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, December 31, 2013

J-Canuck's 80s Playlist

And yes, we have come to the end of another "Kayo Kyoku Plus" broadcasting year. It's been another amazing 12 months considering that when I first started this monster back at the end of January 2012, I thought that it would be go as far as December 2012. However, even now the other contributors and myself are still talking about individual songs and singers, and it looks like the conversation will continue far into 2014.

As we end 2013, I also would like to give my thanks to nikala, JTM, Marcos V. and jari for all of their articles, first as commenters in 2012 and then as contributors to the blog. I know a lot of songs but their contributions and insights have introduced me to new artists and some hidden gems by some of the old ones for which I will be eternally grateful. I would also like to thank JTM for proposing the idea of our own 80s playlists. From our little conversation about the project, I think all of us were probably knocking our heads on the walls and pillows somewhat more than usual...and without the aid of alcohol...trying to whittle down our choices to our favourite 10 items. Frankly speaking, it's been a fun and excruciating exercise. I've enjoyed reading the lists from JTM and Marcos V, and will be looking forward to reading nikala's Top 10 as well.

So, as for my list....well, it's pretty simple when it comes to criterion. When I was wracking my remaining brain cells (I guess I can still use the plural -s here), I decided that my criterion for the list would simply be just to list the songs that are my go-to tunes for pleasurable listening. They are the ones that I would make a trip to YouTube for and they are the ones that I look forward to when I listen to a singer's specific album. But although setting the criterion was easy, execution was hard. Smashing in a Best 10 list from an entire decade's worth of music was about as difficult as threading a needle in the middle of the Queen Elizabeth Way at 1 a.m. on New Year's Day with a whole ton of "happy" drivers rumbling home.

Therefore, there are a lot of songs that had to fall by the Anri, no Ruiko Kurahashi, no Anzen Chitai, no Mariko Takahashi. And strangely enough, no YMO, a choice which made things a bit easier but also heartbreaking at the same time. As it turned out, all of my favourite techno ditties by Hosono/Sakamoto/Takahashi such as "Rydeen" and "Behind The Mask" were released in 1979. So, I think you all know what I'm gonna put in if there is a 70s playlist. In any case, I will not be ranking the songs by level of love but just chronologically.

Well, we go.

1. EPO -- Downtown (1980): If there were a clarion call that I was meant to be walking among the bright lights and tall skyscrapers of Tokyo, it would be in the form of this song. The combination of City Pop, a dash of technopop and Ms. Sato's bright inviting vocals made an impression on me at a time when I was just falling in love with Japan...and music in general. The hotel district of West Shinjuku is what I always envision when I listen to "Downtown" and hitting the izakaya somewhere downtown with friends is what I wanna do.

2. Akira Terao -- Ruby no Yubiwa (1981): Initially, I couldn't figure out what Terao's obsession was with a piece of jewelry, but it sure sounded cool on the stereo. "Ruby no Yubiwa" is seen as being one of the most successful examples of City Pop, and this slightly flirtatious but strutworthy tune once again brings up memories of "bright lights, big city" with a glass filled with two fingers of fine whiskey on the side. For me, it's one of the anchor songs that got me permanently into Japanese music.

3. Taeko Ohnuki -- Kuro no Clair (1981): As I have mentioned in one of the articles for this unique chanteuse, Ohnuki and her works were something that I had to gradually fit into to appreciate. They were unlike anything that I had heard before in the world of kayo kyoku/J-Pop and it simply took some years. Having said that, "Kuro no Clair" is a ballad that still manages to send a shiver up and down my spine. It is those strings and that voice that simultaneously bring images of "Wuthering Heights" and walking down an Aoyama avenue. Ohnuki may not have had a superstar level of fame but her name has been mentioned in hushed whispers all these decades.

4. Yumi Matsutoya -- Mamotte Agetai (1981): For me, this is probably one of the most feel-good ballads. If I'm having a bad day, I can just put this one up into the headphones and within a few seconds, all will be right with the world once more....or at least, things will seem less bad. Last night, I wrote up an article on Eiichi Ohtaki who had passed away on December 30th, much earlier than he should have. Referring to that fact, and certainly hoping that Yuming will continue to live on much longer, when the Queen of New Music finally decides to leave this mortal coil, this would be the song that I would like to hear as a musical elegy.

5. Seiko Matsuda -- Akai Sweet Pea (1982): This is the one song that I identify most with Seiko-chan. It's an aidoru song but it is also a lovely pop ballad, to boot, and musical proof that Yuming doesn't hoard all of the good stuff for just herself. "Akai Sweet Pea" is just one of those numbers that instantly makes me want to relax and wax nostalgic.

6. Takashi Hosokawa -- Kita Sakaba (1982): When I was thinking up of the list, I knew I had to get this one included. It is an enka song but it has a vibrancy to it that fires up that desire to call up the buddies, head over to the favourite drinking hole and dive into the sake or shochu with nice bowls of steaming oden and hot skewers of freshly grilled yakitori. "Kita Sakaba" is my 2nd choice for karaoke behind Ikuzo Yoshi's "Yukiguni", but in terms of listening, Hosokawa's trademark song is my No. 1 enka for the 80s.

