Introductory Guides to Historical Recordings

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The Record in Politics and War

Haruhiko Kohri

Researcher of music history

◆Politics and the Record

Prior to the advent of radio and television, the record played a monumental and epoch-making role as a medium for mass communication. The medium of the record made it possible to disperse the voice all around the world regardless of time or space, opening up dramatic possibilities for transmitting and acquiring information.

In politics, politicians used the record as a means to declare their opinions. Prior to the advent of the record, as with music, drama, and vaudeville theater, one had no other means of listening to a politician's speech than stepping foot inside a speech meeting, and politicians had no means of expressing their principles and positions other than to energetically convene such meetings. Yet, with the appearance of the record, it became possible to transmit speeches to remote areas and recording records became common practice as part of political activity. Capturing a speech in sound on the record was far more effective than capturing the gist of a speech visually in newsprint. Such records became a means for the masses to get to know a candidate's tone of voice and manner of speaking and gave rise to a contrast in the power to influence.

Records of politicians' speeches debuted in the early Taisho period. Because these records recorded the full text of these speeches and were compiled, they were conspicuously expensive and long. Their production became widespread, however, because these compilations had commemorative value.

The First Political Records

1 "Kensei ni okeru Yoron no Seiryoku" (The Power of Public Opinion in Constitutional Government) (1) - (6)/ Okuma Shigenobu : Nipponophone, 1922, Record Number 510-515

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2 "Seiji no Rinrika" (The Moralization of Japanese Politics)/Goto Shinpei : Nipponophone 1924, Record Number 15392-15393

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Portrait of Okuma Shigenobu

Portrait of Okuma Shigenobu
"Kinsei Meishi Shashin Vols.1, 2" (Photographs of Modern Notables, Vols. 1,2) Kinsei Meishi Shashin Hanpukai (Modern Notable Photography Circulation Club) 1934-1935

Portrait of Goto Shinpei

Portrait of Goto Shinpei
"Kinsei Meishi Shashin Vols.1, 2" (Photographs of Modern Notables, Vols. 1,2) Kinsei Meishi Shashin Hanpukai (Modern Notable Photography Circulation Club) 1934-1935

When electric recording with the microphone finally began in the early Showa period, it became possible to record even fine shades of speech in clear tones, further increasing the utility and value of the record. Thus, policy speeches fit onto a single record were used for political activities, ushering in an age which politics and the record were closely linked. Ultimately, the record came to play a role in documenting the period during the war regime. In contrast to the policy speech record for commercial purposes, many momentous broadcasts have been preserved on the medium of the record as the internal archives of broadcast stations. After World War II, both policy speech records for commercial sale and broadcasts recorded on records all but ceased to exist, and thus the relationship between politics and the record waned.

Policy Speeches Fit onto a Single Record

3 "Kokumin ni Tsugu" (An Address to the Japanese People) (A) (B)/ Tanaka Giichi : Nipponophone 1928, Record Number 16816

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4 "Showa Shinsei no Riso" (The Ideals of the New Politics in the Showa Era) (I) (II)/ Nagai Ryutaro : Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. 1932, Record Number 26779

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Portrait of Tanaka Giichi

Portrait of Tanaka Giichi
"Gendai daihyoteki jinbutsu shashin meikan seijika hen dai ni hen" (Directory of Photographs of Modern Leading Figures, Politicians Volume, Vol. 2) Teikoku Tsushin Co., Ltd., 1927

Portrait of Nagai Ryutaro

Portrait of Nagai Ryutaro
Nagai Ryutaro [description]; Dainippon yubenkai hen "Nagai Ryutaro shi daienzetsu shu" (Great Japanese Oratory Society, ed. "The Collected Major Speeches of Mr. Nagai Ryutaro") Dainippon yubenkai, 1926

Records of Broadcasts Documenting the War Regime Period

5 "Taisho wo Haishitatematsurite" (Humbly Conveying His Worship's Imperial Rescript (Prime Minister Tojo Delivering the Imperial Edict Declaring War on the U.S.A. and the British Empire)) (I) (II) (III) / Prime Minister and Full General, Tojo Hideki : Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. 1941, Record Number: AK216-AK217

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Portrait of Tojo Hideki

Portrait of Tojo Hideki
National Diet Library Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room Document Collection 1142
Photographs of Successive Prime Ministers, etc.

This sound source is a recording of the speech of Prime Minister Tojo Hideki as broadcast by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) at the start of the Pacific War on December 8, 1941. NHK published the contents of the speech in print with the Imperial rescript declaring war and the full text notice against the United States.

