Hibari Misora

Hibari Misora
Hibari Misora

Hibari Misora (early 1950s)
Background information
Birth name Kazue Katō
Born 29 May 1937
Origin Isogo-ku, Yokohama Japan
Died June 24, 1989(1989-06-24) (aged 52)
Genres Jazz, Enka
Occupations Singer
Years active 1945–1971
Website Official site

Hibari Misora (美空 ひばり Misora Hibari?, May 29, 1937 – June 24, 1989) was an award-winning Japanese enka singer and actress.[1] and was the first woman in Japan to receive the People's Honour Award, which was awarded posthumously for her notable contributions to the music industry.[2] Misora recorded 1,200 songs, and sold 68 million records.[3] After she died, consumer demand for her recordings grew significantly, and by 2001 she had sold more than 80 million records.[4][5] Her swan-song "Kawa no Nagare no Yō ni" (川の流れのように?) is often performed by numerous artists and orchestras as a tribute to her, including notable renditions by The Three Tenors (Spanish/Italian), Teresa Teng (Taiwan), and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan (Mexico).



Life and career

Misora was born Kazue Katō (加藤 和枝 Katō Kazue?) in Isogo-ku, Yokohama, Japan. Her father was Masukichi Katō (加藤 増吉 Katō Masukichi?), a fishmonger, and her mother Kimie Katō (加藤 喜美枝 Katō Kimie?), a housewife. Misora displayed musical talent from an early age after singing for her father at a World War II send-off party in 1943. He invested a small fortune taken from the family's savings to begin a musical career for his daughter. In 1945 she debuted at a concert hall in Yokohama, at the age of eight. At the same time, she changed her last name, Katō, to Misora (美空?, lit. "beautiful sky"), at the suggestion of her mother. A year later, she appeared on a NHK broadcast, and impressed the Japanese composer Masao Koga with her singing ability. He considered her to be a prodigy with the courage, understanding, and emotional maturity of an adult. In the following two years, she became an accomplished singer and was touring notable concert halls to sold-out crowds.

Her recording career began in 1949 at the age of twelve, when she changed her stage name to Hibari Misora, which means "lark in the beautiful sky," and starred in the film Nodojiman-kyô jidai (のど自慢狂時代?). The film gained her nationwide recognition. She recorded her first single Kappa Boogie-Woogie (河童ブギウギ Kappa bugiugi?) for Columbia Records later that year.[6] It became a commercial hit, selling more than 450,000 copies. She subsequently recorded "Kanashiki kuchibue", which was featured on a radio program and was a national hit.[6] As an actress, she starred in around 160 movies from 1949 until 1971, and won numerous awards. Her performance in Tokyo Kid (1950), in which she played a street orphan, made her symbolic of both the hardship and the national optimism of post-World War II Japan.[7]

On January 13, 1957, Misora was attacked with hydrochloric acid, and injured in Asakusa International Theater. The criminal was an overly enthusiastic fan of hers. Fortunately, the wound did not remain in her face.

In 1973 Tetsuya Katō, Misora's brother, was prosecuted for gang-related activity. Although NHK did not acknowledge any connection, Misora was excluded from Kouhaku uta gassen for the first time in 18 years.[6] Offended, she refused to appear on NHK for years afterwards.[6]

Illness and death

In April 1987, on the way to a performance in Fukuoka, Misora suddenly collapsed. Rushed to hospital, she was diagnosed with avascular necrosis brought on by chronic hepatitis. She was confined to a hospital in Fukuoka, and eventually showed signs of recovery in August. She commenced recording a new song in October, and in April of 1988 performed at a concert at the Tokyo Dome.

Her triumph was short-lived. Misora died on June 24, 1989 from pneumonia at the age of 52, at a hospital in Tokyo. Her death was widely mourned throughout Japan

Beginning in 1990, television and radio stations annually play her song "Kawa no Nagare no Yō ni" (川の流れのように?) on her birthdate to show respect. In a national poll by NHK in 1997, the song was voted the greatest Japanese song of all time by more than 10 million people.


