Japan. Since the end of WWII, eroticism had been gradually making its way into Japanese cinema. The first kiss to be seen in film, discreetly half-hidden by an umbrella, caused a national sensation in 1946. Although throughout the 40’s and early 50’s nudity in Japanese movie theaters, as in most of the world, was a taboo, some films from the mid-50s began showing more flesh than would have previously been even imaginable in the Japanese cinema.
During the same period, the taiyozoku films on the teen-age Sun Tribe, such as Ko Nakahira’s Crazed Fruit (1956), introduced unprecedented sexual frankness into Japanese films. Foreign films of this time, such as Ingmar Bergman’s Summer With Monika (1953), Louis Malle’s Les Amants (1958), introduced female nudity into international cinema, and were imported to Japan without problem.
Nevertheless, until the early 1960s, graphic depictions of nudity and sex in Japanese film could only be seen in single-reel stag films, made illegally by underground film producers such as those depicted in Imamura’s film The Pornographers (1966). The first wave of Pink Film (Pinku Eiga) in Japan was contemporary with the similar U.S. sexploitation film genres. Nudity and sex officially entered Japanese cinema with Satoru Kobayashi’s controversial and popular independent production Flesh Market (Nikutai no Ichiba) of 1962. Made with 8 million yen, Kobayashi’s independent feature film took in over 100 million yen of box office. (!)
Its dominance and different eras (at least three) will be left for a dedicated post, what must be understood is that along the 60s and 70s, a myriad of beautiful actresses suddenly became famous ‘singers’ (Ike Reiko, Meiko Kaji, Noriko Tatsumi), promoting their albums in a very provocative ways, such as nude covers and posters, moaning versions, banal lyrics and such. Be a female singer in the middle of this panorama wasn’t something easy in a repressed and sexist society. But today’s artist always remained out of this cheesy formula.
Let’s go to our history:
Born on June 22, 1953 at Nara prefecture, Yoshiko Sai since his childhood demonstrated its precocity and many artistic gifts. During her elementary school days she loved to paint and read the classics from Edogawa Rampo (japanese Poe).
In junior high school she was a member of the coral, taking his first lessons in music; by high school she played in a folk rock group but music wasn’t in its mainly plans so far.
In 1972 she tried to enter at the Kyoto City University of Arts but wasn’t accepted, then she tried the Kyoto Doshisha University where she passed the entry examination. In May of that year she was caught by a kidney disease, having to spend a year in observation. Over this period she would recall:
‘I read a LOT of books from famous novelists, such as Mushitaro Oguri, Yumeno Kyusaku, Juran Hisao, and Yokomizo Masashi. These dark novels made me accept and relax about the disease, my forthcoming production of lyrics and music was strongly tied with this fact.’
After leaving the hospital, she incessantly started to wrote poetry and in 1974 debuted and won a contest at a local radio program. She then, received an invitation to play an opening act for Rabi Nakayama concert. Two record companies became interested in her music and after the show, she was contracted by Teichiku Records.
Yoshiko Sai recorded four albums in four years, between May 1975 and December 1978, the 2nd (Mikkō) and 3rd (Taiji No Yume) of her releases may be considered more Progressive than Folk or Pop. Unfortunately, she abruptly retired from career at the age of 25 in 1979. A story told is that Yoshiko may have doubted her talent in music and lost her self-confidence. (!)
In recent years, a revival of interest in his music made her come back to record a new album with Jojo Hiroshige, called Crimson Voyage in 2001. Lastly, there’s been some re-releases from its 70s records, inedited live performances and poetry books.
Let’s go to our album:
In 1977 she moved to the Nippon Columbia company, and in September 25, announced Taiji No Yume (Fetus Dream). Heavily inspired by the pre-war oddball and ghostly neurosurgeon doctor and writer Yumeno Kyusaku, hence the strange atmosphere this disc abides in. The voyage into the mental state of being, fits perfectly with Sai’s acid folky approach and dreamy female vocalizations. Quite dark in overall texture, at the time of this she was merely 24 years old. Totally unknown for non-japanese listeners, this album is really a stunner and a must for people into some more advanced Japanese historical recordings.
With utterly beautiful arrangements by the legendary Yuji Ohno, this is certainly my favorite album from her. A kaleidoscope of genres that spring from the depths of the inner mind: folk, jazz, bossa nova, flamenco, prog, rock and so. Yoshiko Sai plays the role of each and invites us to another dimension of reality, the “IM’ highlights are for: Aoi Glass-Dama, with nice synths and strings, this rock ballad has an interesting crescendo, delivering an emotional interpretation and amazing backing band. If only some ballads could be as good as this one, phew! And Taiji No Yume, a 9-minute epic, simply one of the best Japanese songs of all time, without exaggeration, i’ll let the words and adjectives to you, do not miss Yoshiko Sai’s haunting realms. 良い旅!
A1 ヒターノ (Gitano)
A2 アルハンブラの青い壜 (Alhambra No Aoi Bin)
A3 ある晴れた夜 (Aru Hareta Yoru)
A4 波止場 (Hatoba)
A5 春の夢 (Haru No Yume)
A6 海の沈黙 (Umi No Chinmoku)
B1 青いガラス玉 (Aoi Garasudama)
B2 遍路 (Henro)
B3 白昼夢 (Hakuchūmu)
B4 胎児の夢 (Taiji No Yume)
All songs and lyrics by: Yoshiko Sai
Blow Up LX-7021A /// 25/09/1977
Drums: Yasushi Ichihara
Electric & Acoustic Guitar: Tsunehide Matsuki
Gut Guitar: Kiyoshi Sugimoto
Electric Bass: Kenji Takamizu (1,2,4,5,9,10) /// Akira Okazawa (3,6,7,8)
Acoustic Piano: Masahiko Sato
Electric Piano, Solina, Spinet & Synthesizer: Yuji Ohno
Percussion: Lary Sunaga
Arranged (strings, brass, instrumental) by: Yuji Ohno
Directed by: Shun Ohki
Produced by: Akira Sakajima
Engineer: Tomiji Iyobe
Art Director: Kazuhiro Saito
Cover Illustration: Yoshiko Sai
Illustration: Tsuyoshi Takigaito
Photography by: Jin Komine
Layout: Takashi Eakabayashi