So many people…

Bunkyô is packed. I can't believe this many people are here to see some singer. Maybe there's something to this whole enka thing, after all…

"Mituo-kun", Zyan-kun says as we make our way through the crowd outside the Bunkyô Station. "Which of Ms. Hibari's songs do you like the best?"

"Huh?" I say, surprised. "You like Misora Hibari too?"

"Yeah!" he says. "She's great!"

"Is that right?" my mom asks. "Zyan'yû-kun, you're very well cultured, aren't you."

Zyan-kun blushes. "Oh no, I don't think so! She's just a very good singer!"

"Well, that's very nice," Mom says with a smile, then turns back towards the crowd. We're getting pretty close to the Tôkyô Dome now. I guess I'm going to find out what all the fuss is about…

"So…what do you like from Ms. Hibari, Mituo-ty—kun!" Zyan-kun turns white all of a sudden. Did I just hear what I think I heard? No, no, it must be my imagination. My extremely optimistic imagination…

"Oh! Well, actually…" I say slowly. "Actually, I've never really listened to Misora Hibari…"

For a second, Zyan-kun looks at me confusedly, as if he's forgotten what we were just talking about. Then he collects himself. "Oh yeah…well, that's too bad, isn't it. But trust me, you'll love her!"

Then he's quiet. He looks ahead into the crowd and tries to keep his face from betraying the anxiety I saw a few seconds ago.

I'm concealing anxiety, too. Do I dare to hope? That Zyan-kun really almost said what think he did? Is it possible that he really almost just called me…'Mituo-tyan'? And that he's so anxious because now he's afraid I'll think he's a homosexual?

No, it can't possibly be that. I mean, what are the odds? I'm so hopeless…

I have to get over that fact that Zyan-kun is normal. The best I can possibly hope for is that he never finds out about me. That way, we can still be friends. I can definitely deal with that. I'm sure of it! I just hope that it works out that way...

Anyway! We're getting pretty close now…

Yeah! Actually I can see the Tôkyô Dome now.

Damn, that's a lot of people…

After about twenty minutes of waiting, and my mom's composure going from that of non-visible nervousness to almost-but-still-not-quite-visible worry, we finally get near to the front of the crush. At the entrance to the building, there is a man directing the people (in an orderly line) into the concert hall. He checks everyone's tickets and they enter calmly, one-by-one.

When we do make it to the front, the man checks our tickets and we go in. Mom seems relieved again, and also a bit excited, too, though her face only betrays a bit of excitement. I glance at Zyan-kun, who's grinning a little, but looks a bit worried every so often.

"Zyan-kun," I say with a bit of confusion in my voice. "Why do you like Misora Hibari so much?"

He looks at me weirdly for a second, and then takes on a pondering expression. "Mituo-kun…well, I guess it's just because she's such a good singer, you know? She's a really good singer, Mitsuo-kun, I'm sure you'll love her!"

"I hope so!" I say back cheerfully. I'm starting to wonder how it is that I've never listened to this woman sing before, considering she seems so popular. Well, if Zyan-kun likes her, then I'm sure I will too!

Now we're being shuffled into the concert hall. And it's huge! It needs to be, to fit all the people from outside into it, after all. There's a huge stage at the far end of the room, and the audience is spread out all over the room on all three sides. I don't think I've ever seen such a big room!

"Amazing!" Mom exclaims. "No less for Ms. Hibari, right?"

"Please hurry up!" says one of the ushers loudly to the people near us. "Ms. Hibari will start soon!"

There are some uniformed people who help us find our seats. Everyone gets in and into a seat in about seven minutes. We wait for a few more minutes as the ushers assure us that 'Ms. Hibari will be ready any minute now'. The excitement is so tangible in the room that I think I could reach out and touch it if I tried to. Then, all of a sudden, music starts. It's a sad-sounding piano tune. Then we see a huge projection screen, and it shows an image of Ms. Misora.

Wow…now that's an outfit! She looks like…well, like some kind of huge bird! There's a dress and headdress made from long, black feathers, complete with what look like large black earrings. The words "Never-Ending Journey" appear on the screen. Then she starts to sing, and…

Zyan-kun was definitely right, she's amazing singer! The song's pretty sad, but the singing's so beautiful it almost doesn't matter. Maybe…maybe this is the point of enka after all: just sing something really sad in a really beautiful way and somehow—somehow—it works out. Somehow!

Wow, this stuff really makes you think, doesn't it? I guess…maybe I should have given enka more of a chance when Mom tried to show it me before. I look at her. She's looks like she's in pure awe and amazement. She claps at the intervals between songs, like almost everyone else. Then I look at Zyan-kun. He seems to be thinking about what he's listening to really carefully, but it's also obvious he's awed by 'Ms. Hibari'. For some reason, his expression right now is really…appealing.

I turn back to face the screen, trying to banish 'such thoughts' from my head.