In 1994, the Hibari Misora Museum opened in Arashiyama, Kyoto. This multistorey building traced the history of Misora's life and career in multi-media exhibits, and displayed various memorabilia. It attracted more than 5 million visitors, until its closedown on November 30, 2006, as to allow a scheduled reconstruction of the building. The main exhibits were moved into the Shōwa period section of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, until reconstruction was complete. The new Hibari Misora Theater opened on April 26, 2008, and includes a CD for sale of a previously unreleased song.[8] A bronze statue of her debut was built as a memorial in Yokohama in 2002, and attracts around 300,000 visitors each year.[9]

Portrayals in media

After Hibari's death in 1989, a TBS television drama special aired in thesame year by the name of "Hibora Misora story" (美空ひばり物語), where Misora was portrayed by Kayoko Kishimoto.

Question of Korean ancestry

Hibari Misora's ancestry is a matter of dispute.[10] There are assertions that she was of ethnic Korean ancestry, and that she and her family held Korean passports.[6][11][12][13][14] Others dispute these claims and following study of her parents' ancestry, assert that Misora's background is not Korean, but Japanese.[15][16][17]

Notable songs

  • Kappa Boogie Woogie (河童ブギウギ, 1949)
  • Kanashiki Kuchibue (悲しき口笛, 1949)
  • Tokyo Kiddo (東京キッド, 1950)
  • Echigo Jishi No Uta (越後獅子の唄, 1950)
  • Omatsuri Mambo (お祭りマンボ, 1952)
  • Ringo Oiwake (リンゴ追分, 1952)
  • Minatomachi 13-banchi (港町十三番地, 1957)
  • Hanagasa Dōchū (花笠道中, 1957)
  • Yawara (, 1964)
  • Kanashii Sake (悲しい酒, 1966)
  • Makkana Taiyō (真赤な太陽, 1967)
  • Aisansan (愛燦燦(あいさんさん), 1986)
  • Midaregami (みだれ髪, 1987)
  • Kawa no nagare no yō ni (川の流れのように, 1989)


Japanese movie poster for Kanashiki kuchibue (1949) showing Hibari Misora.

Hibari Misora appeared in 166 films[18]:


(1940s complete)

  • Nodo jimankyō jidai (のど自慢狂時代)(1949)
  • Shin-Tokyo ondo: bikkuri gonin otoko (新東京音頭 びっくり五人男)(1949)
  • Odoru ryū kyūjō (踊る龍宮城, lit. "Dancing Dragon Palace")(1949)
  • Akireta musume-tachi (あきれた娘たち), alternate title: Kingorō no kodakara sōdō (金語楼の子宝騒動)(1949)
  • Kanashiki kuchibue (悲しき口笛, lit. "Sad whistling")(1949)
  • Odoroki ikka (おどろき一家)(1949)
  • Home run kyō jidai (ホームラン狂時代, lit. "The Age of Home run Madness")(1949)


Japanese movie poster for Haha wo shitaite (1951) featuring Hibari Misora.
Ano oka koete (1951)

(1950s is complete)

