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折坂悠太 (Yuta Orisaka), 平成 (Heisei), 2018

Heisei era, beginning in early 1989 as Emperor Hirohito deceased, is going to end in April 2019. It was the era of increasing depression both economically and socially. These three decades are known notoriously as “lost decades,” Japanese people went through the collapse of the economy and severe disasters like several great earthquakes, ane even faced the fear of terrorism by some religious cults.

Yuta Orisaka was born in 1989. His life has been therefore along with Heisei era. At the very end of it, perhaps he’s inevitably conscious about what these three decades meant to him. So he wrote a song and named it “Heisei,” moreover he decided to make it the title of the entire album.

Heisei is his sophomore full-length, which is critically acclaimed for its elegant use of Japanese poetic styles and various singing methods. Before Heisei is released, Hikaru Utada, the most famous and popular singer and songwriter in Japan, said Orisaka’s “あさま (Asama)” from his debut was her favorite. Since then, he gained much attention and finally he did meet people’s expectations by Heisei.

Although some of its motives in the album are apparently taken from recent events like the great earthquakes, these songs sound just like recordings from a hundred years ago, the early days of Japanese pop music history. It is, in some way, because of their rhetric (poetic or literary rather than colloquial) and use of musical scales that are often said “traditional.” Also this is because of the lack of Rock feeling. Orisaka’s music is a fusion of Jazz, Latin, Country, and Japanese Folklore, etc.. But there seems few traces of Rock. Thus, his music reminds me of pre-Rock decades of Japanese pop music.

Orisaka also shows off his voice in different ways. He sings, shouts, read aloud his lyrics and poetry. Often his performance gets very theatrical, especially in “逢引 (meeting).” This surrealistic narrative fuses a love song and a monologue in a battlefield by the power of his voices. As you can hear in it, he’s a quite skillful and unique singer.

Through Heisei, the singer shows us some visions and emotions rather than telling a story. They feel like pale shadows both comfortable and a bit depressing. And this ambivalent feeling is like what I got when I reminisce Heisei era. I’m sure that almost everyone spent these decades in Japan would feels the same.

Published in English Review