"Taisho wo Haishitatematsurite (Humbly Conveying His Worship's Imperial Rescript (Prime Minister Tojo Delivering the Imperial Edict Declaring War on the U.S.A. and the British Empire)): Senkofumetsu no Hoso (The Immortal Broadcast) (December 8, 1941 The Outbreak Greater East Asian War)" (Japan Broadcasting Corporation, 1942)

→Read in National Diet Library Digital Collections

6 "Seifu no Shoshin" (The Convictions of the Government) (I) (II) (III) (IV)/ Yonai Mitsumasa : Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. 1940, Record Number A1021-A1022

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◆War and the Record

A close relationship between war and the record can be seen in the early Showa period. During the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, prior to the emergence of the record, efforts were made to promote musical scores with war themes, resulting in such music becoming popular on a nationwide scale. After the advent of the record, peace was maintained until the Manchurian Incident in 1931. With records chiefly focused on Meiji period musical compositions and tales glorifying the military state, the record was hardly in step with the real world.

While the Manchurian Incident did not become the subject of records even after 1931, when submissions of the Nikudan (Bakudan) Sanyushi (The Three Brave Human-Bullet (Bomb) Soldiers) themed-works from the public were requested by newspapers in Japan and made into records, the war and the record became closely related. In other words, in addition to new popular songs becoming a vital category for each record company at the end of the Taisho period, another vital category was turning works related to the War into records. In this period, the mass communications media consisted of the radio, the newspaper, and the newsreel, in order of reporting speed. Though war-related record productions cannot compare to the speed of news reportage, they were highly regarded, so posterity can sense the momentousness of the tide of the war through the record. Examples of these include the musical renditions put onto record of the air battle between the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and the Republic of China Air Force that occurred on the same day as the events in the Three Brave Human-Bullet (Bomb) Soldiers tale. This event was celebrated on the record because this was the earliest air battle with Japanese aircraft.

War Related Records

7 "Nikudan Sanyushi" (The Three Brave Human-Bullet Soldiers)/ Nagata Mikihiko Nakayama Shinpei Orion Chorus : Victor 1932, Record Number 52207 (Side A)

→Listen to "Nikudan Sanyushi"

8 "Kuchu Kantai no Uta" (The Song of the Aerial Fleet)/ Nagata Mikihiko Nakayama Shinpei Yotsuya Fumiko : Victor 1932, Record Number 52207 (Side B)

→Listen to "Kuchu Kantai no Uta"

Thereafter, though each record company produced records based on a variety of themes, records based on the "May 15 Incident" of 1932 and courtroom dramas are famous for being the first such records to be censored by the authorities. Though censorship in the publishing business had been occurring for some time, records had not been subject to such censorship. This reveals an improvement in the social status of the record as well as a change in how the record was perceived. The Lytton Commission and Japan's Withdrawal from the League of Nations, as well as war-related subjects were quickly made into records. The thirtieth anniversary of the Russo-Japanese War and Marshal-Admiral Togo's death were also taken up on the record. War-themed productions had also been released sporadically even prior to the "Marco Polo Bridge Incident" with the invasion of the Republic of China in July 1937.

Songs with the Death of Marshal-Admiral Togo Heihachiro as their Subject

9 "Togo Koshinkyoku" (The Togo March)/ Nagata Mikihiko Hashimoto Kunihiko Tokuyama Tamaki : Victor 1934, Record Number 53191

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10 "Togo-san" (Mr. Togo)/ Saijo Yaso Nakayama Shinpei Hirayama Miyoko and Takayama Tokuko : Victor 1934, Record Number 53194

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Portrait of Togo Heihachiro

Portrait of Togo Heihachiro
"Kamiyo no ebanashi" (Storybook of the Age of the Gods)
Kokumin Dotoku Koenkai (National Morality Lecture Association), 1934

After the "Marco Polo Bridge Incident", war-themed productions within the scope of news coverage released by the Japanese military authorities were mass-produced one after another. In addition to eulogizing victory in war and worshiping heroes in works of valor, there was no scarcity of works about the sorrow of citizens on the homefront and hardship on the frontline. Many facets of the war were translated onto the record. The Tungchow Mutiny was also promptly made into the subject of records while in its early stages, indicating just how responsive record companies were in adapting current events as subjects for the record.

Works of Hero-worship

11 "Ryoki Yo Saraba" (A Farewell to A Comrade's Plane)/ Okuno Yashio Sasaki Shunichi Haida Katsuhiko : Victor 1937, Record Number J54141

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12 "Soretsu Kishi Chui no Uta" (The Song of Heroic Lieutenant Kishi)/ Unno Keiichi Iwagochi Masayuki Ashihara Kuniko and Tsukikage Shoko : Victor 1937, Record Number J54214

→Listen to "Soretsu Kishi Chui no Uta"

This is sung by two Takarazuka Revue performers. Ashihara Kuniko (1912-1997) was the top star at that time, and a member of the Takarazuka Music School's seventeenth graduating class.