  • Hit Parade (ヒットパレード - 1950)
  • Akogare no Hawaii kōro (憧れのハワイ航路 - 1950)
  • Hōrō no utahime (放浪の歌姫, lit. "The Wandering Songstress" - 1950)
  • Mukō sangen ryōdonari continued: 3rd Story - donguri utagassen (続・向う三軒両隣 第三話 どんぐり歌合戦 - 1950)
  • Enoken no sokonuke daihōsō (エノケンの底抜け大放送 - 1950)
  • Mukō sangen ryōdonari continued: 4th Story - koi no mikeneko (続・向う三軒両隣 第四話 恋の三毛猫)(1950)
  • Aozora tenshi (青空天使, lit. "Blue Sky Angel" - 1950)
  • Tokyo Kid (東京キッド - 1950)
  • Sakon torimonochō: senketsu no tegata (左近捕物帖 鮮血の手型, lit. "Sakon Detective Story: The Fresh Blood Handprint" - 1950)
  • Ōgon Batto: Matenrō no kaijin (黄金バット 摩天楼の怪人, lit. "Golden Bat: Mysterious stranger of the Skyscraper" - 1950)
  • Tonbo kaeri dōchū (とんぼ返り道中 - 1950)
  • Watashi wa josei no. 1 (1950) - as herself, the short film[19]
  • Chichi koishi (父恋し - 1951)
  • Uta matsuri: Hibari shichi henge (唄祭り ひばり七変化, lit. "Song Festival: Hibari Quick Change" - 1951)
  • Naki nureta ningyō (泣きぬれた人形, lit. "The Doll Wet from Crying" - 1951)
  • Anba tengu: Kakubējishi (鞍馬天狗 角兵衛獅子 - 1951)
  • Haha wo shitaite (母を慕いて, lit. "Yearning for Mother" - 1951)
  • Hibari no komoriuta (ひばりの子守唄, lit. "Hibari's Lullaby" - 1951)
  • Anba tengu: Anba no himatsuri (鞍馬天狗 鞍馬の火祭 - 1951)
  • Ano oka koete (あの丘越えて, lit. "Cross that Hill" - 1951)
  • Yōki-na wataridori (陽気な渡り鳥 - 1952)
  • Anba tengu: Tengu kaijō (鞍馬天狗 天狗廻状 - 1952)
  • Tsukigata Hanpeita (月形半平太 - 1952)
  • Hibari no Circus: kanashiki kobato (ひばりのサーカス 悲しき小鳩, lit. "Hibari's Circus: Sad Little Dove" - 1952)
  • Ushiwakamaru (牛若丸 - 1952)
  • Futari no hitomi (二人の瞳) aka Girls Hand in Hand USA title (1952)
  • Ringo-en no shōjo (リンゴ園の少女, lit. "Girl of Apple Park" - 1952)
  • Hibari-hime hatsuyume dōchū (ひばり姫初夢道中 - 1952)
  • Mita katakure! (三太頑れっ! - 1953)
  • Hibari no utau tamatebako (ひばりの歌う玉手箱, lit. "Hibari's Singing Treasure Chest" - 1953)
  • Shimai (姉妹, lit. "Sisters" - 1953)
  • Hibari no yōki-na tenshi (ひばりの陽気な天使 - 1953)
  • Hibari torimonochō: Utamatsuri happyaku yachō (ひばり捕物帳 唄祭り八百八町, lit. "Hibari Detective Story: Song Festival Across Tokyo" - 1953)
  • Hibari no kanashiki hitomi (ひばりの悲しき瞳 - 1953)
  • Yama wo mamoru kyōdai (山を守る兄弟, lit. "The Brothers who Protect the Mountain") (1953)
  • Ojōsan shachō (お嬢さん社長, lit. "Madame Company President" - 1953)
  • Misora Hibari no haru ha uta kara (美空ひばりの春は唄から, lit. "Hibari Misora's Spring is from Song" - 1954)
  • Hiyodori sōshi (ひよどり草紙 - 1954)
  • The Dancing Girl of Izu (伊豆の踊子, Izu no odoriko (1954 film) - 1954), a film adaptation of Yasunari Kawabata's story The Dancing Girl of Izu
  • Uta shigure oshidori wakashū (唄しぐれ おしどり若衆 - 1954)
  • Seishun romance seat: Aozora ni owasu (青春ロマンスシート 青空に坐す - 1954)
  • Bikkuri gojūsantsugi (びっくり五十三次, lit. "Surprising 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō" - 1954)
  • Yaoya Oshichi furisode tsukiyo (八百屋お七 ふり袖月夜 - 1954)
