Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Thousand Winds

On New Year's Eve every year there is this show aired on NHK (a broadcasting station that stands in the middle of public and private sectors) called the "Kohaku Uta-Gassen". It's a music (song) show that goes on for nearly 5 hours featuring the prominent singers of the Japanese music scene and the attention-getting or top-CD-selling singers of the year regardless the genre i.e., covering J-pop, enka (traditional ballad) and classic for the show is geared toward all generations. The singers are separated into two groups, red and white (=ko(u)haku), and they compete which group gets higher scores. The judgment nowadays are given by the selected judges (the leading figures of the year from actors/actresses, atheletes, etc.), the audience present at the auditorium, and the viewers via internet.

Well, it's the end of February and I am certainly not intending to give an introductory to the Kohaku part of Japanese culture. Today I want to write about this particular song sung two months ago on Kohaku which literally grasped the hearts of many Japanese who have watched the show.

The song's title (literal translation) is "A Thousand Winds" and as some of you may know it is not an originally Japanese song. It is probably known quite widely as an English song of the same (or similar) name, or more importantly a poem which the original title is "Do not stand at my grave and weep". The poem has been read at many sad occassions from fairly small to large ones, but here in Japan it wasn't as known until two months ago.

Last year's Kohaku by all means was hardly a success. It was, on the other hand, one of the worst - as far as I recall and judge - with lots of mess. But in the midst of this mess (well the messy controversy arose after the show) there was a moment that the viewers' eyes and ears were glued to the TV, when the tenor singer Akikawa Masafumi sang the song "A Thousand Winds" (Sen no kaze ni natte).

The lyrics of the song is very sad, deep and moving, singing - as you can probably tell from the title - about the death of a dear one. The topics of the song started to appear in the media and in people's talks and blogs shortly after it was sung at the Kohaku, and the song spread widely across Japan very fast especially among the older generations. And finally, though only two months from the air, the song ranked first place on the Japanese music chart, creating a record of the best-selling classic CD in Japan with a sales of more than half million copies which beats the previous record-holder Princess Mononoke (Mera Yoshikazu). Classic music doing this well in Japanese society is quite something.

There are probably many reasons for this big hit, but the biggest are maybe one) because its theme "death" can be very close to anyone and the lyrics can be resembled easily, and two) the social backgroud of today full of sad news. So the rapid spread and increasing attention of this song are somewhat different from the hits of other songs. Even though the number in sales can be smaller as compared to some of the top-selling J-pop songs this single, individual song and the impression it leaves on people would probably remain longer in the hearts with great meanings and significance than the momentarily gone pop songs.

Several versions of the song is available, but my mother said that the song in English sung by some boys soprano in UK was the best, equally beautiful and moving as Akikawa's single tenor if not more. Hope the message of the song won't decay in today's world of constant and rapid change of creation and disruption.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Tokyo Maniac Event - Several events on anime coming up, not to forget the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007.

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