Yamato Concert History

The smash success of the Yamato movie in 1977 caught everyone by surprise, up to and including Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki. But as an advocate for high-quality soundtracks (even for what many others dismissed as ‘kidvid’), he was probably less surprised than most at the explosive popularity of Yamato music. With his extensive background as a producer of concerts and musical theatre, it was a natural step for him to see live performances as a secondary aspect of the Yamato phenomenon, and a whole new form of anime promotion was born. It continues today with high-tech live shows devoted to the music of popular anime like Cowboy Bebop or Full Metal Alchemist, and energetic “Anison” [Anime Song] concerts in which dream-team vocalists band together to belt out favorite opening & closing themes.

As with a great many aspects of anime, Yamato was the pathfinder. Here is a rundown of the many Yamato concerts that lead the way.

The World of Hiroshi Miyagawa

Hiroshi Miyagawa vs. Katsuhisa Hattori; Postal Savings Hall, February 16, 1978

Following Nippon Columbia’s release of the groundbreaking Symphonic Suite Yamato album in December 1977, Hiroshi Miyagawa teamed up with contemporary composer Katsuhisa Hattori to conduct the first live concert to feature Yamato music, an event wisfully named the “Dynamic Happy Concert.” Both men were already famous for many of their other works, which included numerous film and television scores for NHK (Japan’s PBS). They were also both known for being a couple of goofballs both onstage and off, which only added to their popularity.

At right: Miyagawa and Hattori take their bows

Released on LP by Columbia in 1978, it covered a schizophrenic range of genres including a Souza march, a Mozart piano sonata, and pop tunes such as Jesus Christ Superstar and the Rocky Theme. Yamato was still quite new at this time, and the selections from Symphonic Suite were right on the cutting edge. It’s entirely possible that the bulk of this concert’s audience hadn’t even heard them yet, since Miyagawa’s earlier work was a bigger draw. It was only later that Nippon Columbia (in a shrewd marketing move) made Yamato the selling point on the album cover.

Before Yamato hit the big time, Miyagawa’s most famous tune was Una Sera de Tokyo [One Night in Tokyo], which became a pop standard in the 1960s (and greatly informed the composition of The Scarlet Scarf). The liner notes from the World of Miyagawa LP now read as a bridge back to “phase 1” of his career and a blessing for the journey that was just beginning:

Though there is no need to be sad, Una Sera de Tokyo makes the tears flow.

It’s been 14 years since Hiroshi Miyagawa composed that melody to go with Tokiko Iwatani’s lyrics. When Miyagawa’s name is mentioned, I instantly remember this music. That same year saw another song with Iwatani lyrics, The Dream Dawn. It also had an Italian flavor.

There was a tremendous surge of Canzone (Italian song) popularity in those years, and the birth of “Japanese Canzone” proved that our nation harbored some very skillful talent. Hiroshi Miyagawa’s name was etched into my memory, but the actual reading of his name gave me an intense degree of difficulty. Normally, the kanji for his name reads ‘Yasushi.’ The fact that he insists on ‘Hiroshi’ means he is no ordinary person.

His other hits, You Wanted to Meet, Until tears dry, Road of Silver, and Finale of Love, all captured my heart in different ways. I had a bad habit as a DJ of bungling the name in sentences like, “you composed that really well, Yashushi-san.” My mistake.

Although Miyagawa is the focal point of this album, he and Hattori have much in common since they see the world from the same skewed angle, which provides a lot of personality. They are also good at making it look easy, keeping us ignorant of how hard they work by hiding it under humor and mischief. However, Miyagawa’s work has a mood of ennui in it for some reason, especially his most popular songs. Is he hiding a dark side, or is he just serving the Japanese penchant for sad songs? There must be a lot of depths to his personality.

Anyway, after the many hits of the 1950s and 60s, we now enter the 70s with this vibrant live concert, which overflows with fun now that Miyagawa’s new work, Space Battleship Yamato, has taken the spotlight.

After its release, this album lingered in obscurity for 22 years until the Yamato segment was revived in 2000 as bonus tracks on File No. 3 of the Eternal Edition CD series. Read about the series here.