The following (13-15) are compositions about the misery of citizens on the home front.

13 "Gunkoku no Haha" (The Mother of the Nation at War)/ Shimada Kinya Koga Masao Michiyakko : Teichiku Entertainment 1937, Record Number 1780

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14 "Machi no Senninbari" (The Town's Thousand-stitch Belt)/ Saeki Takao Norimatsu Akihiro Edogawa Ranko : Victor 1937, Record Number J54163

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15 "Roei no Uta" (Song of Encampment)/ Yabuuchi Kiichiro Koseki Yuji Nakano Tadaharu, Matsudaira Akira, et al : Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. 1937, Record Number 29530

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Though a number of criticisms arose over the production process of "Aikoku Koshinkyoku" (The Patriotic March), a song produced at the initiation of the government in order to break the record industry out of the stagnation occasioned by the "Marco Polo Bridge Incident", the records sales by the various competing companies achieved the expected goal. Thereafter, war-themed records produced by competitions among companies and public submissions through newspaper and publishing companies became solid merchandise that guaranteed sales.

Versions of "Aikoku Koshinkyoku" by Competing Record Companies

16 "Aikoku Koshinkyoku" (The Patriotic March)/ Morikawa Yukio Setoguchi Tokichi : Victor 1937, Record Number A-1

(Side A) Tokuyama Tamaki, Haida Katsuhiko, et al

(Side B) Army Toyama School Military Band

→Listen to both sides of the Victor Records version of "Aikoku Koshinkyoku"

17 Chorus: "Aikoku Koshinkyoku" (The Patriotic March)/ Morikawa Yukio Setoguchi Tokichi Tokyo Music School : Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. 1938, Record Number 30000

(Side A) Accompaniment: Wind Instrument Music

(Side B) Accompaniment; Piano

→Listen to both sides of the Nippon Columbia Records version of "Aikoku Koshinkyoku"

War-Related Records Produced from Public Submissions Requested by Newspapers

18 "Hinomaru Koshinkyoku" (Rising Sun Flag March) Arimoto Kenji Hosokawa Takeo Yotsuya Fumiko, Nakamura Yoshiko, et al : Victor 1938, Record Number J54300

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19 "Taiheiyo Koshinkyoku" (The Pacific Ocean March)/ Yokoyama Masanori Fuse Gen Fujiwara Yoshie, Yotsuya Fumiko, et al : Victor 1939, Record Number J54700

→Listen to "Taiheiyo Koshinkyoku"

Audiences could no longer sustain their support for derivative works created due to the prolongation of the incidents. Instead, from 1939 to 1941, they rallied in support for popular songs. One could say that while the physical aspect of the supply shortages during the conflict was serious, the psychological aspect of the sentiment of the Japanese people was expressed on the records associated with the conflict in a muted sense of urgency and grim determination owing to the fact that Japan was engaged in combat with one nation alone on the Chinese mainland.

The Hit Songs of 1939

20 "Chaina Tango" (China Tango)/ Fujiura Ko Hattori Ryoichi Nakano Tadaharu : Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. 1939, Record Number 30202

→Listen to "Chaina Tango"

21 "Furuki Hanazono" (The Old Flower Garden)/ Sato Hachiro Saotome Hikaru Futaba Akiko : Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. 1939, Record Number 30213

→Listen to "Furuki Hanazono"

With all-out war at the end of 1941, shortages severely limited the number of records produced and manufactured. At first, victory and triumph-themed works were fired off in rapid succession in step with the advancing tide of the war, but once the tide of the war changed from offensive to defensive, a considerable number of elegies involving crushing defeat (honorable death) were produced. Of course, defeats that went unreported never became the stuff of song. To boot, prices soared for the heavily taxed record, the number of buyers also dwindled, and the popular medium for music switched from the record to the radio broadcast. In 1945, the record industry came to a halt out of necessity due to the reduction in the sales network coinciding with the scarcity of raw materials and labor force. Thus, the relationship between war and the record was also put to an end.

Songs of Victory and Paeans

22 "Seiko Gekimetsu" (The Fall of Singapore) Saeki Takao Takagi Toroku Shibata Mutsumu : Victor 1942, Record Number A4301

→Listen to "Seiko Gekimetsu"

23 "Hawai Kaisen" (The Battle of Hawaii)/ Sasaki Nobutsuna Imperial Japanese Navy Band Namioka Soichiro, Fujii Noriaki, and the Imperial Japanese Navy Band : Victor 1942, Record Number A4333

→Listen to "Hawai Kaisen"

A Song of Honorable Death

24 "Attsuto Gyokusai" (Honorable Death on Attu Island)/ Inoue Makoto Taira Shigeo Wada Nobukata : Victor 1943, Record Number A4452

→Listen to "Attsuto Gyokusai"

Haruhiko Kohri, Researcher of music history