Ms. Misora finishes her song and disappears from the screen. It turns blue and displays the word 'phoenix'. Then, the outlines of two golden phoenixes 'fly' across the screen, and it turns black.

Then, a spotlight shines on the stage, and illuminates 'Ms. Hibari' in the same outfit as she had on in the picture, the 'phoenix' costume. She's standing on a small platform which rises up slowly, as the next song's music begins to play. I think I've heard this one somewhere before…

The platform goes higher, and the crowd is wild with applause. I look over at Mom, and she looks like an excited schoolgirl. Then again, when I look around, almost everyone here, male and female, looks rather like an excited schoolgirl.

Now the top of the platform moves down the ramp that has been created and brings 'Ms. Hibari' down closer to the audience. This second song is…rather sad too, but still nice. Then she starts to sing a third song, and this time I recognize it, since even I've heard it before: 'Tôkyô Kid'.

She keeps singing, one song after another. Every time there's a pause in the singing, I hear thunderous applause. There's…a lot that's sad, that's for sure. After about a half an hour, she starts to sing some upbeat songs, like one about 'Port-Town Number Thirteen', another about martial arts, and one about a rickshaw driver and a letter to a love interest. There's a lot about alcohol here, too. Then, after a few minutes, the music stops and she bows, then begins to speak. She welcomes everybody and thanks us for coming. She talks almost tearfully about some of her previous personal issues, and the crowd is enthralled. Then she starts singing again, and continues for about twenty minutes, finishing with really upbeat song. Then the stage lights go off and the main lights come back on, and the intermission starts.

I look to Zyan-kun; he has a wide grin on his face.

"Wasn't that amazing?" he asks.

"Yeah!" I say. "You were right, she's a really great singer!"

"Mituo, aren't you happy you came now?" my mom asks.

"Yes, Mother," I say, lowering my upper body a bit. "Thank you so much!"

"Thank you again, Mrs. Yamaki," Zyan-kun says to my mom, and does the same.

"It's nothing," she responds with a even less pronounced 'bow'.

We sit excitedly for a few minutes, and then the lights go out again. Suddenly, Ms. Hibari's voice sounds out through the darkness. I can see her outline on the stage. Then, when she finishes the first line of the song, the lights flash on all at once. Now, she's changed into a red cape with a hat that makes her look a bit like a moving rose. She sings several more songs, until, after about ten minutes, the music becomes distinctly different. She starts to sing about sitting at a bar and drinking to drown her sorrows. She talks about a lost lover. In the middle, there's a spoken part, and she begins to cry during it. She sits down on the platform in the middle of the stage, and finishes the song.

I can't help but feel like that song is almost exactly how I feel about Zyan-kun sometimes. Like I just need something to forget my 'sorrows'. I look at him. He looks…sort of sad, actually. Like he's affected by this song too. As Ms. Hibari begins her next song, I think back on what happened before, in the crowd, when I could have sworn that Zyan-kun almost called me 'Mituo-tyan'. But then I push it away again. Just my optimistic imagination, it has to be that…

After that song, she begins to speak again. She makes a few jokes, and then talks about the drinking song, which she says is called 'Sad Drinks'. She relates it to some of her own life experience. I feel like I sort of understand her, through this.

She starts singing again, and sings for a good twenty minutes before reaching another song that makes me pause. It starts out talking about rain, but it's really part of a parable about people. At the third verse, it starts talking about love, and its overpowering hold on a person. Like before, I feel a pang as I think about Zyan-kun, but I don't look at him again because I'm afraid it would be too obvious.

When she finishes that song, she talks again. The uniformed men run out again and start handing out green glow-sticks to the audience members, telling us to wave them around during the last song. As sad music plays, she says that this will be her last song, and thanks the audience. Then, she begins to sing for the last time. She starts out by singing the chorus from her first song, about the 'never-ending journey' of life. Then she begins a new song, and the lyrics burn themselves into my mind:

Once you have decided to change yourself,

That is what a person's meaning is, that is the way of life,

Don't cry, don't lose yourself, even with all the pain,

All people are hopeful, and all people are playful.

The snow's depth hides what is buried beneath,

Wheat begins to sprout, waiting for the spring,

The ordeal of life is to lay oneself open for the world,

Penetrating our pride, we become recognizable.

In my breast, my spirit burns like a flame,

I've decided to take this road at full speed,

I'll exert myself tomorrow, on this road of life,

Where the flowers blow and blossom in the wind.

Ms. Hibari walks down the long stage as the music plays again and again, as she waves at the audience. The hall is lit up by a shower of green lights from the glow-sticks. When she reaches the front, she stretches out her arms triumphantly, and the audience stands up and applauds like crazy. Several confetti 'geysers' shoot up from the stage. I stand up too, in a sort of a daze, and applaud like everyone else. But in my mind, there's only one thought, different from what everyone else is thinking:

Tomorrow, I'm going to tell Zyan-kun. I'm going to tell him that I love him.


