Kitajima Saburo – the godfather of Japanese enka!

Text by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi

Saburō Kitajima, who was born in Minoru Ono (japan) in October 1936, is a well-known Japanese enka singer, TV personality and actor. He made his debut with the single “Bungacha-Bushi” in 1962. In his long career he made many hits, such as “Namida Bune” (1962), “Kyōdai Jingi” (1965), “Yosaku” (1978) and “Kita no Ryōba” (1986).

He is very popular among the common people in Japan because most of his songs are about the spirit of Japan’s working class and rural laborer. He often appears on the very popular TV program Kōhaku Uta Gassen, a TV program at the end of the year, where many major Japanese singers gather to perform their last concert of the year. Although Enka is becoming less popular with the younger generation, he is still Japan’s most domestic famous singer. Once a while he performs outside of Japan as well to promote Japanese music abroad.

In addition being a game show contestant, panelist, contest judge in daytime TV and his many hit records, successful movies and TV episodes have made him rich, and he continues to produce records which sometimes still go to the top of the Japanese charts. For example the single “Fūfu Isshō” which Kitajima released at the age of 73 debuted at No. 10 on the Japanese Oricon weekly single charts. It became the first single to reach Top 10 by a solo artist in his 70s in Oricon charts history.