There are many songs that have crossed past Japanese borders and have made an impact on the Japanese-American “Nikkeijin” (日系人) across the world. Those in Hawaii are no different remembering such songs as Oumi Toshiro’s “Wakare no Isochidori – Farewell of the Beach Plover ” (近江俊郎の別れの磯千鳥), Watanabe Hamako’s “Shina no Yoru – China Nights” (渡辺はま子の支那の夜), Sakamoto Kyu’s “Ue wo Muite Arukou – Looking Up As I Walk (or famously known on mainland U.S. as ‘Sukiyaki’)”(坂本九の上を向いて歩こう) and, of course, Otsu Yoshiko’s “Koko ni Sachi Ari – Here is Happiness (also made famous by Teddy Tanaka here in Hawaii)” (大津美子のここに幸あり). However, there is one song that crooned audiences back in the day not only for its lyrics and melody, but also because the singer of the song was an accomplished actor. This song was none other than Kayama Yuzo’s “Kimi to Itsumademo – Forever with You” (加山雄三の君といつまでも). This song was the theme song of one of Mr. Kayama’s long-running “Wakadaisho (若大将)” series. If you remember of have heard of this song in a movie, commercial, or on an album by Mr. Kayama that he recorded in his younger years, you would say that his voice has not changed in his over fifty-year singing career.
As our group sat down to our seats at Blue Note located in the Outrigger hotel in Waikiki, I noticed that we were quite close to the stage area. However, I did notice that tonight Blue Note was packed to the brim and when I glanced at my ticked it stated that tonight’s show was a “sold-out” performance. As the night went on I could see people just standing by the entrance to get a glimpse of the crooner. This was my first time here and I did not know what to expect. However, I did notice that tonight Blue Note was packed to the brim and when I glanced at my ticked it stated that tonight’s show was a “sold-out” performance. As the night went on I could see people just standing by the entrance to get a glimpse of the crooner. Little did I know that it would be the one of the best “concerts” that I have been to…
As the lights dimmed we could see the band arriving onto the stage one-by-one getting ready for the opening number. Then the music started. It was “Koi wa Akai Bara – Love is a Red Rose” (恋は紅いバラ). The audience swooned and cheered at the appearance of the man himself. The moment I heard him I could hear no change in the quality of his voice despite the fact of him stating that he was 81 years old!
Song after song he sang, all his classic hits of course. Throughout the performance he would receive leis as gifts and in return give kisses on the cheek and handshakes to his many female fans. Throughout the performance he performed ballads, Hawaiian-sounding hits with his ukulele, and rock songs with his electric guitar. With each song almost, everyone at Blue Note sang along. There was even a point where his microphone stopped working and although the song was going on he wasn’t able to sing the song. However, there was no worry in his face since he could hear the whole audience sing the song. This amazed him and he himself was stunned that the audience in Hawaii knew the exact lyrics to the song. “Sugoi na-“ he stated in amazement.
He then went on to sing his hit song “Kimi to Itsumademo” as his “final” number. The crowd loved it and sang along loudly with Mr. Kayama. Even the “serifu” in the middle of the song swooned the crowd.
As with mostly all Japanese concerts there is a “encore” and for Mr. Kayama there was one in which he sang many of his newer songs. What amazed the crowd, and myself, was that he finished his encore with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Not only did he sing it perfectly, but his English pronunciation was also spot on. He could be mistaken for an American singer! With “My Way” finished, he walked off the stage and that concluded his performance at Blue Note. I just sat in my chair in awe of his performance that he put on. This will be a concert that I will remember for quite some time and I am sure everyone else in the crowd will too.