On my first trip to Japan in 2007, I learned about an enka store in the Ameyoko shopping district of Ueno, near Tokyo, called “Rhythm” （リズム）. At the time I was pretty deficient in Japanese and only knew of one enka singer by name, but the shopkeeper was very helpful in finding a couple of CDs of the singer. I thanked them as best I could, and promised myself I’d come back. I didn’t get a chance to in 2010, but in 2012 I went back with my friend John, also an enka fan. This time I could communicate much better, and talked to both the owner, Kazuhiko Kobayashi and his wife, and was able to tell them things like where I was from, how much I liked certain singers, and to tell them in more detail what kind of enka I was interested in. They were very surprised to know that there were Americans who had even heard of enka, much less being fans of the music, and they happily let me and John get pictures made with them. Even better, they took pictures of John and me and posted them on their wall of photos.
The reason I know this, there is a cable channel called NHKWorld, which is an English-language re-broadcast of select NHK programs from Japan, and one episode of “Tokyo Eye” covered enka. The TV crew went to Rhythm and interviewed Kobayashi-san, who told them of how surprised he was that foreigners would come to his store. The cameraman happened to pan down the wall of photos, and I saw part of the photo of me and John. Needless to say, it was quite a feeling to see a picture of oneself, in a tiny store in Japan, broadcast literally all over the world.
At any rate, this is Kobayashi-san and his wife, with some ugly foreigner! My next trip, I will go back to visit them again!