02. “The Infinite Power of Song”: Uniting Japan at the 60th Annual Kōhaku Song Contest

SHELLEY BRUNT


 

1. Mitsuko Nakamura, “Kawachi Otoko Bushi” (Kawachi Men’s Song)

 From: The 60th Kōhaku Uta-gassen (Red and White Song Contest), NHK-TV, December 31, 2009.

 

Mitsuko Nakamura: vocals; NHK Orchestra: backing orchestra.

 

Lyrics

Although its highest ranking was only 69 on Japan’s Oricon charts, the lively ballad single “Kawachi Otoko Bushi” is considered to be one of Mitsuko Nakamura’s representative works. It was first released on 28 June 1989 and was later re-recorded in 1991, 1994 and 1999 due to popular demand. The lyric subject matter (written by Miyuki Ishimoto) and upbeat rhythm (music by Chiaki Oka) have strong connections with Japan’s summertime Bon festival, and it is particularly popular in the Kansai region where Nakamura is from. The video link here is from her performance at the 60th Kouhaku Utagassen, where she is joined by the dancing pop-rock band TOKIO in a lively festival-themed rendition of the song.


 

 2. NYC Boys, a medley featuring “Aoi Sanmyaku” (Blue Mountain Range)

From: The 60th Kōhaku Uta-gassen (Red and White Song Contest), NHK-TV, December 31, 2009. Kōhaku Rokujukkai Kinen NYC Special (Kōhaku 60th Anniversary NYC Special).

NYC Boys (Yuma Nakayama, Ryōsuke Yamada, Yuri Chinen, Kento Nakajima, Fuma Kikuchi, Hokuto Matsumura, Yūgo Kochi): vocals; unidentified musicians: electric guitar, bass, drums, synthesizers

The song “Aoi Sanmyaku” (Blue Mountain Range) was not released by NYC Boys, rather, it is a cover of the theme song for the film of the same name (Fuji Productions and Toho; director: Toshirō Ide; screenplay: Youjirō Ishizaka; taken from the novel by Toshirō Ide, 1949. Vocals: Ichirō Fujiyama, Nara Mitsue. Nippon Columbia, 10 March 1949).


 

3. Jero, “Umiyuki” (The Ocean Snow)

From: “Umiyuki” / Umiyuki” (original karaoke version). VICL 36394, 2008, CD single.

 

Jero (Jerome White): vocals; unidentified musicans: electric guitar, bass, drums, strings, synthesizers.

Lyrics

Discogs

 

This debut single, with lyrics by Yasushi Akimoto and music by Ryūdō Uzaki, was an instant hit for the African American enka singer Jero. “Umiyuki” was reportedly downloaded 25,000 times as a ring tone for mobile phones within in the week prior to the CD release, and once the single was available in store it sold 35,000 copies in the first five days: a rare feat for an enka song (Kiuchi 2009, 521-2). The official music video features the star’s trademark clothing and hip-hop dance style — which is deliberately at odds with his crooning vocal style and old-fashioned-sounding enka strings—and occasionally displays English translations of the lyrics on screen.


 

4. Ayumi Hamasaki, “Rule”

From: “Rule (Original Mix) / Sparkle (Original Mix) / Rule (80kids’s “No More Rule” Mix) / Rule (Remo-con “Tech Dance” Remix) / Rule (Original Mix – Instrumental) / Sparkle (Original Mix – Instrumental). AVCD-31606, 2009, CD Maxi Single.

 

Ayumi Hamasaki: vocals; unidentified orchestra: backing orchestra.

 

Lyrics

Discogs

 

Singer-songwriter Ayumi has long been one of Japan’s most influential techno-pop mainstays in the J-pop world. This song, just like the 19 other singles she released prior to this, debuted at number one on Japan’s Oricon charts. It was adopted as the theme song for the 2009 action film Dragonball Evolution, which is based on the popular 1980s manga series Dragonball, and received some international exposure due to the reach of the film.