Sanya Blues was released by Okabayashi Nobuyasu in 1968. It’s a song that talks about the run-down Sanya neighborhood in North Eastern Tokyo. The area is known as a gathering point for all kinds of fringe dwellers from Yakuza to sex workers and also casual, and by-the-day workers. It is these laboring workers that Okabayashi focuses on in this song.
About Okabayashi Nobuyasu
Nobuyasu was known as “God of Folk” in Japan, similar, perhaps to how Eric Clapton was known as “God” for a time in England.
As blunt an instrument as comparisons go, if you had to choose a “Dylan” of Japan, then Okabayashi would be him. The influence is clear in many of his recordings.
About Sanya Blues
Sanya Blues is clearly influenced by Enka, Minyo and other traditional folk music “of the people”. Much of Okabayashi’s music was protest, or social message orientated. Sanya Blues fits in with a socialist singing movement of the time, think Pete Seeger and the like abroad, where large groups of people would sing songs in praise of the union movement, and other songs of The Worker.
The singing style, though sometimes clearly mimicking the nasal drawl of Dylan, also veers into distinctly non-western sounding tones and timbres for certain songs and phrases. And, of course, what they are singing about is distinct to their own circumstances.
Much of Okabayashi’s early music was very much protest orientated, and was censored or blocked from release in Japan.
Sanya Blues English Translation
My day’s work was so hard
All there is to do now, is swill my shochu
And anyway, all I’ve got is the flop house
What else is there to do?
Drinking alone at the bar,
Thinking about the past I can’t return to.
I could cry and cry, but what would it get me?
Sanya is my home now.
Toil and finish, that’s it.
We are the salary box people.
Pay no mind, pay no mind.
Those street loiterers can hate the world
But what does it get them?
And people say Sanya’s no good
But if it weren’t for us
All those buildings, all those roads
They don’t get built