  • Wakaki hi wa kanashi (若き日は悲し - 1954)
  • Uta goyomi Onatsu Seijūrō (歌ごよみ お夏清十郎 - 1954)
  • Shichihenge tanuki goten (七変化狸御殿, lit. "Quick Change Tanuki Palace" - 1954)
  • Ōedo senryōbayashi (大江戸千両囃子 - 1955)
  • Musume sendōsan (娘船頭さん - 1955)
  • Seishun kōro: Umi no wakōdo (青春航路 海の若人 - 1955)
  • Uta matsuri mangetsu tanuki-gassen (歌まつり満月狸合戦 - 1955)
  • Furisode kyōenroku (ふり袖侠艶録 - 1955)
  • Takekurabe (たけくらべ, Adolescence aka Growing Up Twice aka Growing Up aka Child's Play) (1955) - a film adaptation of Higuchi Ichiyō's novel Takekurabe
  • So Young, So Bright (ジャンケン娘 Janken musume - 1955)
  • Furisode kotengu (ふり袖小天狗 - 1955)
  • Fuefuki Wakamusha (笛吹若武者 - 1955)
  • Utamatsuri Edokko Kin-san torimonochō (唄祭り 江戸っ子金さん捕物帖 - 1955)
  • Rikidōzan monogatari dotō no otoko (力道山物語 怒濤の男 - 1955)
  • Hatamoto taikutsu otoko: nazo no kettōjō (旗本退屈男 謎の決闘状 - 1955)
  • Utae! Seishun Harikiri Musume (歌え!青春 はりきり娘 - 1955)
  • (銭形平次捕物控 死美人風呂) (1956)
  • (おしどり囃子) (1956)
  • (恋すがた狐御殿 Koi sugata kitsune goten) (1956)
  • Peach Boy (宝島遠征 Takarajima ensei) (1956)
  • Romantic Daughters (ロマンス娘 Romansu musume?, 1956)
  • (ふり袖太平記) (1956)
  • (ふり袖捕物帖 若衆変化) (1956)
  • (鬼姫競艶録) (1956)
  • (銭形平次捕物控 まだら蛇 Zenigata Heiji torimono hikae: madara hebi) (1957)
  • (大江戸喧嘩纏) (1957)
  • (旗本退屈男 謎の紅蓮搭) (1957)
  • (ふり袖捕物帖 ちりめん駕籠) (1957)
  • (ロマンス誕生) (1957)
  • (おしどり喧嘩笠 Oshidori kenkagasa) (1957)
  • (怪談番町皿屋敷) (1957)
  • On Wings of Love (大当り三色娘 Ōatari sanshoku musume?) aka Big Hit Three Color Daughters (1957)
  • (青い海原) (1957)
  • (ふり袖太鼓) (1957)
  • (ひばりの三役 競艶雪之丞変化) (1957)
  • (ひばりの三役 競艶雪之丞変化 後篇) (1957)
The Badger Palace (1958)
Musume no Naka no Musume (1958)
  • (娘十八御意見無用)
  • (おしどり駕籠)
  • The Badger Palace aka The Princess of Badger Palace (大当り狸御殿 Oatari tanukigoten) (1958)
  • (丹下左膳)
  • Edo Girl Detective (ひばり捕物帖 かんざし小判 Hibari torimonocho: Kanzashi koban) (1958)
  • (恋愛自由型) (1958)
  • (花笠若衆) (1958)
  • (女ざむらい只今参上 Onna-za murai tadaima sanjō) (1958)
  • (おこんの初恋 花嫁七変化) (1958)
  • (ひばりの花形探偵合戦) (1958)
  • (希望の乙女) (1958)
  • (隠密七生記) (1958)
  • Secret of the Golden Coin (ひばり捕物帖 自雷也小判 Hibari torimonochô: jiraiya koban) (1958)
  • (娘の中の娘 Musume no Naka no Musume) (1958)
  • (唄祭り かんざし纏) (1958)
  • Young Blades' Obligations: Cherry Blossom in Long Sleeves (いろは若衆 ふり袖ざくら Iroha wakashū: Furisode sakura) (1959)
  • The Great Avengers (忠臣蔵 桜花の巻 菊花の巻 Chushingura: ouka no maki, kikka no maki) (1959)
  • (鞍馬天狗) (1959)
  • (東京べらんめえ娘 Tokyo beran me-e musume) (1959)
  • (孔雀城の花嫁) (1959)
  • The Revenger in Red (紅だすき喧嘩状 Beni-dasuki kenkajo) (1959)
  • (お染久松 そよ風日傘) (1959)
  • (水戸黄門 天下の副将軍) (1959)
  • (江戸っ子判官とふり袖小僧) (1959)
  • (血闘水滸伝 怒濤の対決) (1959)
  • Young Blades Obligations: Flower Palanquin Pass (いろは若衆 花駕籠峠 Iroha wakashū: hana kago tōge) (1959)
  • (べらんめえ探偵娘) (1959)
  • (ひばり捕物帖 ふり袖小判) (1959)
  • The Prickly-mouthed Geisha (べらんめえ芸者 Beran me-e geisha) (1959)