The entire album finally got its due when it was reissued in full as part of the Yamato Sound Almanac series in 2012. Read about it here.

The Symphonic Concert series: 1978

Inspired by the smash success of the Symphonic Suite and the World of Miyagawa albums, Yoshinobu Nishizaki and his cohorts decided to make music a key component in the promotional campaign for Farewell to Yamato, which would open in August, 1978. The Symphonic Concert Space Battleship Yamato was conceived in two parts. The first would be devoted to Series 1 with an almost-complete live performance of Symphonic Suite, and the second would continue on with the world premiere of the new score for Farewell.

It had already been decided that the music for Farewell would be recorded twice. There would be the score for the movie itself, timed to support the onscreen action and somewhat simplified so as not to overtax the monophonic sound systems that Japanese cinema was still saddled with. Far more satisfying to the musicians would be the other recording, the one destined for the symphonic LP. The score could be timed to its own pace and built up to full, glorious stereo. This was the music that would fill up the second half of the Symphonic Concert.

By this time, All Night Nippon had become Yamato‘s home base on radio after the broadcast of the Space Battleship Yamato radio drama in December 1977 and numerous talk-show appearances by Nishizaki and company. Thus, the concert was billed as an “All Night Nippon Special” and a series of 7 shows was lined up throughout the month of July, 1978. They began in Nagoya City Hall (attached to what must have been a memorable meeting of the newly-established Yamato fan club) and made their way to the Koma Theatre in Shinjuku, Tokyo at the end of the month–where the biggest crowds would soon turn up for the biggest movie premiere in Japan’s history.

Record sales had already broken one chart after another, climbing past 800,000 by the beginning of the tour, and the chance to hear that magnificent music unfold live before their eyes drove the fans’ mania to a whole new level. The turnout was unprecedented for orchestral music in Japan, which brought new interest and life to symphonic music in general. Fans were already turning up on the morning of the final, sold-out performance on July 30. The lines went around the block just as they had at movie theatres the year before and would soon do so again.

Above: a ticket to the July 14th performance in Sapporo

At right: program books signed by Yoshinobu Nishizaki. Click here see the entire book from front to back.

Click here to see a newspaper ad for the Symphonic Concert.

Conductor: Hiroshi Miyagawa
Musicians: New Japan Philharmonic symphony orchestra, Nobuo Hara Sharps & Flats
Vocalists: Isao Sasaki , Kazuko Kawashima
Chorus: Music Creation
Dancing: Koma Musical Team
Chairmanship: Yasuhiro Saito, Akinobu Kamebuchi
Narrator: Taichiro Hirokawa
Guests: Yoshinobu Nishizaki, Leiji Matsumoto, Toshio Masuda
Supporters: Nippon Broadcasting, Fuji TV, Toei Co., Ltd.
Sponsor: Nippon Columbia

Eyewitness Report from OUT magazine, October 1978

As we informed you in our August issue, Nagoya City Hall was the starting point for the All Night Nippon Special Tour: Symphonic Concert Space Battleship Yamato on July 5. It moved on to Hiroshima on July 7, Sapporo on the 14th, Fukuoka on the 17th, Osaka on the 18th, and Shinjuku on the 29th and 30th. As a member of the press corps for OUT magazine, I attended the final performance at 1:00 pm.

I arrived at 11:30, and there was already a long line snaking around the theatre. The doors would open one hour before showtime. At 12:20 the doors were still closed, but Yoshinobu Nishizaki emerged at a special meeting place to sign autographs. The doors finally opened at 12:45 and the curtain went up on time at 1:00.

The first part was devoted to Yamato part 1. A scene digest was projected behind the Orchestra, which was conducted by Hiroshi Miyagawa. This and a terrific performance by Nobuo Hara Sharps & Flats reproduced the world of Space Battleship Yamato beautifully. The program followed the order of the LP [Symphonic Suite Yamato]. The projected picture sometimes overwhelmed the song and dance activity on stage, but the overall impression was tremendous. It was quite worth seeing.

The musicians were interesting, particularly Hiroshi Miyagawa and his random, funny shouts.

During a 15-minute intermission, the lobby was crowded and frenetic, filled with enthusiastic fans wearing Kodai t-shirts. LPs and other Yamato items were for sale.

