Misora Hibari
It is no exaggeration to say that the post war history of enka started with Misora Hibari. She was a heroin of a success story as well as a family tragedy. She debuted as an infant genius and at once climbed up to the summit of popularity and became a super star and idol of the whole nation, and kept her popularity till she ended up her no-long life at the end of the 1980s. She continuously produced hits and especially her songs at later period such as "Kanashii sake", "Yawara" and "Kawa no nagare no yo-ni" remain as Enka standard numbers. After death she was honored for her extraordinary achievement with a National Prize.
Nobody has ever surpassed her fame and popularity as an enka singer.

In the 1950s Shimakura Chiyoko also started her career as singer. She still keeps an honorary place in the annual NHK Kohaku Song Contest televised live in the New Year's eve.

To the next generation belong Misawa Akemi and Suizenji Kiyoko. Misawa Akemi was a charming and feminine singer, on the other hand Suizenji Kiyoko had her hair cut shortly and sang march-like lively songs. She often said that her "enka" is in reality "o-en" (rooting) "ka" (song) for life. Aoe Mina was famous for her husky and sexy voice and sung often on the lives of hostesses of nightclubs and bars.

Segawa Eiko is now in her 50s and virtually belongs to the same generation as Misawa Akemi or Aoe Mina. However, she is still very active as a comical TV personality.

Slightly younger than Segawa are Yashiro Aki and Fuji Keiko. However, these two singers have different careers.
Fuji Keiko was the heroin of the late 60s and early 70s as I explained in the previous article. Her "Shinjuku no onna" was the biggest hit, but I like "Inochi azukemasu". Her productive years were short. After her first marriage with a male enka singer, she retired, then divorced and went to the US. Now, once in a while we can hear her whereabouts. However, what is important for us is much more her image when she covered her slender body with dark cloths and sang with desperate color in her eyes.
    Her 16 years old daughter Utada Hikaru made a sensational debut at the end of 1998 and became a new idol in the J-pop world. Her first album achieved by now the record 6 million sales ! I contributed one to this record :)
Yashiro Aki came a bit later and her best songs were created around 1980, including "Funauta" (check the previous article) .
Kobayashi Sachiko made her debut also slightly later than her contemporaries. However, she seems to enjoy her best time just now. Anyhow her spectacular costume for Kohaku is worth seeing :-)

I have to dedicate one section to Miyako Harumi. I don't like her songs, for she represents an extreme case of enka with dynamic and energetic singing style using fierce and strong voice and exaggerated vibrato, which might be characteristics of Osaka and Kansai and don't fit the taste of Tokyo and Kanto people. Nevertheless, I have to admit that she is the most important enka singer next to Misora Hibari. She became an idol already as a teenager in the 1960s. She then became a leading enka singer. Though she once announced to retire and become "an ordinary middle aged woman", she came back a few years ago. She is not as popular as she once was. But, her singing skill and charisma are respected and awed by many people.

Ishikawa Sayuri
I finally come to Ishikawa Sayuri, one of the most talented woman singers. I lived in Vienna when she made her debut at Kohaku in 1977. My father sent me a cassette tape and I used to play mahjong listening to the tape. The master of the ceremony introduced her; "Having endured severe and obscure life for five years after her debut, the flower of the lyric enka is now coming into blossom. Ishikawa Sayuri-san. 'Tsugaru-Kaikyo fuyu geshiki' (Winter landscape of Tsugaru Strait), please! ".
Tsugaru-Kaikyo is still one of my favorite karaoke numbers and I love also her another songs such as "Amagi goe". Her latest song can be heard at PONYCANYON's site.

There are also singers who had to live underlying life for many years. Tendo Yoshimi, who sang a song about an island of Korea and became famous this year, is for instance older than Ishikawa Sayuri. Another case of late success is Kano Reiko, better known as Aurora Teruko, a role of the NHK morning serial drama modeled on her. She still sings in "Osaka Tsuhtenkaku Theatre" in the particular atmosphere of Osaka. She always carry a miniature of Tsuhtenkaku, a famous tower in Osaka, on her head as her trademark ... I cannot understand the taste of Osaka people :-)

At the end of this brief explanation of women enka singers, I would like to introduce five beautiful and younger singers. In reality, I wonder why the contemporary woman enka singers are so beautiful ! Of course, I don't have to complain about it.

Fuji Ayako is now a super enka star and has a very clear and beautiful voice. Her songs are rather easy to sing and become the most often requested enka songs at karaoke boxes. Sakamoto Fuyumi is also renowned for her skill. Her "Yozakura o-Shichi" attracted young female karaoke fans. Kozai Kaori has many hits including "Mugonzaka" (check below). I personally appreciate Godai Natsuko who sings enka songs of rather conservative and traditional style. "Mizunashigawa" (check below) has an erotic text which I don't dare to translate :-p The last and the youngest is Nagayama Yoko. Her "Suterarete" (check below) has rumba as a basis, which is not unusual as a song describing the urban nightlife and women working there.
These five singers were all very young when they first came under the spotlight. They all now become in their thirties and mature, we can now expect much more from their songs.

There are some other younger singers. However, I would stop here, because I don't know much about those younger generations. I dropped also male singers from this short summary. Maybe I can take them up later in another article. .
By the way, enka singers, in particular woman singers, wear often kimono, traditional Japanese costume. Kimono is a common element between them and the women who are working in Japanese style restaurants, nightclubs and bars, which businessmen visit for entertaining guests or relaxing among them. It is also the fact that enka is often sung in those places :-)

Fuji Ayako

Kozai Kaori

Nagayama Yoko


Sakamoto Fuyumi

Godai Natsuko

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