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.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mayo Shouno -- Tonde Istanbul (飛んでイスタンブール)

Osaka-born Mayo Shouno's(庄野真代)5th single, "Tonde Istanbul"(Fly Istanbul), was another example of kayo kyoku's seeming interest in Central Asia and Europe during the late 70s. The exotic sound here, though, was a bit more subdued when compared to Saki Kubota's "Ihojin" and Judy Ongg's "Miserarete". I'd say that there was more of an even mix between the usual kayo kyoku and the exotic sound so that it may have been one of the first examples of what has been called European enka.

Released in April 1978, "Tonde Istanbul"was created by lyricist Tetsuya Chiaki(ちあき哲也) and composer Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平). It went as high as No. 3 on the Oricon charts, and sold more than 600,000 records. In addition, it and the following single, "Monte Carlo de Kanpai"モンテカルロで乾杯....Here's to Monte Carlo) earned Shouno an invitation to that year's Kohaku Utagassen. The song is also available on her 4th album, "Refrain"(1978). Overall, the song was the 19th-ranked song of the year.

According to J-Wiki, Shouno made her first visit to Turkey a couple of years after releasing the biggest hit of her career, and was rather shocked initially:

"I arrived in Istanbul after a long-distance bus ride from Greece, and it was snowing there! The humidity was high, though. We didn't have the Internet to collect any information, so I was surprised to see this weather since 'snow' and 'exotic' don't match at all."

My advice: July is better.


  1. Hello! Me again—hope you don't mind. I've randomly come across this song, liked it—being from Istanbul myself didn't hurt, of course—and thought "I'm sure KK+ has a post about this"... and here it is!

    This surge of late 70's interest in the 'exotic' cultures you talk about piqued my curiosity. Could you possibly comment on that more? Was it a strong trend, or just a fad? What were the reasons? If the impression I got from the Google-translation is not too far-off, I believe the Japanese wiki implies that it (at least partially) had to do with overseas travel finally becoming affordable for the masses? I'd love to know more, but couldn't find any books or articles talking about this period specifically. Maybe it wasn't prominent enough to warrant one.

    This blog is a treasure trove. Thanks again!
    Take care.

    PS. Listened to the other songs you mention too, and while I really like Tonde, I loved Ihoujin, even though I didn't find Kubota's singing to be particularly strong. Miserarete is also nice, but not as memorable as the other two.

    1. Hi, Faruk, Good to hear from you again. And I don't mind at's always nice to talk with fellow fans.

      I think this interest in foreign lands was more than a fad, and in a way, it could go as far back as when Japan was forced to open up by the West in the mid-19th century. Once Japan started opening up to the world...the people started devouring cultures from various European countries.

      And then when Japan began its recovery from World War II, once it started to do well again domestically, I think people started dreaming about traveling to other nations. At the time these "exotic" songs started appearing in the late 70s, air travel was still pretty expensive, but for those who could afford it (which probably included a lot of singers), they could bring back the stories of walking through cities like London or Paris or Istanbul. And perhaps the songwriters could do the same through their creations...or at least, give the sense of doing so.

      As for the songs like "Tonde Istanbul" and "Ihoujin", that particular sound they conveyed lasted from the late 70s and perhaps into the early 80s. That musical torch may have been passed to the genre of City Pop which spoke about life in the big city...Tokyo is the usual target but with the inclusion of US R&B sounds in the 80s, maybe Los Angeles also came into the picture.

      Of course, since those days, travel overseas did become much cheaper although it seems as if it has tailed off in recent years due to the economy and perhaps some growing apathy among the younger generation.

      "Ihoujin" is a wonderful song, isn't it? I also like Keiko Maruyama's "Douzo Kono Mama" with its Bossa beat (

      Perhaps you can answer a question for me. When I was living in Japan, I had seen a few documentaries on Turkey; the hosts and commentators often mentioned that there was a strong bond between Turkey and Japan (I'd heard in university that there are some strong linguistic connections between the two languages). Is there a big interest in Japanese culture in Turkey? Also, I'm interested to know how you got into kayo kyoku. I remember your first comment for the "Midnight Flight" article, and if possible, could you let me know which songs are your favourites?

      If my answer is a bit vague, let me know. But let us keep the conversation going! :)

  2. I do have a sense of the general outline of modern Japanese history--the isolationism of the Edo era with its sakoku policy, Commodore Perry and the ensuing chaos of the Meiji restoration, the eager consuming of Western culture that came with the economic miracle of post-WWII decades... I was more interested in what made Japan look specifically at, say, Middle East, in the 70s. Fashion is a fickle thing though, it may not have had a particular reason, it might have been simply the next new thing in a long line of exotic subjects to superficially indulge in... Tonde's lyrics don't seem to be betraying any real knowledge about its topic at any rate, talking about a 'shining desert' and all :) To be fair, it is very common for foreigners to think that Turks are Arabs and Istanbul should look like Baghdad. (Interesting that many fan-made videos of Ihoujin on Youtube, like this or this, feature images from Turkey's Cappadocia or the Sahara, even though its lyrics have nothing to do with far away places, as far as I can tell).

