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‘I Want to See Otaki in My Dreams’; Reminiscing on an Old Friend

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ikuko Yoshida, a former classmate of late musician Eiichi Otaki, talks about her memories while showing CDs sent by Otaki after the Great East Japan Earthquake in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, on Wednesday.

MORIOKA — Saturday marked 10 years since the death of Japanese musician Eiichi Otaki at age 65. He is known for hit songs such as “Kimi wa tennenshoku” (You are natural color). A woman who was his high school classmate in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, received CDs and a message of encouragement from Otaki after she lost her husband in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

A number of his masterpieces bring back memories of her late husband. “Otaki’s songs are comforting,” she said.

Otaki was from Yanagawa, now part of Oshu, in the same prefecture, and Ikuko Yoshida, 75, was his classmate at the Kamaishi Minami high school, present-day Kamaishi High School. Looking back on their youth, she said, “He was a kid who thought about nothing but music.”

They sat next to each other in class. Otaki sang Beatles songs to himself and tapped the desk with a pencil as if he were beating a drum during breaks between classes. He admired Elvis Presley so much that he styled his hair into a Pompadour and danced in flare pants in the classroom. Otaki and Yoshida were close and went ayu sweetfish fishing together on holidays.

After graduation, Otaki moved to Tokyo and formed a band called Happy End with lyricist Takashi Matsumoto, 74, and two others. Even after the band took the country by storm, Otaki and Yoshida stayed in touch, catching up on the phone almost every month.

On March 11, 2011, Kamaishi was hit by the earthquake. Yoshida’s house was swept away by the tsunami. Her husband Shigeru, then 66, who is believed to have been at home, died.

Otaki immediately called the heartbroken Yoshida.

“Are you alive? I’ll send you my CDs to help cheer you up,” Otaki said on the phone.

About two weeks later, 20 CDs were delivered to the hotel where she was sheltered. As she listened to “Yume de aetara” (If I see you in my dreams) a song written and composed by Otaki, she could feel her broken heart healing.

“If I see you in my dreams, it would be wonderful,” the song says.

She bought an electronic organ afterwards and played the song on it. Talking to a photo of her late husband, she said, “Do you hear this, darling?”

She received news of Otaki’s sudden death in late 2013. In his later years, Otaki had said to her, “I want to go fishing with you again,” in a winsome tone of voice using the local accent, but the promise was never fulfilled.

Yoshida treasures an album with a handwritten message, which says, “With Love! Always.”

“I am where I am today because I’ve been so encouraged by his songs. If I see him in my dreams, I want to thank him,” she said.