a fairly safe bet.

The original recording artist was a Vocaloid by the name of GUMI with "Kokoro Palette" written and composed by musician 40mP. It was a hard choice but ultimately I went with this original version as my favourite due to that hint of Shibuya-kei in there. Plus, that video above with the manga characters being drawn in as the song is playing struck me as a true labour of love. I wouldn't have been surprised if the author got a misty-eyed watching it.

And perhaps some of the fans of "Konobi" even before the anime must have gotten a thrill at hearing the song performed in the show, thinking that it should have been used as either the opening or closing theme.


Junichi Inagaki -- Boku naraba Koko ni Iru (僕ならばここにいる)


Another weekend is coming to a close. For some reason, a Sunday dinner seems to be conk me out more than the evening meals during the rest of the week so I was in a half-awake limbo for about an hour and a half before ambling over to the computer for another round of "Kayo Kyoku Plus". I was contemplating something nice and comfy from City Pop/J-AOR maestro Junichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一).


So I came across his 28th single from January 1993, "Boku naraba Koko ni Iru" (If It's Me, I'm Right Here). Incidentally, this was the single immediately following his Xmas classic "Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa"(クリスマスキャロルの頃には), arguably the song that most people who aren't Inagaki fans per se know him best for.

However although "Boku naraba Koko ni Iru" has that familiar layer of mellowness which often infuses an Inagaki ballad, I wouldn't say that this particular entry is completely relaxing. There's quite a bit more of the screeching electric guitar in there so I had initially mused about categorizing this as a J-Rock tune but I came to the conclusion that that would have been a bit too much of a stretch for Inagaki so I made a compromise and put it in Pop.


As you can see from above, "Boku naraba Koko ni Iru" was used for a Honda commercial although I think it would also have made for a nice theme song for a romance drama on Japanese TV. The lyrics were provided by Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)and composed by MAYUMI. The reason for the slightly amped-up arrangement here was probably the message of the song in which the protagonist sounds almost challenging in his declaration to the love of his life who may be waffling a bit about commitment. This fellow is completely anchored in his resolve.

"Boku naraba Koko ni Iru" peaked at No. 4 on Oricon and was placed as a track on his 13th album "for my DEAREST" which was released a couple of months later in March. That album managed to rise to No. 2 on its chart, scoring a Gold ranking.