I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Seiko Matsuda/Asako Toki -- Komugi Iro no Mermaid (小麦色のマーメイド)

After first hearing and seeing Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子) on the 1981 Kohaku perform "Natsu no Tobira"夏の扉....The Gates of Summer), I asked my brother when he went on his Japanese school class' graduation trip to Japan during July 1982 to get a Seiko record of some sort, a 45" single or a cassette tape (quaint reading words like "45 single" and "cassette tape", isn't it?). So, it was basically a month-long wait before he came back to Toronto and brought me my very first Seiko-chan piece of vinyl.

I had been expecting a bouncy number a la "Natsu no Tobira", but "Komugi Iro no Mermaid"(Tan-Coloured Mermaid) was something was a slower, swaying tune with Seiko sounding a little more relaxed as if she were that mermaid resting on that rock in the ocean (no doubt an image that many a boy in Japan...and Canada....had while listening). I recall that I was slightly (and mistakenly) disappointed when I first heard it in light of my initial exposure to the Queen of 80s Aidoru and other starlets like Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子)and Hitomi Ishikawa(石川ひとみ), but of course as I started getting further into Japanese pop music, my appreciation for the song grew. "Komugi"may have been sung by an aidoru, but it didn't quite sound like the typical aidoru song.

Of course at the time, I hadn't known the credentials behind the production of the tune, but it turned out that Seiko's 10th single had been written by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆) and composed by Karuho Kureta(呉田軽穂)...which was the pseudonym of Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実). A couple of singles and six months earlier, the duo had created one of Seiko's biggest hits, "Akai Sweet Pea"赤いスイートピー...Red Sweet Pea). That was the New Musician's first time composing a song for Seiko under her fake moniker, and for a lady who had once declared that she would never make tunes for aidoru, she ended up making a few more for Seiko....and with very good results, might I add. "Komugi"entered the Oricon charts at No. 2, so hitting the top spot was a no-brainer. It became the 15th-ranked song for 1982, just three spots down from "Akai Sweet Pea".

Singer Asako Toki(土岐麻子) is someone that I came across just in the last few years of my time in Japan. She is an artist who seems to concentrate on her own brand of light pop, often inflected with some Latin and jazz influences. I'd say that her music would be perfect in a trendy cafe/bar...of which Tokyo has tons. Toki also has a penchant for doing covers of 80s Japanese pop, and so here is her version of "Komugi Iro no Mermaid".

Overall, the interesting thing about this song (that my brother must've bought just a few days after it had been released on July 21) is that it may have been penned by Yuming, but it sounds custom fit for Seiko....and yet it showed the aidoru in a new, more mature light.

Ah, by the way, Seiko's original also came out as a track on a special Christmas album, "Kin Iro no Ribbon"(金色のリボン...Gold Ribbon) in December 1982. Meanwhile, Asako Toki's version is on her album, "Summerin'", which was released in 2008.


  1. Seiko and Asako, I really like both of them. The impressions of their ways of singing are so different, though.
    Basicly any of Karuho Kureta(Yumi Matsutoya)'s tunes is excellent, so I can't tell which is better.
    Asako's is a very summery song adding a taste of bossa nova. I love it.

    1. Hey, Dossy.

      Asako has sung some very nice cover versions over the last few years. I bought a recent album by her, "Light"last year which continued her pleasantly breezy approach. I especially liked her version of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature".

  2. Komugi Iro no Mermaid is definitely one of my favourite songs from Toki Asako! Although, I'm not a huge fan of the other songs on "Light!" (excluding Waltz for Debby, I thought that was an amazing rendition!), but that song was a good enough reason for me to pick up this album. Seiko's version is also great, very different and and a lot more legato. It's a shame that Seiko's CDs are extremely expensive (for a college student anyways). Would pick her stuff up right way if I had the chance.

    1. Asako did some pretty pleasant laidback covers of some of those 80s hits. The first one I came across by her was the cover of YMO's "Kimi ni Mune Kyun" and then came the above cover for Seiko.

      I also got "Light!", partially because I loved the 80's-style cover on the CD. I agree that she does a great job with "Waltz for Debby" since I'm also a big Bill Evans fan.

      Definitely feel your pain about the prices of Japanese pop CDs. One time in Toronto, I came across a Shizuka Kudo disc that was selling for $50! Back in the day, I used to buy Japanese LPs for about $15 to $20. If you are interested in getting some albums, I would recommend "Kaze Tachinu" from 1981 and then "Train" which has all of her best hits composed by Yumi Matsutoya...too bad the CD version doesn't have "Himitsu no Hanazono" like it does on the LP version.

    2. Still me, just changed my name!

      Thanks for the suggestions! I am planning on starting a small CD collection (or even a vinyl one if money allows), definitely will be purchasing one of those albums (leaning towards "Train" at the moment). Probably also going to get a bunch of albums from Miki Matsubara & Anri as well. If you have any recommendations for artists similar to Toki or Seiko, please let me know, still a bit new to the retro j-pop scene!

    3. Hey, James.

      Anri is one of my favourites as well although I haven't bought any of her stuff from the last 15 years. I'm pretty much more for her earlier material. If we're talking about someone close to early Seiko, I think I can suggest Naoko Kawai who started at around the same time.

      For light pop and ballads, I also like to recommend the works of Miki Imai from around the late 80s to early 90s.

    4. I've been listening through some of Naoko Kawai's tracks and I found her slow ballad-like songs quite fantastic! Her live performances are great as well. But, I think "Love Letter" is my favourite so far. It's not ballad, but darn it, it's so catchy!

      And, oh my gosh, Miki Imai, her voice is so mesmerizing... Just overall fantastic! One of the best vocalists I've heard so far.

      Time to go scour the internet for more of their stuff tonight, haha. Thanks for the suggestions :)

    5. Hello, James.

      Glad to hear that you've been enjoying your audio journey. :) Yeah, I've also liked Naoko's fact, there was one that I heard on an ancient audiotape of one of her live albums that I borrowed from a friend of mine decades ago. There was a nice ballad that she sung there but after returning the tape back, I can't remember the title although I think the lyric "Love me..." is in there.

      Miki Imai was a fine discovery for me, too. If my colleague and I hadn't stopped into that highway cafe in Gunma 25 years ago, I would never have heard the lovely sounds of "Natsu wo Kasanete". If you're interested in her albums, I highly recommend her first BEST album, "Ivory" (1989) and then her next album, "Retour".


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