    I guess you don't ascribe too much validity to J-Wiki's "overseas travel became much more commonplace around that time" claim? Something to chew on though: someone on a forum pointed out to me that Paris Syndrome was first diagnosed in 1986. Makes sense at least on the surface, right?

    As for Japan and Turkey... Apart from the usual cliches of 'advanced technology' or 'ritualistic and polite people', I wouldn't say that the average Turk knows much about Japan; but nonetheless he, in general, has a tremendous amount of awe and respect towards it. Both were proud countries with a long imperial past, brought down to their knees by the relentless onslaught of the West following an initial, futile resistance (both military and cultural) after which they had to rebuild themselves from the ground up, with new national myths and discourses about who they actually are. Both fought a bloody war alongside Germans (Turkey in the first WW, Japan in the second) which they lost. In those wars, both suffered heavy casualties, and committed horrible atrocities themselves (Armenian Genocide, Nanking). Turkey never had its post-war economic miracle though, and that's where they diverge. While Japan was advancing, maybe due to its advantage of being an isolated island without any minority groups inside its borders to deal with (I mean... Ainu?), Turkey, in constant strife with its neighbours (Greece, Armenia, Iran, Iraq...) and its domestic minorities (Kurds), kept failing to erect itself (a coup d'etat every ten years). Add to this image some of the similarities between the two cultures, like the elders-first hierarchy of the society and the like, and in the eyes of most Turks, Japan's portrait as a "fully modernized society who managed to preserve its traditions" practically becomes a mirage, a wet dream of 'what Turkey could (or should) have been'. In fact, recently a couple of friends and I were joking about how the Japanese were probably the only people on Earth that Turks do not hate in some way or other. Having a healthy geographical distance between helps, I'm sure :)

    There isn't enough concrete evidence, so linguists usually hesitate to make any strong claims about the level of kinship between Japanese and Turkish (or the Turkic group in general), but yeah, they probably both belong to the same wider language family, Altaic. They both employ the subject-object-verb word order, and the basic sounds, pronounciation, intonation etc are very similar. It's almost trivial for me to pronounce Japanese words compared to English, which was a real struggle in high school.

  3. [cont'd] Ihoujin is really wonderful. I'm listening to Kubota's other songs in random right now, and there is one I particularly like, named 25時. Apparently it was her second single after Ihoujin, and it's just as mysterious and catchy, this time with a more Indian-inspired melody, featuring a sitar. Sounds great.

    How did I get into kayo kyoku? I haven't, actually. Yet :) I've always been an admirer of Japanese culture and history. I'm an architect, so it was natural and easy for me to appreciate that angle (traditional wooden architectures of Turkey and Japan have quite many similar sides), but I am also deeply interested in the history and philosophy of religions, so Buddhism and Shinto were a source of intrigue. (A book, called "Sufism and Taoism: A Comparative Study of Key Philosophical Concepts" by Toshihiko Izutsu was very influential on me when I was young). I was also a (half-talented but impatient) calligraphy student (Arabic) once, so add Shodou to the list of interests, too. Pizzicato Five and Boris aside, music wasn't on there though. That came later, with the anime shows. I knew about anime before, of course, and was familiar with some of the famous ones, but in the last two or three years I've been watching with more intent and awareness. I was a bit tired of listening to Western music so I started checking out some of the music that caught my ear from those shows, and that brought me here. I'm still very new to it, so I couldn't possibly make a sound judgment on what's better yet, but I love Round Table feat. Nino's Puzzle, for instance. And Nagi Yanagi's Aqua Terrarium. They're probably not considered "kayo kyoku" though, I guess? I read the Wiki article on kayo kyoku but I'm still not sure what exactly it is, especially since Wiki says it specifically points to the 60s, but you seem to mainly take it as the sound of 70s? If Hibari Misoka counts, I'm liking her very much. Her best-of album on Spotify has over 70 songs and I haven't heard anything I disliked, but it's also hard to pick any favorites. Maybe Kawa no Nagare no Yō ni, or Tokyo Kid or Hibari No Hana Uri Musume.

    Anyway. This is getting way too long (Blogger-didn't-accept-it-in-one-piece long; apparently comments have a 4096-characters limit). And I even actually cut out half of it, if you believe me, haha. I've always been bad at being concise, so forgive me if I rambled on too much. Take care.

    1. Hi, Faruk.

      Yeah, after going through the lyrics of those late 70s "exotic" songs, I think the main point was just more atmosphere and perhaps a mention of a geographic landmark and nothing deeper than that.

      Perhaps overseas travel increased during the 70s and 80s compared to the 60s, but I think that was still more with the well-to-do than the middle class. One reason I think that those songs did pretty well was that the majority of the Japanese could use them to dream about their overseas paradises. :) Of course, it wouldn't be too much longer before they could get there.

