As 2005 winds down, I find my thoughts turning back to 1985, and I am filled with a warmth that comes from the pleasant rememberances of days gone by (It’s hard to believe 20 years have passed!).
That year, I spent the better part of the summer in Japan. Just 17, and with my high school graduation a year away (back then, a year actually seemed like it lasted for a while!), I was still in the midst of the relatively care-free days of youth.
The first part of the year was spent in anticipation of the Japan trip. The period of time when you’re eagerly looking forward to something special is, well, special in itself. I was seriously thinking about checking out that idol singer named Akina…
Although I had been aware of Akina from late 1982 and had taken a liking to her music beginning in 1983, I didn’t really know much about her. Living in the Los Angeles area, I didn’t get to see her that much, aside from the year-end Kohaku and Record Taisho appearances along with an occasional Uta no Top Ten installment that would air on the local international channel. It wasn’t until summer 1985 that I truly fell head over heels in love.
Looking back, it’s not hard to see why. At that time, Akina’s popularity was peaking, so she enjoyed plenty of exposure. It was quite easy to become immersed in all things Akina. Between shows like The Best 10, Uta no Top Ten, Yoru no Hit Studio, Let’s go Young, etc., one could catch Akina on TV numerous times each week. Walking through any downtown area, you couldn’t go far without seeing Akina’s face on posters, or hearing one of her hit songs playing on the radio or emanating from many a shop’s turntable or cassette boombox. Akina was featured regularly in numerous magazines. Music shops proudly advertised each new release with a sizeable display of posters and placards. There was also no shortage of non-music Akina-related goods, so one could find all manner of nicknacks featuring that beloved face. Among those, my favorite would have to be the "bromides" (the photos/photo card thingys for which there seemed to be an unlimited selection).
Seibu department store even hosted an "Akina Fair," featuring displays of memorabilia (including outfits she wore while performing "Shojo A" and "Second Love"), photos, videos, and of course, lots of fan club goods for sale. I bought some t-shirts, posters, photo books, and a set of post cards featuring Akina’s single and album posters. I still have all of the items!
"Meu Amor e" and "SAND BEIGE" were the hot songs that summer. As a newly confirmed addict, I could effortlessly get my Akina fix with a fresh performance seemingly every day. And, each performance left me even more enthralled. Akina’s natural charm was accentuated by the great outfits she wore and those wonderful moves she made while performing. Why, every little thing she did was magic! (hmm, now why does that sound familiar? haha)
In those days, the CD had yet to become the medium of choice for music, so one had a choice of cassette tapes or vinyl LPs and 45s. I bought a mix of both. Part of me actually misses the vinyl. Apart from the unavoidable crackle/pop, I’d swear the sound had a warmth and vibrance that seems to be missing from CDs. Or maybe everything just seems better in your memories! Either way, you couldn’t beat the bonus goodies that were included with many of the LPs. Even with no extras, the larger jacket photos were a bonus in themselves. But, I digress…
The summer wasn’t all about Akina. The family activities, sightseeing, great food, and yes, even some karaoke, rounded out an absolutely enjoyable visit to Japan.
But, all things must end. No matter how much you think you’re prepared, you’re never ready to have the truly good things end. I left Japan with reluctance and the first of a few deep regrets. I had missed an opportunity to witness a live performance as I had to return to the U.S. prior to the start of Akina’s concert tour. Talk about being bummed!
The lasting memories of the summer would be my consolation, along with the fact that I had now been fully initiated into the ranks of the hardcore Akina-lovin’ fan-dom. From that summer on, I had a new mission–to do all I could to stay abreast of the latest Akina news and eagerly await each new release without fail. Not always easy for one living abroad, but definitely worth it! 🙂
The disappointment over the missed concert opportunity would be further alleviated at year end. Akina’s first Record Taisho victory for Meu Amor e (needless to say, I was ecstatic… and riding high for several weeks afterward!), followed by another fabulous Kohaku performance (also of said single) would serve to close out a memorable year in grand style.
Yes, 1985 was a slice of the best of times, and will always be a special year for me.