1960s - 1980s

  • (Zoku beran me-e geisha) (1960)
  • Samurai Vagabond (Tonosama - Yaji kita) (1960)
  • (Oja kissa) (1960)
  • Sword of Destiny (Koken wa arezu: tsukage ittōryu) (1960)
  • Ishimatsu: The One-Eyed Avenger (Hibari no mori no ishimatsu) (1960)
  • (Hizakura kotengu) (1961)
  • (Hakubajō no hanayome) (1961)
  • (Beran me-e geisha makari tōru) (1961)
  • (Sen-hime to Hideyori) (1962)
  • Hibari Traveling Performer (Hibari no Hahakoi Guitar) (1962)
  • Cosmetic Sales Competition (Minyo no Tabi Akita Obako) (1963)
  • (Hibari, Chiemi, Izumi: Sannin yoreba) (1964)
  • (Noren ichidai: jōkyō) (1966)
  • Festival of Gion (Gion matsuri) (1968) aka Gion Festival aka Kurobe's Sun aka The Day the Sun Rose

Songs in films

Her songs also appeared in 5 Japanese films[18]:

  • Shichihenge tanuki goten (七変化狸御殿 - 1954)
  • Janken musume (ジャンケン娘 - 1955)
  • Tenryū bōkoigasa (天竜母恋い笠 - 1960)
  • Uogashi no Onna Ishimatsu (魚河岸の女石松 - 1961)
  • Hana to Ryū: Seiun-hen Aizō-hen Dotō-hen (花と龍 青雲篇 愛憎篇 怒濤篇 - 1973)

See also

  • Best selling music artists


  1. ^ http://www.hmv.co.jp/news/newsDetail.asp?newsnum=311040086
  2. ^ http://www.hyou.net/ka/eiyosho.htm
  3. ^ http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE7DA1E3EF936A15755C0A96F948260 New York Times obituary June 25, 1989
  4. ^ http://columbia.jp/company/en/corporate/history/index.html
  5. ^ http://www.bk1.jp/product/02060223
  6. ^ a b c d e Anderson, Mark (2001). Sandra Buckley. ed. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture. Routledge. pp. 123, 323–4. ISBN 978-0415143448. http://books.google.ca/books?id=Wtkm3O3nWXkC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Encyclopedia+of+Contemporary+Japanese+Culture&client=firefox-a#PPA251,M1. 
  7. ^ Tansman, Alan (1996). "Mournful tears and sake: The postwar myth of Misora Hibari". In John Whittier Treat. Contemporary Japan and Popular Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-824818-54-7. 
  8. ^ http://google.com/search?q=cache:LqQQYTdwLK0J:columbia.jp/company/en/ir/news_release/pdf/080808.pdf
  9. ^ http://yokohama-chintai.jp/03keikyu/hinodechokoganecho/
  10. ^ Yano, Christine R. (2004). "Raising the ante of desire: foreign female singers in a Japanese pop music world". In B. Shoesmith. Refashioning Pop Music in Asia: Cosmopolitan Flows, Political Tempos, and Aesthetic Industries. Routledge. pp. 168. ISBN 9780700714018. http://books.google.com/books?id=wT2Mje38yPsC&pg=PA168. 
  11. ^ Dorian, Frederick (1999). World Music. Rough Guide. pp. 148. ISBN 9781858286365. http://books.google.ca/books?id=QzX8THIgRjUC&pg=PA148&dq=Hibari+Misora+Korean&lr=&as_brr=0&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U1f-SbQGRYInCD2dS0CQQkGnj29qw. 
  12. ^ Lie, John (2000). "Ordinary (Korean) Japanese". In Sonia Ryane. Koreans in Japan. Routledge. pp. 2002. ISBN 978-0415219990. http://books.google.ca/books?id=-ay2m5AkWDsC&pg=PA202. 
  13. ^ Weiner, Michael (2004). Race, ethnicity and migration in modern Japan. Routledge Press. pp. 167. ISBN 9780415208543. http://books.google.ca/books?id=_ffOut-Ay_8C&pg=PA169. 
  14. ^ Wan, Foong Woei (13 August 2006). "A touch of Korea". The Straits Times. 
  15. ^ Shukan Bunshu 「『美空ひばりの父は韓国人』はどこまで本当か」, August 10, 1989.
  16. ^ 美空ひばり時代を歌う (1989.7) ISBN 4-10-365402-3
  17. ^ http://www.goodsarchive.com/kakaku/4062098172.html
  18. ^ a b http://www.jmdb.ne.jp/person/p0331260.htm accessed 20 January 2009
  19. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0440914/ accessed 10 February 2009

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