      Good comparison and contrast between Turkey and Japan. The fact that Japanese society developed throughout the centuries on a relatively isolated (at least back then) archipelago had quite the effect. One of the things I took away from my time in Japan was that the Japanese media seem to have this "us vs. them" mentality when it comes to dealing with foreign personalities such as Hollywood celebrities. It felt to me that the media needed to know and relay to the viewers/readers/listeners about how these personalities REALLY felt about Japan, even if it was completely off-topic. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with an island mentality (unfortunately I'm not well versed in anthropology or psychology).

      My major in university was Japanese Studies, so I received a basic grounding in language, politics, religion and the economy. However, my main era of interest was the immediate Postwar era since I was keenly curious about how Japan managed to pull itself out of the ashes of war. I read a lot of Edwin O. Reischauer and Ezra Vogel at the time.

      As for my musical influences, my parents' record collection and early VHS tapes helped me absorb some of the older kayo kyoku but it was my experiences on that 1981 graduation trip to Japan that finally sparked my interest in Japanese music. But, yes anime, has also been a source.

      You know, what defines "kayo kyoku" probably depends on the representative of the generation you ask. Since "kayo kyoku" literally means "popular songs", so it can go all the way back to the early 20th century and beyond. As for me, I usually consider KK to go up to the late 80s...and then, it changed to J-Pop. But it's possible that a lot of people feel that J-Pop began from the 60s and 70s when the phenomena of Group Sounds and New Music were born. However, I think you'll get no disagreement on Hibari Misora...she's seen as the Queen of Kayo Kyoku.

      Definitely enjoying this talk here!

  4. You know, what defines "kayo kyoku" probably depends on the representative of the generation you ask.

    Naming conventions are always a bit arbitrary anyway, I guess. I watched a bit of Japanese music programmes from a few decades back, and they're so eerily similar to what I remember watching on TRT (NHK of Turkey) when I was a child that it made me giggle. The same unnecessarily huge stage designs where the orchestra is reduced to a piece of decoration far in the background, the same ultra-polite hosts making the same small talk with the artist before she walks to the center and sings with minimal body movement, trying to convey the lyrics through facial expressions only... I almost expected them to start speaking Turkish. Here, they used to call that music "Light Music" (as in 'not-heavy'), which was basically traditional Folk Music and the imperial Art/Classical Music combined, made simpler, catchier and reinterpreted through Western instrumentation and harmonics. Towards the end of the 80's, no one called it light music anymore though, it was 'Türk Pop', then just 'Pop'. All of which makes me think that it was, roughly, the equivalent of Kayokyoku.

    I'm telling you all this because I'm curious about Enka. Naming conventions are always a bit arbitrary, yes, but also, the ones doing the naming don't always hold that type of music in the highest of regards so a subtle condescension occasionaly finds its way into the nomenclature, which makes musicians of that genre sometimes reject the title altogether. There was a type of music in Turkey, called "Arabesk" ('Arab-esque', as you may guess), that became wildly popular in the 80's as a result of a huge internal migration from southeastern regions (Kurdish areas) to the west (basically, Istanbul). It was light-pop infused with Arabian style vocal embellishments and sentimental (weepy, I'd say) lyrics obsessed with impossibility or loss of love and with a general sense of unfairness in life. It was the music of a poor, looked-down-upon minority. So you never heard an arabesk singer use, or accept the term. Then there was "Fantasy Music". It was just Arabesk, why did it have a different name then, I could never tell when I was younger. Now, looking back, I can see why: it was Arabesk, but the singers were not brown (Kurdish) but white people (Turks), so it had to have a different name!

    I occasionally see very dismissive adjectives being used for Enka, and also came across a couple of quotes from some Enka singers who didn't really care for the name (Harumi Miyako, for ex.), and some other, older artists who outright despised the genre (Noriko Awaya: "Whenever I hear enka, I have to get away from the music because I feel like vomiting"), so I got curious if something similar was going on behind the scenes. I wouldn't expect it to carry a heavy stigma like Arabesk does in Turkey, but maybe a milder version? Something like "Those damn illiterate Okinawans and their bad music" or the like? :)

    1. Hi, Faruk.

      It's rather weird, isn't it, how similar some countries' pop cultures are? I think Hong Kong and South Korea also have the same flashy variety shows. Oddly enough, the variety show for the most part died a fairly quick death in the United States and Canada after some 20 odd years from the 50s into the 70s.

      Since I've been back permanently in Canada for the past few years, I can't take an immediate pulse of how enka is perceived back in Japan, but my impression is that it has a love-hate relationship with the public. I don't think it will ever go away but will fill the same musical niche that jazz does in the States. For me, I was rather ambivalent toward enka for years until I guess I got old enough to appreciate it better. Now I consider myself a fan of the genre. I'd say that Arabesk does indeed match what we have in enka. Perhaps country & western would be the US equivalent.

      I've also heard that certain singers in the genre were basically ordered by their management heads to sing enka since they thought that their singers' voices were better suited for the genre. I was not aware that Miyako was not too thrilled but have known that there are singers who are not particularly crazy about their chosen genre. I think that was also probably the case with aidoru singers as well...if the singer and her staff realized that she was able to pull off some hits, it probably didn't take too long for her/him to start performing (or even writing) more mature fare.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.