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January 2004

Hirakawachi Itchome

Hirakawachi Itchome
The Hirakawachi Itchome duo (Defstar Records Inc.)

Two brothers who attend middle school in Sado, an 855-square-kilometer island in the Sea of Japan belonging to Niigata Prefecture, have won the hearts of young people across Japan. Hayashi Ryunosuke, 15, and Naojiro, 13, together form a folk duo called Hirakawachi Itchome (site is Japanese only). Ryunosuke writes the songs and Naojiro sings them. They only made their professional debut in November 2003, but their first CD single, "Tokyo," has already sold more than 50,000 copies.

"Their beautiful harmonies make me feel at peace," comments a middle-school girl. "When I first heard their song, I was surprised by how the lyrics synchronized with my own feelings. And when I bought their CD and listened to it, I was impressed again at the depth of the lyrics."

The tunes that the brothers sing on the acoustic guitar are reminiscent of folk songs of the 1970s. This is because their father, who taught Ryunosuke how to play the guitar, loved folk music when he was young and owns many folk records. Ryunosuke started out by copying the music of folk artists, then soon began writing his own songs. At the end of 2000 he invited Naojiro to join him, and the two brothers took part in a New Year countdown event held in Sado. This is where it all began. After that they started receiving invitations to appear in events all over Japan, and they also started holding street concerts on their days off school.

Hirakawachi Itchome is a curious name, because to a Japanese person it sounds like an address. In fact Hirakawachi is the name of a real town in Shizuoka Prefecture, and itchome means something like "first district." (In the Japanese address system, towns are subdivided into numbered districts). Hirakawachi Itchome is where Ryunosuke and Naojiro were born and raised before they moved to Sado. They say they have many fond memories of family life there. Ryunosuke has explained that he started writing songs because he hoped to express the importance of family through his songs.

In 2002 the brothers entered an audition held by a major music company, and the duo were selected as one of five finalists from among 37,000 applicants, winning the right to make their professional debut. Since then, they have been appearing on television more and more.

Many fans are attracted by Naojiro's crystal clear voice. One such person is a 10-year-old boy living in Aichi Prefecture who grew fond of Hirakawachi Itchome after hearing the duo sing on TV several times. He used the otoshidama (special New Year's allowance) his parents gave him to buy their CD. "I'm happy I finally got to buy it. Naojiro has a nice voice, so I love Hirakawachi," he says.

Hirakawachi Itchome will release its second CD single on February 18. Meanwhile Ryunosuke is scheduled to move on to a local high school in April, so in addition to his activities as a musician, he's also busy studying for the high school entrance exams. The talented and much-loved young duo is sure to continue enchanting people with its music in the years to come.

NOTICE: Since October 9, 2003, Japanese names in Kids Web Japan have been written in their original order: surname first.