The second half was devoted to Farewell to Yamato, featuring a movie trailer, music pieces entitled Andromeda and White Comet, and an appearance by Mr. Nishizaki. Movie production had just been completed on the 29th, and the music scoring was being worked out scene by scene. Nishizaki gave an explanation of what would happen in ‘Yamato Part 2′ and introduced another new piece called Hero’s Hill.

Teresa Forever was performed by Isao Sasaki, and we were treated to a 3-way conversation with the singer, Nishizaki and Miyagawa (peppered with comedy and abuse) about how it was recorded. After the orchestra played the ‘Dessler Trilogy,’ Directors Toshio Masuda and Leiji Matsumoto were introduced to a standing ovation. After the last number (Great Love), the officials were presented with bouquets and the Yamato Theme was played as an encore.

I began to worry that there wasn’t enough time left to ready the film for its premiere on August 5th, but indeed the lines were already meandering around Shinjuku’s Toei Palace theatre at 11pm the night before. A policeman came over and insisted that people under 18 were not allowed to line up that late. He was about to send them home, but three of the theatre managers talked him out of it. With such things going on, they decided to open the doors the next morning at 5:30am.

Farewell to Yamato easily surpassed Star Wars this summer, and everyone who was there at sunrise on opening day received free animation cels.

Click here to read another account of the Symphonic Concert (and thoughts about Yamato vs. Star Wars) from OUT‘s sister magazine, Rendezvous.

The Festival in Budokan: 1980

Looking for a link between Yamato and the Beatles? Here it is: they both played the Budokan. Built as a martial arts arena for the 1964 Olympics, this massive stadium later became a destination point for music acts from around the world, and was the launch pad for the Beatles’ first Asian tour. “Live from Budokan” concert albums emerged from a number of different acts in subsequent years, and the Space Battleship Yamato concerts performed here in July 1980 provided a new measure of its success as a musical phenomenon. Fans were definitely ready for it; when Animage magazine published the first announcement in the spring, over 1,000 ticket requests were received in the first three days.

The concert was a carnival of light and sound designed to look back at the beginning of the saga and then forward to to the approach of Be Forever Yamato. The event was both comprehensive and visually breathtaking with a massive stage dressed as Yamato‘s bridge with scenes both old and new projected onto the giant viewscreen. Members of the cast and crew appeared on stage and Miyagawa conducted the orchestra, which performed many new pieces. Also returning was Nobuo Hara Sharps & Flats, a backup band from the 1978 concert, to fill in between orchestral numbers. Isao Sasaki lead a small army of vocalists, all of whom had songs of their own to perform from the new film.

Unlike the 1978 concert, this one was performed only twice (afternoon and evening) on July 24 and attended by 20,000 fans. The evening performance was taped for broadcast on Tokyo 12 Channel, a special-interest network that was friendly to anime programming. Regrettably, the concert has never been released on video, and is thus eternally compromised by some sticky rights issues: vocalists Akira Fuse and Hiromi Iwasaki both performed their Be Forever songs live, but because they belonged to other record labels Nippon Columbia deleted them from the album release.

The album itself is a double-disc set containing the afternoon show. The first LP (above left) was released in December 1980, and the first CD (above center) followed 15 years later as part of the 1995 reissue of the entire Yamato catalog. The latest reissue was part of the Yamato Sound Almanac series in 2013. Read about it here.

Like all the other major events in Yamato history, this too had its own program book. Click here to see it, along with a scrapbook of more photos.

Listening to the concert now, the real high point is hearing the fans react to the voice actors’ live stage readings of scenes from Be Forever, which hadn’t yet opened in theatres. The most intense of these was a dialogue between Yuki and Alphon, which sounded to the shocked audience like the beginnings of a love triangle. Horrified screams erupted from the throats of teenage girls, crying out in genuine shock. There is no better example of how emotionally invested the fans had become.

Eyewitness report from The Anime magazine, 1980:

It has already been six years since the first TV broadcast. Just before the premiere of the third movie, a major event drew tens of thousands of fans to the Budokan martial arts arena in the Kanto area.

