I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube, Oricon charts are courtesy of and my research is translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chanels -- Machikado Twilight (街角トワイライト)

Another old chestnut from Chanels(シャネルズ), "Machikado Twilight" (Street Corner Twilight) is another one of their classic kayo doo-wop numbers. This was their 3rd single from February 1981, and it meshes together 50s nostalgia group Sha-Na-Na and something that Quentin Tarentino would love to have on one of his movie soundtracks (must be the trumpet).

Written by Reiko Yukawa (湯川れい子)and composed by Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔)under his pen name of Tadao Inoue(井上 忠夫), "Machikado Twilight" may have been channeling (or chaneling?) the 50s, but I keep going back to the 1980s since the Chanels brand was very much stamped during and for that decade, even when the group changed its name to Rats And Star. I definitely put Masayuki Suzuki (鈴木雅之)and his fellows along with things like skinny 90-yen Coke cans, the techno cut and tabletop video games in cafes in the annals of 80s Japanese pop culture.

The song reached No. 1 on Oricon and became the 7th-ranked single of the entire year.

courtesy of
from Flickr

Takkyu Ishino -- Stereo Nights

Hm...I wonder if J.J. Abrams had ever seen this video...

Anyways, the video is how I got to know about techno fun guy Takkyu Ishino's (石野卓球)"Stereo Nights". Naturally, it was something that came on at night since the entire zany nature of it would probably have it featured on one of those avant-garde video clip shows on MTV or Muchmusic (or MUCH as it now known) here in Canada.

Once again, Takkyu Ishino shows off his slightly Weird Al Yankovic type of humour through this cute parody of all things karaoke video....especially like that little dance thing with the wacky couple on the cruise ship near the end. Considering the somewhat grainy nature of the footage, I think the director got things right with the era of those mini-films accompanying the karaoke. And the whole thing just sparked me as something that the cast of one of my favourite comedy shows of all time, "SCTV" would have done. However, it's Ishino himself as our congenial taxi driver coursing through the streets of Tokyo or Yokohama.

This was Ishino's 2nd single outside of his unit, Denki Groove, which came out in 2001 and was also a track on his 4th album from the same year, "Karaoke Jack". "Stereo Nights" has this perky but gentle nature about's not one of those songs that will make you hit and throb on the dance floor but it makes for a nice little respite between the hard thumpers. And at parts, you will know if your headphones are working optimally.

Jiyugaoka NIght Festival

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Takao Kisugi -- Yaketa Natsu (灼けた夏)

Ironically, although Japan was the country that finally got me weaned onto the golden brewskis (working for a national government programme in my old country inevitably meant a lot of enkai [drinking parties] and that of course led to practically mandatory consumption of beer), I only rose to the level of social drinker during my 17 years in the Kanto. However, there are millions of drinkers there that absolutely look forward to guzzling down multiple mugs in the various rooftop beer gardens and izakaya at all levels especially with the incredible heat and humidity.

Takao Kisugi's(来生たかお)goodtime "Yaketa Natsu" (Burning Summer) brings back all those memories of imbibing mass quantities. Mind you, the lyrics by his sister, Etsuko(えつこ), have him crying in his beer about a lost love. However, his jangly melody is pretty chipper...probably good for some car stereo listening while bombing down the Wangan Expressway by Tokyo Bay. Just the way his 2nd single from July 1977 flows (like the proverbial draft from the tap) has me imagining about the summers way back when in a way similar to the feelings I get for Taeko Ohnuki's (大貫妙子)"Summer Connection" which came out just a few days after "Yaketa Natsu".

The single was also a track on Kisugi's 2nd album, "Zig Zag"(ジグザグ)which came out later in the year in October.


Pink Sapphire -- Hello, Goodbye

Their debut of "P.S. I Love You" may have been the most successful single by rock band Pink Sapphire , but I also enjoyed their 3rd single, "Hello, Goodbye". Having nothing to do with The Beatles, this was a song that came out in January 1991 with music by Hiroyuki Miyaguchi (宮口博行)and lyrics by 美遊砂. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite find the proper pronunciation for the lyricist although the last two characters read out as Yusa according to

In any case, "Hello, Goodbye" has a similar sound to the aforementioned debut but there is that wonderful guitar riff in the refrain and lead vocal Aya's voice is a bit more toned down with this one. I caught the official music video on one of the early morning video clip shows as my eyes were opening up; I definitely made sure the volume button was kept somewhat low to be kind to my neighbours (apartment walls are notoriously thin in Japan), but, yeah, quite the aural way to wake up. The song managed to peak at No. 8 on Oricon.

Pink Sapphire

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Teruo Ikeda -- Neon Bune (ネオン舟)

When I first heard and saw Teruo Ikeda(池田輝郎)perform "Neon Bune" (Neon Boat) on NHK's "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート) last week (in fact, I think the above performance is straight from last week's show), I naturally assumed that the enka/Mood Kayo song came straight from the 70s or 80s. Then I did my due diligence and found out that it was actually released for the first time THIS year.

