Denny Sinnoh's "Akihabara Starlight"

“Hanako Oku and the Books Never Written.”

hanako oku writing

My son once had a kid’s joke book that included a section called “Famous Books Never Written”.  The list included such gag titles as “Under The Grandstands” by Seymour Butz, “Rusty Bed Springs” by I.P. Nightly, and “The Joys of  Drinking” by Al Coholic, etc.  Of course these are all joke titles.  There are probably some books that should never be written.  However, there are some that NEED to be written …

Sometimes when I am listening to Hanako Oku albums, and she has sent me into another delightful reverie, I sometimes fantasize what it might be like to be Hanako Oku’s American Biographer.  Although Oku-san is well known in Japan, she is largely unheard of in the US (my sophisticated readers being an exception).  Although my Ph.D. is not in Music, or Japanese Studies, and I don’t play the piano, I started to think — could I write a book about Hanako Oku?  Why not?!?!?  Why CAN’T I research her life story, and publish it for an American audience?



The book could introduce her music to an American audience.  In my vision, I want to tell HER story. (This is a  fairly safe fantasy, as most daydreams go.)  Of course, the fact that that I am not fluent in Japanese is probably the greatest barrier to such a manuscript.  I once contacted some Japanese language teachers at a university, and they were a little surprised that I would be so interested. One said, you mean “that diva for heart breakers?” (direct quote).

At first I thought that I would be able to compile material from the Internet, find translations of lyrics, and otherwise meaningfully transcribe the songs.  Perhaps the record company could be of some help.  What a challenge … a new academic world to explore … and so much Japanese culture to be learned along the way!  Also, I could relate stories of Oku-san’s youth to her development as an artist … growing up … through the indie years … the subways, the …


Oh, … sorry.  Back to reality.  Need to pay attention while driving.  If only I could write as well as Seymour Butz  : (

I even had a title for the book picked out: “The Little Great One”.

Why this title?  It could not be “The Great One” of course, because that name was previously affixed to the late Jackie Gleason, famous comedian and American television pioneer.  Mr Gleason would have outweighed Oku-san by at least 200 pounds.


Click to view full size.

Hanako Oku would be titled the “Little Great One” because:

1). Although she may be small in stature, she looms very large as a singer-songwriter-performer!  She communicates big, intense emotions, in an effective way, and this makes her great!   All that sound, all those emotions emanating of this little lady with just a portable piano.  “When I listen to a Hanako Oku ballad, it feels like my heart is breaking, but also filled with joy — at the same time!” (he says — quoting himself) . 

2). Oku-san may also be considered “little” in that she may not be as popular, or as big a record seller as some others.  She may not have as many hits as certain trendy mega-hit pop groups (you can fill in the-name-of-whoever-the-Japanese-Justin-Bieber-is-here), but her music is BETTER, and will stand the test of time.  She is superior to most of the pop music “product” out there.  I think that her songs are more meaningful than most, even if I do not always have an English translation.  She is a GIANT among lesser songwriter performers.

Those, and for other reasons Mr. Butz may think of later, are my reasons why Hanako Oku is “The Little Great One”. I’m sure Jackie Gleason would agree.

Gotta drive …

zoom to the moon

Starlight: It took five years for Hanko Oku’s song “Garnet” to reach my world.


Comments on: "Hanako Oku and the Books Never Written" (4)

  1. I’ve always wondered if there was anything more behind your calling her “The Little Great One” besides her being a great artist.

    That first image is from 2006, isn’t it? I remember seeing that jacket in the music video for Chiisana Hoshi / 小さな星. Oh wait, it is from the video, isn’t it?

    And, well, just to show off a little (I hope you don’t mind), the rest of the images:

    Hatsukoi / 初恋 promotional image
    Waratte Waratte / 笑って笑って (or is it BIRTHDAY?) promo image
    Garnet / ガーネット single cover art

    Don’t forget to send me a free copy when you finish the book 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] searching for a music video by The Little Great One this week, I remembered these magical moments captured at Oku-san’s 2011 performance at a Red […]


  3. […] Although she sings in Japanese — a language I do not understand — she still touches my soul with her songs. You know the story … […]


  4. […] agree with Snivy, I think The Little Great One looks very pretty and exquisitely feminine throughout these performances. “What a nice lady […]


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