The big story this year may be the heat on the Japanese islands. The day before this event was the hottest on record. It was already sweltering on the morning of Thursday, July24. But it was not enough to keep the fans from rushing to the Budokan early in the day. This was only the second time an anime festival was performed here, the first being dedicated to Future Boy Conan.This one was all about Space Battleship Yamato, and the fans were seriously passionate.

No one should have been surprised to see all 10,000 seats of that enormous theatre filled to capacity. The Yamato‘s bridge had been recreated to fill the stage, lined with more speakers than anyone could count and the huge video panel had been designed to show film clips.

At 11am, the curtain rose. First up were Kei Tomiyama (Kodai) and Yoko Asagami (Yuki) who read fan letters aloud to the audience. Then narration from Michio Hazama accompanied the orchestra with images projected onto the video panel. Hiroshi Miyagawa conducted the New Japan Philharmonic, which alternated with Nobuo Hara Sharps & Flats. Their dynamic performances resounded through the hall, punctuated with trumpet, piano, and violin solos by some of Japan’s best musical wizards.

Singer Chiyoko Shimakura was listed in the program book, but did not appear on stage. A live radio drama was performed by the cast, but Kei Tomiyama disappeared at one point and did not return. His pre-recorded voice was heard from then on.

There was a voice-acting demo featuring Hideo Nakamura (Shima/Venture), Masayuki Ibu (Dessler and the EDF Commander), and Akira Kamiya (Kato/Conroy). Laser lights and mirror ball effects greeted the arrival of Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki. In hushed tones he deeply apologized for previously deciding to end the Yamato story with Farewell, and openly sympathized with all the fans by saying he was wrong to do so. He brightened when he was answered by thunderous applause.

He conveyed the feelings of Leiji Matsumoto never to betray the expectations of the fans, which further raised hopes for the future.

After his discussion with lyricist Yu Aku, three new songs were performed by Hiromi Iwasaki and Mitsuko Horie. The Yamato Theme united everyone in the end, and the curtain closed.

From the archives: A vintage copy of the stage direction notes for the Festival in Budokan

The Grand Festival: 1983

The 1978 concert tour had six stops. The Festival in Budokan was performed only twice. The last concert of the production years went on just once. But this dropping of numbers was inverse to saga’s popularity, which was at an all-time high on March 15, 1983. With just four days left before the premiere of Final Yamato and the animation staff going full-tilt to meet that deadline, the Space Battleship Yamato Grand Festival was held at the Kousei Nenkin Hall in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Attendees were those who had either won a ticket lottery or received a postcard by mail. As a result, no one had to camp overnight as they had at past Yamato events. By start time, the venue was packed with over 2,000 fans. Prior to the curtain going up, the lobby was a frenzy of buying and selling. Fans scooped up posters and records and put in reservations for the forthcoming videotape, which would be released while the film was still in theatres. Naturally, Final Yamato merchandise was at a premium. Everyone had taken their seats by 4:30, and the tension rose as backstage rehearsals delayed the show by another 15 minutes…

But then the curtains rose!

As the lights dimmed, vocalist Kazuko Kawashima unleashed her famous Endless Expanse of Outer Space scat, filling the hall with the Yamato mood. Then Master of Ceremonies Konomi Akioka addressed the crowd:

“Yamato is what it means to be young. At times it is sad, at others it is filled with great joy. In the last 10 years, each of us has felt the connection to Yamato in their hearts. Now, Yamato is about to fade into silence. We will sing the last songs of Yamato to you now. It has given us many vivid memories that will remain in our hearts forever.”

With that, Isao Sasaki took command to perform the two most enduring songs, the Yamato Theme and The Scarlet Scarf. Backing him up were Nobuo Hara Sharps and Flats, and Maestro Hiroshi Miyagawa conducting Symphony Orchestra Yamato. They proceeded with a medley of favorites, including From Yamato with love, Galactic Legend, and the instrumental, Endless Love.

Next up was the man of the hour, Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki. No stranger to the stage, he easily took center position and began a conversation with his two composers, Hiroshi Miyagawa and Kentaro Haneda (shown with Nishizaki at left). They were supposed to talk for 15 minutes, but all three got carried away and took 40, encouraged by continuous applause. Nishizaki introduced an imaginary scene. “Kodai and Yuki are walking together in a park,” he said, and the two composers played along, creating original music, setting the mood on piano. Haneda created a romantic, dignified piece while the prankster Miyagawa belted out a funky tune.

