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 22, 2013

TOKIO -- Ambitious Japan

It seems as if a good chunk of the variety shows that thrive on Japanese TV is headed up by the, men....from Johnny's Entertainment. The SMAP members have been doing their fair share of hosting or regularly appearing for years, and the current masters on the hilltop, Arashi, are all over the airwaves. Then, there is TOKIO who have also been well represented, notably by two members: leader Shigeru Joshima and keyboardist Taichi Kokubun. In fact, let's introduce the whole band:

Shigeru Joshima (城島茂) lead guitar
Taichi Kokubun   (国分太一) keyboards
Tatsuya Yamaguchi (山口達也) bass
Masahiro Matsuoka (松岡昌宏) drums
Tomoya Nagase (長瀬智也)     rhythm guitar

I'm no expert on the Johnny's groups, but I think TOKIO is the one band in the harem that actually handles musical instruments on a regular basis. Although I've seen the 5 guys regularly on the variety shows and even in some of the dramas, I only know a couple of their songs off the top of my head. One was their 3rd single, the 1995 "Uwasa no Kiss"うわさのキッス) which was the theme for an anime, "Kiteretsu no Daihyakka"キテレツの大百科). And then there was their 28th single, "Ambitious Japan", released in October 2003.

The song found its genesis from the then-president (now chairman) of railroad company JR Tokai, Yoshiyuki Kasai(葛西敬之), when he approached veteran lyricist, Rei Nakanishi(なかにし礼), and asked him to write a railroad song to coincide with the opening of Tokyo's Shinagawa Station's new area to handle the Shinkansen (Bullet Trains). The song and its title were used as part of the big campaign, with the Bullets' 300 and 700-series trains emblazoned with "AMBITIOUS JAPAN". I even remember seeing the huge posters of the well-suited members of TOKIO adorning the pillars in Shinagawa Station.

The song matches the speed of those Shinkansen. Composed by Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平), the shiny optimistic melody just races along at a happy clip, so I can imagine President Kasai was a pretty happy fellow. It hit the No. 1 spot on Oricon and was the 55th-ranked song of 2003. And for Tsutsumi, who had started his career as a Group Sounds musician and then created songs from the late 60s into the 21st century for singers ranging from Agnes Chan to Shoko Nakagawa, "Ambitious Japan" was his very first No. 1 single! I can only hope that Tsutsumi celebrated by getting that special Green Car seat on one of the 700-series.

courtesy of
b_macd from Flickr


  1. Hi J!

    Would you mind covering an ex-Johnny's band? They're a precursor to TOKIO, and probably more popular in their peak. Though honestly, they weren't in the same era. I'm talking about Otokogumi.

    They're part of the tail end of the Showa era, notably running alongside Hikaru Genji and Shonentai.

    I'm a very big fan, and I love their songs. Maybe you can cover them and see what you think?

    But I looove TOKIO too. :)

    1. Hello again.

      Wow! Completely forgot about Otokogumi. I mean, I know the name but I never got to know their music. I've taken a look at their discography and perhaps "Daybreak" might be the song that I cover. Thanks for letting me know.


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