by Angel Geisler
Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you folks since as the saying goes, on March 17th, everyone is Irish! And because I'm not a big drinker and I only observe the goings-on of St. Patrick's Day from the comfort of a TV screen, I thought maybe I could pay some tribute to the holiday via the blog. So I searched for a kayo kyoku with the word midori or green in the title.
It didn't take too much effort at all. I punched in the relevant kanji into the Yahoo Japan search engine, and the first few replies all pointed to this song "Midori no Chiheisen" (Green Horizon) which was originally sung by the late singer Shigeo Kusunoki（楠木繁夫）.
Released in October 1935, it's a pretty lively number created by Sonosuke Sato（佐藤惣之助）and Masao Koga（古賀政男）about what I think is the relating of a tearful parting. I envision the man having to leave either a lover or a family via ship heading for places unknown. Considering how jaunty Koga's melody is compared to the sad lyrics by Sato, I can place it as one of those "smiling through the tears" kayo.
Becoming Kusunoki's most successful single, "Midori no Chiheisen" was used as the theme song for a movie of the same name which was also released in October 1935. However, due to wartime damage, the movie itself went permanently missing with only the song as the one surviving memento (aside from some stills) although the story was also adapted into a TV drama in 1962.
The song has continued to survive through covers by some of the most famous enka singers such as Hibari Misora（美空ひばり）.
Naomi Chiaki (ちあきなおみ) performed her version in front of a grand orchestra.
And I would also like to include Eisaku Ohkawa（大川栄策）.
As for Kusunoki, he was born Susumu Kuroda（黒田進）in 1904 in Kochi Prefecture on Shikoku Island. In junior high school, he wanted to become a musician so against his father's opposition, he moved up to Tokyo and entered what is now Tokyo University of the Arts in 1924 and started singing professionally a few years later.
Now this is where things get interesting in that Kuroda would end up using 55 stage names for himself. Apparently, according to the J-Wiki article, it wasn't all that unusual for celebrities to use a variety of stage names but I think Kuroda most likely took the proverbial cake. For those who want to see this amazing list of aliases and perhaps get some practice in reading Japanese names, you can check out the article and look at the right side under the man's photo beside the kanji 「別名」. I think even Jason Bourne would have to bow down in awe.
Under his name of Kusunoki, the singer released about 250 records but including all of his names, that number has been said to approach 800. All of the above information came from an article about the singer in an April 1997 issue of the Kobe Shinbun.