“Hey, we threw that one out a long time ago,” Nishizaki protested. “Stop fooling around, Miyagawa!” Music spilled forth from there as the two played non-stop. After waiting patiently, the next person on the schedule finally motioned for the three to “Cut it short,” which was amusing in and of itself.

Next, a condensed Yamato history was shown with live stage-reads. Famous scenes were shown, re-enacted by their respective voice actors as a special treat for the audience. The initial scene was from the “Planet Beemera” episode in the first series, with Kodai and Analyzer talking on the sun deck. From Farewell to Yamato, there was the powerful scene of Sanada and Kodai inside the heart of the Comet Empire. Their performance, coupled with the background music, moved fans to tears even many years after watching the original movie.

Shima’s voice actor, Hideo Nakamura, was ill and couldn’t perform, so stand-in Taro Kuriman took over his role in the Hero’s Hill scene from The New Voyage. Analyzer’s skirt-lifting scene drew appreciative laughter from the audience.

Captain Okita, who would soon make his comeback in Final Yamato, was shown in the “goodbye to Earth” scene from first series. There were also memorable scenes from Be Forever and Farewell that brought back many memories, centering on Kodai and Yuki. The fans were completely immersed into the world of Yamato as they laughed or cried with their favorite moments.

Akira Kamiya mentioned that, “In the beginning, I was told to make Saburo Kato [Conroy] sound 2~3 years older than Kodai. Now, doing Shiro Kato’s voice [Conroy’s brother] comes quite naturally.”

The next segment was the funniest. Although it was supposed to be a trivia quiz for fans, it turned instead into a game show parody. The teams were lead by Isao Sasaki, Yoko Asagami, Kei Tomiyama, and Ichiro Nagai. Selected fans were split up into their respective teams.

“Question: How many crewmembers are on Yamato?”

Nobody seemed to know this one. The correct answer was 114, but for some reason “Life Support Coordinator Yuki Mori” didn’t know this. There were also trick questions just to make things interesting, but fans knew most of the answers.

Next, Junko Yagami (shown at right) sang the new Love Supreme, which was already rising in the song charts. Nishizaki explained, “I asked her to sing this song from Yuki to Kodai when they are united. This song is truly Yuki’s feeling.” Even though none of the fans had seen the movie yet, they could tell Love Supreme would be a perfect fit.

Finally, Isao Sasaki returned to sing Kodai and Yamato, which revolves around Kodai’s demoralization and his decision to resign. As revealed in the song, Yamato was his brother, his father and friend all rolled into one. For the finale, the entire theater became as one with Sasaki’s new version of the original theme, Yamato ’83. (See notes and lyrics on all these songs here.)

Never was Final Yamato more eagerly anticipated than at that moment.

Grand Symphony Yamato: 1984

Above left: LP release/Nippon Columbia 9/21/1984
Far left: Cassette (CAR-502)
Top right: First CD, 6/21/1985 (33C35-7397)
Above: Second CD, 6/22/1995 (COCC-12672)
Left: Third CD from Eternal Edition Premium set,
11/25/2004 (COCX-33021)

Conductor: Naoto Otomo
Piano soloist: Kentaro Haneda
Violin soloist: Tsugio Tokunaga
Vocalist: Kazuko Kawashima

The swan song for Yamato concerts came about a year later. Shortly after completing his work on Final Yamato, Kentaro Haneda (now in great demand as a composer for other anime such as Macross, Orguss, and Space Cobra) got to work on his own personal brainchild, the Grand Symphony Yamato. From December 1983 to April 1984 he reworked Miyagawa’s best themes and motifs from the saga into a cohesive, 4-movement symphony that was performed by the NHK Symphony Orchestra on May 4 at the Postal Life Insurance Hall in Gotanda, Tokyo.