Lyricist Toshiya Niitani (仁井谷俊也)and composer Hideo Mizumori (水森英夫)were responsible for the creation of "Neon Bune" for release in June 2014. Niitani has brought in all the tropes for a bar-friendly Mood Kayo: the tired salaryman, the neon of the city and the remedy of alcohol. Back in my Gunma days, I learned an expression from my colleagues: "Neon ga yonderu" (The neon is calling) which is analogous to "The night is young", and they jokingly did some jazz hands when they said that. "Neon Bune" has that inviting tone for the office-weary to head for that nomiya or izakaya in the downtown area (the song seems to be centered on the city of Hakata) after another 10-hour day. As for the fact that the neon is on the boat, I first thought about yakatabune, those floating versions of izakaya sailing through the canals but they are usually equipped with simple lanterns. So, perhaps the neon boat is referring to those much larger cruise ships slicing through the water in the bay at night. Sad to say, but I never got the opportunity to get on either of those vessels during my time in Tokyo.

Teruo Ikeda is 61 years old at the writing of this article and he's a relative newbie in the business. Born in Saga Prefecture in 1953, he had wanted to become a singer since elementary singer after being moved by a Yukio Hashi (橋幸夫)song. However, for most of his twenties, Ikeda didn't pick up a single least, not in the professional sense, since after having seen enka singers like Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし) bring their A-game, he'd thought that he wouldn't last a day in the industry. Then at the age of 29, he started singing again in the genre of minyo before transitioning to enka in his early 30s and releasing his first indies record in 1995. Finally, in 2007 at the age of 54, Ikeda released his first record on a major label with "Yu-no-Sato Shigure"(湯の里しぐれ...Shower in Yu-no-Sato).

"Neon Bune" is Ikeda's 8th single. It's certainly fine to see that enka is not only humming away in the 21st century but that someone starting from middle age can make his/her mark in show business. It's not just AKB 48 and Johnny's boys, y'know.

Yokohama Chinatown

Mieko Nishijima -- Go-Nen Me no Natsu (五年目の夏)

Well, I saw NHK News announce that the rainy season has ended in the Kanto area, so the truly dog days of summer have begun for Tokyo and vicinity, although temperatures have made the region plenty steamy for several days now.

So, time for a summer least one with natsu in the title. I've chosen Mieko Nishijima's(西島三重子)"Go-Nen Me no Natsu" (The 5th Summer), a dramatic ballad about remembering a past romance. Written and composed by the singer-songwriter, this was from her April 1984 album, "Konna ni Tooku made Kiteshimatta"(こんなに遠くまで来てしまった...I've Ended Up Coming This Far)although I have it on her BEST album, "Yume no Hajimari..." (夢のはじまり...The Beginning of a Dream)from 1986. Compared to some of the sweetly swinging love songs that I've heard from Nishijima in the 70s, "Go-Nen Me no Natsu" has a more urban contemporary edge, and that wailing guitar that I love especially at the end almost takes things into City Pop territory although the lyrics focus solely on the lost relationship.

"Go-Nen Me no Natsu" also reminds me of the song that precedes it in "Yume no Hajimari...", "Self-Portrait" in that I keep imagining a sunset scene as both are playing. However, I think the former song seems to be a little less bitter in the lyrics. In any case, it's just as hard to find information on Nishijima as it is to track down her original albums, so I'm happy to have found a webpage that contains her discography.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ikue Sakakibara -- Robot (ロボット)

I've known about Ikue Sakakibara (榊原郁恵)since her appearance on the 1981 Kohaku Utagassen when she performed the dynamic "Shining Love", and although over the decades, I've seen her more as the quintessential TV tarento/commercial pitchperson than the bikini-wearing aidoru, I've been aware of this single she released back in 1980 which has been regarded as one of the pioneering techno kayo songs.

"Robot" was Sakakibara's 17th single in June 1980, and when I first heard about this pre-"Shining Love" song, I naturally assumed that Yellow Magic Orchestra and its members would be listed in the liner notes. Nothing was further from the truth. Instead it was written by Takashi Matsumoto (松本隆)and composed by Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平). However, considering the popularity of the technopop band at the time and the lyrics of the song which dealt with a robot in love, it wasn't too surprising that the cute synths were brought in for Ikue. Speaking of the synths, it seems like they were also brought in for Manna's "TOKIO Tsushin"(TOKIO 通信)in the same year.

Finally, getting to listen to "Robot", it was interesting to hear Ikue's bubbly voice against the backdrop of a blippy-bloppy computer melody instead of the usual meowing electric guitar and the fast-paced strings of the time. In a way, it kinda foreshadowed where Miharu Koshi's (越美晴)career would go in the early 80s although at this time, Koshi was still in City Pop mode. And then there was watching performances of the song as above with the smiling aidoru doing her version of The Robot...I wonder if later units like Wink or Perfume may have taken some inspiration.

Strangely enough, she apparently didn't end up anywhere on the annual 1980 Oricon rankings although she was able to appear in that year's Kohaku Utagassen for the third of her six appearances on the New Year's Eve special. It would be fun to hear some of the other pioneer techno kayo at that time.

courtesy of
from Flickr