Tokyo Damage Report

influential enka in youtube form

These are the songs that Christine Yano picked out as influential in her book TEARS OF LONGING.

I can't say that a Japanese would agree. But most of these are heavy as hell.


Let's start with a cover version of the 1906 hit  RAPPA BUSHI, originally written by soeda azembo



next, Sasurai no uta (song of wandering) (1917),  which cashed in on a social phenomenon: the lonliness of leaving hometown to find work in the city. a very topical theme in the rapidly industrializing country.


Sendou kouta (boatman’s song) by noguchi ujou and Nakayama Shinpei (1921) – first enka hit influenced by western music.


This one is a'ight, but the version by 森繁久彌  (Moreshige Hiyasa)   just kills it.

Moreshige Hiyasa makes ian curtis look like milli fucking vanilli.

Unfortunately embedding is disabled on that video. so you'll have to click here to see the difference.


Just don't click if you're tired of living. Seriously you'll jump out the window before the bridge.


Fuck! this  guy is fucking crazy. Here's Moreshige Hiyasa doing a LOVE SONG.  (the youtube poster captioned 'overflowing with love'), so you know this is dude at his maximum happiness level.




 Tottori Shunyou's hit  "kago no tori" (bird in a cage)  (1924). It was such a huge hit, became a film! Japanese corporations even then were really savvy about cross-merchandising. This 60 years before manga-became-videogames-became-anime-became movies and all that!




moving to the '30s, meet sendou kouta : the man who gave enka the distinct sound and arrangements (aka KATA) that it has today.

Kouta was a song-writer. I'm not sure who is singing on this one.

Sake wa namida ka tameiki ka (is sake a teardrop or a sigh?)



another version of the same song:



 kage wo shitaite – following after your image. another kago hit.



akagi no komoriuta (Lullaby of Akagi)

A classic example of a big enka theme: nostalgia for the furusato (hometown), in this case, Akagi.

Moving to the post-war era,

yu no machi elegy (bath town elegy) (1948) – also by Mr. Kago. this song  captures the gloom of post-war Japan.

(sad music was banned during the war!)



this song got sampled by rap group non-fixion.


Ringo oiwake  (1952 )– super sad even by enka standards: the girl's mom died. big hit by Misora hibari – the postwar "queen of enka"


this was a huge hit for misora hibara. the queen of enka.




namida no renrakusen (ferryboat of tears) (1965) – reviving the classic enka style in hippy times.


Kanashi sake,  (sad booze) (1966) – another hit by MIsora Hibari.


Here's a much iller version, but embedding is disabled: 

it just goes to show you the huge difference that soul makes.

Just for kicks, here is a few more tunes that Yano mentions:

haguresou (not sure the meaning of this joint)


abare daiko (raging drums)


sasoriza no onna (scorpion woman) – the "theme song" of Mikawa Kenichi. King of the cross-dressing enka singers. There was more than one? Apparently that was a thing back in the '70s.



and again, here,  same dude, a few years later. . . you can see how society got a little more liberal:


below, a super-creepy "virtual idol" version of kachuusha no uta . This isn't such an influential song in Enka history, but WTF man? dig the uncomfortableness.



4 comments Tags:

4 Comments so far

  1. Mira July 11th, 2011 4:22 am
    This has always been one of my absolute favorites. 舟木一夫 has the bonus of being included as a character several times in 丸尾 末広 comics.  

  2. Miles July 14th, 2011 8:53 am

    Cool! Good bunch of songs. I like that cover of Ringo oiwake you picked, it reminds of some primitive Skip James blues.
    Here's my favorite from Miyako Harumi:

  3. François July 16th, 2011 10:13 am

    A nice historical travel through music.
    I'd say a lot of those are 歌謡曲 and not 演歌, which I think started after WWII, but I can't be sure, and I'll be damn if I can trace a fine line between the two genres anyway!
    Since we're sharing our little favorites, here's 梶芽衣子-怨み節
    The single version is better and easily findable on the tube, but I can't resist giving this version from the movie 女囚さそり ("Female prisonner scorpion") where Meiko is the main actress too. (gotta say I haven't seen the movie)
    And talking about kayoukyoku/enka/70s pop singing actresses, here's 池玲子, queen of ピンク映画, interpreting her version of some classic tunes:
    But I may have diverged a bit from the original style talked about in this thread…

  4. François July 17th, 2011 4:09 am

    And I spew that stupid shit about kayoukyoku and enka BEFORE I read your comprehensive review on it, one article down…
    Talking before thinking. 

Leave a reply