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Yuji Koseki's Melodies to Cheer On All of Japan

Yoshinori OSAKABE

Associate Professor, Nihon University


English version released on March 18, 2022.

 Composer Yuji Koseki produced 5,000 works over the course of his lifetime. Koseki’s oeuvre covers a wide range of songs including popular songs, municipal songs, military marches, school songs, company songs, organization songs, new folk songs, nursery rhymes, film scores, stage music, and music for television and radio broadcast, among other genres. The charm in a Koseki melody owes to the heightened elegance of its classical musical composition combined with the accessibility that comes from creating music dear to the hearts of the people.

 The work that made a name for Koseki as a professional composer was "Konpeki no sora" (Deep Blue Sky), a fight song for Waseda University he debuted in 1931. His crowning opus was "Olympic March," the entrance to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Both songs are heroic marches, evidencing the fact that composing music for wind instruments was a forte of his.

 All of these sports-related songs exude a strong, exhilarating fight song element. But Koseki wrote a great many other fight songs for the masses with many other melodies that differ completely from those he wrote for sports. Melodies that sing of must-see attractions throughout Japan are no exception. They have the effect of comforting and encouraging the people of these localities. They unite the hearts of prefectural residents and citizens toward the goal of regional development. Koseki cheered on every region of Japan before, during, and after the War. Below I would like to present several musical "cheers" he left us that can be found in the National Diet Library Historical Recordings Collection.

Some images courtesy of Yoshinori Osakabe

1. Shinyō kouta (Shenyang Ballad) (Released on January 20, 1935. Lyrics, Junryo Bokura. Singer, Hisao Itō.)

Shenyang’s Naniwa Street

Shenyang’s Naniwa Street
(Sekai chiri fūzoku taikei I [World Geography & Customs I], Shinkōsha, 1930)

 Before the War, Koseki did not limit himself to composing songs about regions in mainland Japan, but wrote of regions overseas, as well. In 1932, he released "Warera no manshū" (Our Manchuria), "Genzan kōshinkyoku" (Wonsan March), "Arisan kouta" (Alishan Ballad), "Warera no heijyo" (Our Pyongyang)," and "Dairen kōshinkyoku" (Dalian March), and in 1934, "Ryojun kōshinkyoku" (Lushun March). Once the Manchurian Incident occurred in 1931, the Japanese Kwantung Army occupied Shenyang and set up a government in the city of Mukden. There was a large Japanese population living in Shenyang, so "Shinyō kouta," a new folk song based on Shenyang, was released in January 1935. The melody of the new folk song is highly reminiscent of the composer Yoshi Eguchi, who was popular at the time. In 1939, Koseki also composed "Kokuto ondo" (Capital Swing), a song taking the national capital of Manchuria as its subject.

2. Yakushin Yokkaichi (Leap Ahead, Yokkaichi) (Released on March 25, 1936. Lyrics, Kikutaro Takahashi. Singer, Hisao Itō.)

The Yokkaichi Great Japanese Product Development Exhibition

The Yokkaichi Great Japanese Product Development Exhibition
(Kokusan shinkō Yokkaichi Daihakurankai kyōsan kaishi [The Yokkaichi Great Japanese Product Development Exhibition Sponsor Association Magazine], 1937)

 "Yakushin Yokkaichi" was a promotional song created for the "The Yokkaichi Great Japanese Product Development Exhibition" held in Yokkaichi, Mie from March 25 to May 13, 1936. The song was broadcast over loudspeakers at the exhibition site and records of it were played throughout the city. According to contemporary accounts, "The fluent melody of the music exhilarated people and made them feel like they were there at the exhibition." The exposition was a rousing success, attracting 1,245,092 visitors. Once the exhibition ended, however, "Yakushin Yokkaichi" gradually faded from people's memories and today hardly a soul has ever heard of it.

3. Dai-toyama kōshinkyoku (Great Toyama March) (Released on March 25, 1936. Lyrics, Yasuo Ando. Additional contributions by Columbia Records Arts Department. Singer, Hisao Itō.)

the

Taken from the "Dai-toyama kōshinkyoku" lyrics card.
(Nippon Colombia Collection)

 The song "Dai-toyama kōshinkyoku" was released in March 1936 as a prize-winning song in the Shin-Aichi Toyama Times. At that time, Tokyo was called "Dai-Tokyo" (Great Tokyo) and Nagoya was called "Dai-Nagoya" (Great Nagoya), and it was hoped that Toyama would become "Dai-Toyama" (Great Toyama) by promoting the region. Many new folk songs, beginning with titles like "Dai --" (Great--) and "Yakushin --" (Leap Ahead --) were created to express the desire for the development of each region. In this vein, composer Shinpei Nakayama, Kōka Sasa, and Yoshi Eguchi mass-produced various ondo (swings) and kōshinkyoku (marches) by changing only the title and lyrics to "Tokyo Ondo," "Osaka Ondo," and "Dai-Nagoya sai" (The Great Nagoya Festival), respectively. Once you listen and compare them to Yakushin Yokkaichi, however, it becomes apparent that Koseki did not recycle his work in this fashion.

4. Kyōdo butai shingunka (Hometown Unit March) (Released on July 10, 1938. Lyrics, Toshio Nomura. Singer, Noboru Kirishima.)

