Aku spoke of his big regret before he died
Yu Aku, a popular songwriter who died on Wednesday at age 70, wrote masterpieces depicting winter. But I think of him as an "August person."
On Aug. 15, 1945, the day of Japan's defeat in World War II, Aku was on his native island of Awajishima in the Seto Inland Sea. He would later say, time and again, that Aug. 15 was his "other birthday."
The sky was blue and cloudless that day, and Aku, then 8 years old, would remember that special shade of blue for the rest of his life. According to his book "Ikippanashi no Ki" (生きっぱなしの記 ISBN 4532164648 Keeping living), the magnificence of the sky was such that he could recall only a few other instances of seeing anything like it ever since.
The war's end brought a deluge of things that had been denied to the people during the war. For Aku, popular songs, movies and baseball represented what he called the "tricolor flag of democracy."
Baseball, in particular, made him feel "as if a god had descended from heaven." Kids played it with improvised equipment, all home-made. Balls were fashioned of tightly wound knitting wool. Those rapturous days became the inspiration for his novel "Setouchi Shonen Yakyudan" (瀬戸内少年野球団 ISBN 4167321017 Seto Inland Sea youth baseball team).
Every year, Aku waited eagerly for the national senior high school baseball tournament in August. He called high school ballplayers "pilgrims to the holy land of Koshien (Stadium)," and watched every single game on television at home for more than 20 years. He cleared his calendar for the entire duration of the annual tournament, and ate only donburi (bowl of rice with savory toppings) takeaways for lunch. The reason was that he could shove food into his mouth without taking his eyes off the TV screen.
Writing pop songs, one of the components of his "tricolor flag," became his profession. He coined expressions that were outlandishly original for song titles, such as "UFO," "Katteni Shiyagare" (Have it your way) and "Ringo Satsujin Jiken" (Apple murder case).
According to an inside story of sorts, Aku was said to be resolved to write songs that "Hibari Misora would never sing." Born in the same year as Hibari, arguably the greatest pop singer of her era, Aku seemed to hold mixed feelings toward her--those of awe and rivalry.
After her death in 1989, however, Aku regretted having harbored such feelings toward her. According to his book, his greatest regret was his "failure to write an epoch-making song for Hibari Misora."
--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 3(IHT/Asahi: August 4,2007)
美空ひばり（みそらひばり、1937年（昭和12年）5月29日 - 1989年（平成元年）6月24日）