Hitomi visiting a CD store while promoting her debut single
|Artist: Hitomi Shimatani
Product Code: AVDD-20330
Release Date: 1999.07.28
Highest Rank: #45
Label: avex trax
Since she was a child, Hitomi Shimatani had always dreamt of becoming a singer. When she was merely 17 years old, she decided to attempt her luck, along with 200,000 contestants at the “The Japan Audition 1997“. The talent directors were captivated by her face and her stunning vocals. Her vocals had such a good range, that they decided she would fit perfectly within the enka genre. This is the beginning of what would become a long and exciting career for Hitomi.
Despite the fact that Hitomi was chosen to recieve a contract by avex trax in 1997, Hitomi decided to dedicate herself to singing after graduating from school. avex agreed with her, as long as she took singing classes at the same time, and they made a deal. In 1999, Hitomi moved to Tokyo and started taking vocal lessons on a full-time basis. In May, avex announced Hitomi’s debut at a press conference. On the 28th July, Hitomi finally released her first single. This was the only single to be released is an 8cm version. A cassette version was also released. This single is now out of print and remains to date the most highly sought after release by Hitomi fans.
On the 19 July, Hitomi attended to a convention in Velfarre, Roppongi, where she performed “Osaka no Onna”. Various new artists, such as Ayumi Hamasaki, sifow and misono have performed during their debut era. The managing director, Max Matsuura and Hitomi’s composer attended to this event. On this special event Hitomi’s promotional video was aired and she took time to take photos with the audience, who were mostly college students.
“Osaka no Onna” was quite successful for a debut single. Despite the fact that it did not rank at the top ten, it stayed on the charts for 13 weeks and sold 48,000 copies. Hitomi also managed to create a record for herself with her very first single. She got the top spot at the Oricon Enka Charts. This was the first time a newcomer had managed to do this. She won two Best Newcomer Awards in 1999. One of them was at the prestigious 32nd annual Nihon Yuusen Taishou, where she impressed all her listeners with a stunning performance of “Osaka no Onna”.
1. Osaka no Onna
Staying true to the enka style, “Osaka no Onna” means “The Woman from Osaka”. The title reflects the nostalgy of one’s hometown and a longing to return to it. The lyrics, written by Shinsuke Shimada relate the story of a lost love. Following the typical enka format, the lyrics focus on the sad irrecoverable destiny of her desertion by her lover. The woman feels resignation towards her destiny and tries in vain to forget her past memories with her lover. Also various visual imagery of villages are used.
The song makes use of various orchestral and pop-related instrumentals. The style is quite old, compared to pop releases. It’s as if this single could have been released back in the 60’s. What is definately striking within this single is how Hitomi’s vocals are simply outstanding for somebody being at such an early stage of her career. She hits the high notes without any difficulty. The accompanied by elaborate and dramatic instrumentals, giving it an extremely melodramatic mood. This song was the ending theme of a dorama, “How will it be on Wednesday”.
The promotional video was filmed on the 16th June and they ended up working until 2 am. It makes use of many symbolic imagery and concepts and features Hitomi in a melanchonic and depressed mood. The colours in the clip are washed out and it’s as if they were stuck in time. The setting is dark and moody and the television screens feature busy streets in Japan. This promotional video was never released in a DVD collection and is the only promotional video which features Hitomi with short hair.
2. Kaze no Machi
“Kaze no Machi” is another song which fits in the enka genre. It means “Wind of the Town”. However, it has a more lighthearted tone compared to the tragic “Osaka no Onna”. The orchestral intrumentals are so soothing and relaxing to listen to, while also sounding so magical. The arrangement of the musical instruments were made in order to reflect different moods throughout the progression of the song. Hitomi’s clear vocals match the serene atmosphere, although I have to admit that at some instances her voice drowns the background music. I think this song would have been better if she also attempted singing some parts of the song in a low note.
I have to say that I prefer “Kaze no Machi”, because the instrumentals create such a beautiful harmony, which sets the listener at peace. While listening to the instrumental version, I was able to appreciate the composition of this song. I also feel this song fits Hitomi’s character more, as she’s more of a happy-go-lucky kind of person.
Despite the fact that I’m not at all into enka, I have enjoyed this single because it has elements from her “crossover” genre, which would be born years later in 2005. I feel that any fan of Hitomi should listen to this single and appreciate what she has started with, especially since this single is extremely rare.
Approximately a year later, avex decided that Hitomi’s appeal could attract not just the older audience but younger ones too. They took a chance on her in the J-Pop market and she really shined. Up till the present day, Hitomi has been releasing in the J-Pop market and has had her fair share of hits and success.
This single wasn’t anything outstanding, but for a debut single it was a modest success, especially when taking into consideration the declining popularity of enka. Hitomi’s vocals definately displayed a unique quality, which would lead her a very long musical career with avex and a faithful fanbase.