It was a world-class performance that provided Yamato with a glorious finale. 1,800 fans from 12 to 24 years old were chosen by lottery to attend. Since it was recorded on video, formal dress was required. A non-Yamato overture was performed prior to Producer Nishizaki’s opening remarks, but it was not recorded. The concert became one of three Yamato albums released on CD along with the first two symphonic suites in 1985. Numerous video releases also appeared in multiple formats. A ‘trackdown’ (remixed) recording of the symphony was included in the 2004 Eternal Edition Premium box set which was remastered from a combination of video and tape sources. The most recent release was a DVD from Columbia in 2005.

First Laserdisc release (1985), second LD release (1993), DVD release (2005)

Kentaro Haneda’s liner notes:

Movement One: “Birth”

As the strings and timpani begin the introductory sequence in a low C, we get the suggestion of the Birth of Yamato. As the introduction ends, we get the famous Yamato Theme with various orchestrations. Along the way there is a sequence with dynamic brass and percussion instruments, an important mechanism to emphasize the space battleship. Once this ends, there is a short oboe solo that beautifully begins the second important piece, known to everybody as the Iscandar Theme. As the first movement unfolds, the low timpani solo leads into the sonata. Then the central part reaches a climax, with all the instruments clashing together with the first and second themes, giving a very rousing performance. The first movement concludes with the focus on the violins as they reprise the sweet melody of the Iscandar theme.

Above, left to right: Yoshinobu Nishizaki, vocalist Kazuko Kawashima, Violinist Tsugio Tokunaga, Conductor Naoto Otomo

Movement Two: “Fighting” Scherzo

After the rousing Intro, two themes emerge. One is the music for the Temple section of Final Yamato, and the other is for the Cosmo Tiger theme from the same movie. These two themes are very different, but also similar in certain ways, and we have them flow both together and apart to emphasize their dual natures. This movement utilizes the A–A’–B–A pattern that’s used in scenes of old, and the brass section really shows the grand scale of their elevated skills, but the brass section surpassed my every expectation with their performance. The central trio brings in a breather during the battle, and they introduce what will become the “prayer” of the third movement. Then once the central section ends, the battle rages forth again as the trombones, tuba, cello and contra bass brings forth a powerful, evil melody; the theme for The History of Uruk from Final Yamato.

Movement Three: “Prayer” Adagio

Why do people fight? Why can’t they understand each other? As many trees are green, the islands have their songs, water is abundant and the sky is blue, why is there no feeling for the eternal chorus of peace? I wrote this movement with these thoughts in mind.

Movement Four: Future of Hope – Doppel Concerto

This section begins with people shaking off their concerns. As stated before, this is an instrumental solo for the piano and violin concerto. The form is a freestyle rhapsody. As the piano and violin enter a rough dialogue with each other to end the first movement—at times in harmony, and at other times in chaos—one of the themes expressed is that there’s nothing more precious than love. And everyone listening will be able to pick up on that feeling.

This theme of eternal love is the only thing I find fitting to cover as a finale for the second movement. Once this ends, the trumpets and stringed instruments begin the Canonesque theme of the third movement, with prayer as its motif. Then the solo violin plays a piece on love and peace. We hear the tracks The Love of Tomorrow and The Future of Hope. In the end, everyone plays the music of Love and Peace, and the whole ensemble lands into the creation of a Utopia.

At 35, I would like to say this production was the highlight of my 17-year career, and I owe it all to Producer Nishizaki, with whom I worked for the first time on this project.

-Kentaro Haneda, 1985

See clips from the Grand Symphony here: Clip 1 | Clip 2 | Clip 3 | Clip 4.
See the whole thing here. Read a tribute to Haneda here.

25 years after its original release, the Grand Symphony was revived for Yamato Resurrection when it was decided to use the Fourth Movement in the soundtrack for the film’s climax. To mark the occasion, a completely new studio recording was made and released on CD as Symphony Space Battleship Yamato 2009.

The original got another reissue upon its 30th anniversary as part of the Yamato Sound Almanac series in 2014. Read about that series here.

Another recording took place in August 2018 with a variant ending from Haneda’s original sheet music. It was released on CD by Denon in April, 2019. Read more about it here.

Order it from Amazon.jp here or CD Japan here.

Continue to Part 2: the legacy and remake years

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