Modern enka (演歌 — from 演 en performance, entertainment, and 歌 ka song) came into being in the postwar years of the Shōwa period. It was the first style to synthesize the Japanese pentatonic scale with Western harmonies. Enka lyrics, as in Portuguese Fado, usually are about the themes of love and loss, loneliness, enduring hardships, and persevering in the face of difficulties, even suicide or death. Enka suggests a more traditional, idealized, or romanticized aspect of Japanese culture and attitudes, comparable to American country and western music.
Enka are songs for those who feel separated from their home, lover or other familiar environment. The feeling of hardship and poverty is the undertone. This was a very usual situation in Japan till the 1970s.
In the 1950s and 1960s young graduates of junior or senior high schools had to leave their home, so long as they were not the eldest son of the family and could succeed parents rice fields, in order to get jobs in metropolis which were expanding during the miracle of the Japanese post war economy. So, many young people were transported en masse in trains especially arranged for them to large metropolis where they got jobs and lived as salaried workers. Young people were uprooted from their home, friends, moms and yet had no reliable future. They yearned for their home, mountains, moms, friends, first loves … Metropolis was like desert, where they found no place to feel at home. Enka effectively responded to such sentiment of the people at the time.
All in all, enka must be a performance or story telling which appeals to the people who are mentally hurt. Sake (wine), tear, parting, harbor, night train, onna (woman) …. These words are commonplace of enka. Then, enka shall not be sung decently. The burst of sentiment must be expressed accordingly.
In short, Japanese have become rich and lost their sorrow emanated from poverty and hardship. When sorrow does not exist, happiness cannot exist as well. Those people do not have lovers to love with all their heart and mind and strength. Everything becomes very tepid and the life becomes very monotone.
Ranma 1/2. Namida Goi (なみだ恋) by Yashiro Aki (八代亜紀). (Lyrics)
Lucky Star – Lucky Channel 16. Misoji Misaki (三十路岬) by Hiromi Konno (今野 宏美) (Lyrics)
This one is my favorite 🙂 Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. Amagi goe (天城越え) by Sayuri Ishikawa (さゆり 石川) (Lyrics)
Live performance of Amagi goe.