Notes: Wow, that was a long chapter, wasn't it? Hope there are still people reading this…

Okay, first off: I was not alive when the Tôkyô Dome Performance (which was called the '不死鳥コンサート' (Husityô Konsâto;'Phoenix Concert') when it happened, because it was meant to symbolize Misora's (unfortunately short-lived) return to good health; phoenixes being a symbol for good health; hence the dress) happened, so I can't claim to have been there personally. However, I am fortunate enough to have access to the video of it, and this is where I'm getting my descriptions, though I have, let's say, 'imagined' a few of the details that I couldn't find out from watching the video. If anyone reading this was there, or if they just happen to know more than me, then please let them feel free to fill me in the details; I may even change it if someone brings up something especially egregious.

Because I can see the video, I'm referencing actual songs in my descriptions. A few that I allude to are '悲しき口笛' (Kanasiki Kutibue; 'Sad Whistle'; the second one), '東京キッド' (Tôkyô Kiddo; 'Tôkyô Kid'), '柔' (Yawara; 'Zyûzitu'; the one about martial arts), '港町十三番地' (Minato Mati Zyûsan Banti; 'Port-Town Number Thirteen'), '車やさん' (Kurumayasan; 'Mr. Driver'; the one about the rickshaw driver and the letter), '愛燦燦' (Ai San San; I'm not really sure how to translate this; the second to last one), and of course, '悲しい酒' (Kanasî Sake; 'Sad Drinks'; this story's name-sake). The song at the beginning is called '終わりなき旅' (Owarinaki Tabi; 'Never-Ending Journey'), and the one at the end is called '人生一路' (Zinsê Itiro; 'The Road of Life'). As for the translation of that song, you have to take it with a grain of salt, because most enka songs, but especially this one, are very hard to translate, because they're often very metaphysical and parabolic. This translation is the best I could come up with, but I tried pretty hard since this is my favorite song. As for the recurring 'this song is really sad' thing, enka is known for being, essentially, sad or nostalgic ballad music. When I once heard the enka singer JERO in concert, he said 'eighty percent of enka songs are sad', which pretty much sums it up. I would also add that the other twenty percent are about life and are really confusing, even for native Japanese speakers (Zinsê Itiro being a prime example).

And speaking of all this, you may be wondering about the whole 'Ms. Hibari' thing. In Japanese, people often refer to Misora affectionately as 'ひばりさん' (Hibari-san), and Ms. Hibari is pretty much an exact translation. The fact that Yamaki progresses from referring to her as 'Ms. Misora' to ' 'Ms. Hibari' ', to 'Ms. Hibari' is a sign of him gaining more and more respect and appreciation for her as he listens to her sing.

By the way, I made up the date of the 23rd of April for the concert because I couldn't find out when in April it took place. However, since then, I've found out the correct date, which is the 11th. I may go back and change it, but I suppose it doesn't really matter.

Also, when Yamaki refers to Zyan'yû as 'normal' (meaning 'heterosexual'), this is again a purposeful attempt to portray the attitudes of the times. It would be unlikely that a person would call themselves or someone else 'straight' in that time, because the concept of someone being 'gay' was not really recognized by much of society yet. I thought about using 'heterosexual', but while 'homosexual' at this time was a common term for a gay person without a sense of being overly formal and technical, 'heterosexual' would probably seem quite technical and formal. As with the word 'homosexual' (except even more-so with this one), referring to a straight person as 'normal', especially in the presence of someone who isn't straight, is going to be very offensive, and may result in your being forced to commit gay seppuku (couldn't resist, Ori!).

I should mention the reason for Yamaki's absolute refusal to even consider the idea that Zyan'yû might be gay. At this time, the identity of being 'gay' was either non-existent or so new that even gay people still weren't exactly sure what to do with it, depending on which country and what part of that country you lived in. As for the view of gay people in Japan, it's harder to say what people would have thought at that time because I don't know anyone who has personal experience with Japan in the late eighties. However, the best way to describe Japan as a place for people who are gay right now is 'safe'. Because of a societal focus on modesty, in general, neither straight nor gay people are very open about sexuality, but in general, Japanese people are, at the worst, uncomfortable with gay people; I've never heard of an instance of bias crimes against gay people in Japan. Of course, there are definitely exceptions, but this is only meant as a general statement, not an assessment of the entire country. I would contrast this with the country I currently live in, where bias crimes are rather common, but gay people feel a bit more comfortable being open about their sexualities (at least in some places). I think I'd rather be safe albeit a bit more hidden, but that's just my opinion.

Finally, I'm afraid I'm going to have to put this story on a five-week hiatus, since I'll be at camp and won't be able to post anything from there. I'll try to work on it and the sixth chapter (which is already almost done) should be posted at the end of the five weeks.

Please, people, review! I'd really love to know if it's worth continuing this, or if no-one actually cares. Even if you want to flame me, I suppose that's better than nothing!

—Dreamstrider