 "Kyōdo butai shingunka" was paired with "Jūgo kenmin no uta" (Home Front Prefecture Citizens Song) on the flip side of the record. Lyricist Toshio Nomura and the singer Noboru Kirishima both hailed from Fukushima Prefecture. This melody is similar to the "Roei no uta" (Song of Encampment) that solidified Koseki’s reputation, so one might say this was written as a "Roei no Uta" for the people of Fukushima Prefecture. In May 1938, The Fukushima Minpo News held a song-writing contest for a "Jūgo kenmin no uta." When Yuji Koseki saw this article in Tokyo, he visited The Fukushima Minpo News and offered to compose the winning lyrics as a fellow citizen of Fukushima prefecture. This was a rare moment in Koseki's life as a composer where he actively wanted to compose music on his own. His desire to support the people of his hometown during the Sino-Japanese War would appear to have led him to take action. The companion song "Jūgo kenmin no uta" is also available to listen to on the National Diet Library Historical Recordings Collection.

An advertisement for

An advertisement for "Kyōdo butai shingunka"
(The Fukushima Minpo News, July 23, 1938, evening edition, p.2.)

5. Nagoya kappore (Nagoya traditional comical dance) (Released on April 1, 1949. Lyrics, Selected by the Chūbu Nihon Shimbun. Singers, Toshirō Ōmi and Yōko Yamada.)

The debut of

The debut of "Nagoya kappore"
(Chūbu Nihon Shimbun, April 17, 1949, p.3.)

 The Chūbu Nihon Shimbun newspaper ran a public contest in January 1949 for a song with the theme and title "Nagoya kappore" to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the city of Nagoya. The contest guidelines called for a song "suitable for light-hearted dancing." Lyricist Kō Fujiura and others judged the lyrics and selected them from among 1,500 entries. Rokurō Tsuruta and Yoko Yamada sang at the debut of "Nagoya kappore" held at the Nagoya Takarazuka Theater on April 16, 1949. "Nagoya kappore" was first danced to at "The Nagoya Kappore Bon-Odori Festival" on August 12,"Citizen Dance-En-Masse Night" on August 19, and "The Nagoya Festival" from October 1-3 that year.

6. Ibaraki yakyoku (Ibaraki Nocturne) (Released in November 1949. Lyrics, Kazuo Niibori. Additional contributions by Kō Fujiura. Singers, Noboru Kirishima and Mitsue Nara.)

Mito Nightscape

Mito Nightscape
(Asahi Shougakusei Shimbun (Asahi Elementary School Student News) Editorial Department, ed. Shashin de miru shin-nihon [Seeing the New Japan through Photos] 1954, p.41.)

 In August 1949, with the support of the Mainichi Newspapers Mito Branch Office, the Ibaraki Prefecture Tourism Federation sponsored a call for lyrics for "Ibaraki yakyoku" and "Suigo ondo" (Suigo swing) to showcase the tourist attractions of Ibaraki Prefecture. From some 1,253 submitted lyric entries, the version of "Ibaraki yakyoku" written by Kazuo Niibori and the "Suigo ondo" written by Iwao Iwasaki were selected, while Koseki composed the music. "Ibaraki yakyoku" is a popular song full of emotion. Koseki also composed exotic melodies like "Matsue yakyoku" (Matsue Nocturne) and blues melodies like "Takamatsu yakyoku" (Takamatsu Nocturne) in that same period, so a discernible change in his melodies can be heard not evidenced before the War. This would suggest that Koseki incorporated the new Western melodies the Occupation Forces brought with them into his own songs. The companion song "Suigo ondo" is also available to listen to on the National Diet Library Historical Recordings Collection.

7. Fukushima Ondo (Fukushima Swing) (Released in June 1954. Lyrics, Toshio Nomura. Singers, Hisao Itō and Hanko Kagurazaka.)

 The "Fukushima Ondo" was a new folk song released by The Fukushima Minpo News and Radio Fukushima in June 1954 as a new folk song produced out of the concerted efforts of all the major organizations in the city of Fukushima including the Fukushima Prefecture Tourism Federation, the Fukushima Prefecture Board of Education, and the Fukushima Prefecture Phonograph Dealers Association. In August of the same year, Koseki lamented the lack of publicity to draw tourism to Fukushima Prefecture in a conversation with its governor, Sakuma Ōtake. In his capacity as a composer, Koseki held a desire to revitalize his hometown within this context of composing many new folk songs for Fukushima Prefecture. "Higashiyama Jinku," its companion, "Fukushima Ondo," and "Yumoto Kouta," which was composed that same year, are all available to listen to on the National Diet Library Historical Recordings Collection.

An advertisement for the

An advertisement for the "Fukushima Ondo" and the "Higashiyama Jinku"
(Fukushima Minpo, June 6, 1954, p. 6.)

  

*The release date of the record is based on a copy of the Nippon Columbia record label.

(References)

  • Osakabe, Yoshinori. Koseki Yūji: Ryūkō sakkyokuka to gekidō no Shōwa (Yuji Koseki: The Popular Composer and the Tumultuous Showa Period) (Chūkō shinsho series). Chūō Kōronsha, November 2019, 294p.
  • Osakabe, Yoshinori; Koseki, Masahiro; Nihon Koronbia Kabushiki Gaisha.Fukushima minpo ga tsutaeta Koseki yuji (The Yuji Koseki Reported by The Fukushima Minpo News). Fukushima minposha, August 2020, 95p.
  • Kokusan shinkō Yokkaichi Hakurankai kyōsan kaishi (The Yokkaichi Great Japanese Product Development Exhibition Sponsor Association Magazine). Kokusan shinkō Yokkaichi Hakurankai kyōsan kai (The Yokkaichi Great Japanese Product Development Exhibition Sponsor Association), 1937, 383p.

(Yoshinori OSAKABE, Associate Professor, Nihon University)

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