7. H2O -- Omoide ga Ippai (1983): I'm such a sucker for a good harp. Well, I may be exaggerating a bit here but the harp in this anime ballad along with just about everything in the arrangement and the vocals make "Omoide ga Ippai" one of my favourites. And it has become one of the go-to songs for graduation. A group of teachers performed it in front of the graduating class when I was up in Gunma, and by the end, there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

8. Kozo Murashita -- Hatsukoi (1983): Having heard this on "Sounds of Japan" as my very first Kozo Murashita song, I hadn't had any idea that he was more of a folk singer. I just found "Hatsukoi" a pleasant mid-tempo pop song with a bit of synth in it. Along the same lines with EPO's "Downtown", listening to the song conjures up walking through Tokyo of that time.

9. Akina Nakamori -- Kazari janai no yo Namida wa (1984): I think this was the song that cleaved Akina's career between high-flying aidoru and genre-dipping pop superstar. Although during those early years, she also had that sweet-but-sassy aura around her, "Kazari janai no yo Namida wa" launched her transformation into that higher if also more distant form of diva. I had heard the single version of the song through the ranking shows, but it wasn't until I heard the slightly extended version on "Bitter and Sweet" that I realized that I was going to be in for a treat with this album.

10. Miki Imai -- Natsu wo Kasanete (1988): This was the first song that illustrated to me that Japanese popular music had undergone somewhat of a sea change when compared to that early 80s era of aidoru and pop. As I mentioned in the article for the song, I first heard "Natsu wo Kasanete" at a very nice café designed like a small mountain chalet in the wilds of Gunma Prefecture and was immediately struck by the different sort of softness in the arrangement and the vocals. I actually asked the teacher who I was with point blank about the identity of the singer, and it wasn't too long afterwards that I tracked down Imai's BEST album, "Ivory" just on the merits of this one song.

As I hinted at the top of the article, this is my Top 10 list but it is not by any stretch of the imagination an exclusive list of my favourites. There are many more out there by folks like Masayuki Suzuki, Anri, Misato Watanabe, Mariya Takeuchi, etc., but I'm gonna stick with the rules today. However, if I ever decide to follow up and talk about the next 10...


  1. Despite the time stamp that Blogspot denotes, it's only late afternoon here and as I eat the traditional "Toshikoshi Soba" and watch this year's NHK's "Kohaku" telecast before going out to see the fireworks, I wanted to just write to thank you for posting your 80s Playlist.

    Just like with Marcos V's list, I'm glad that you went with more personal favorites than the Oricon Top 100 hits of the 80s. I'm also glad you included artists like EPO, H20 and Murashita Kozo as they are awesome artists that definitely are under-appreciated and are deserving of more attention.

    I absolutely love EPO's song "Downtown" as well as Terao Akira's "Ruby No Yubiwa". Matsuda Seiko's sentimental "Akai Sweet Pea" is also one of my all time favorite songs of her's. Even though I'm not an Enka fan I'm glad you included Hosokawa Takashi's "Kita Sakaba" as it certainly is not only a great Enka song but one of his signature classics (I would vote for Misora Hibari's "Kawa No Naagare No Yo Ni" as being one of the top Enka songs for the 80s).

    Nakamori Akina's "Kazari Janai No Yo Namida Wa" is definitely one of Akina's best songs and I'm glad it made your list as well.

    I'm pleasantly surprised that none of our individual lists have so far overlapped and I think it definitely paints a much broader and more diverse picture of the 80s JPop music scene and show that it was much more than just idol music.

    Thanks again J-Canuck for this great playlist post and 明けましておめでとうございます (Happy New Year 2014)!

    1. Hi, JTM.

      Yes, I'm glad that I based my list on my personal favourites since singers like EPO, Murashita and Ohnuki wouldn't have gotten on otherwise. There are quite a few unsung artists out there and if some readers can give them a try, that would definitely make my day.

      I also agree that the fact that none of our lists have overlapped at this point illustrates at how wide kayo kyoku/J-Pop can be.


    2. About the possibility of overlapping, I found very difficult to happen from the beginning.

      We all have very personal tastes and it would be difficult for we to repeat some songs. To be honest, from JTM's list, the only song I could have covered is "Mizu no Hoshi e Ai wo Komete" as it's one of my favorite songs (I just didn't find a spot for it in my final list). And from J-Canuck's I could have covered Akina's "Kazari Janai No Yo Namida Wa", for sure (but like I said in the answer below, I focused in more or less eurobeat songs and some "b-rated" aidoru singers, so Akina's "Kazari Janai..." would be very out of place). Other than that, it was almost impossible for me to repeat any of you guys songs.

      In the end, just repeating the idea, it proves that the options are really wide, which is a great thing. Compiling the list was a tough but very fun exercise. Let's just wait for nikala's list now.

    3. Hi, Marcos. Thanks for the reply. I think even with all of us doing the blog for several months now, there's still quite a bit of music that we have to dig through so I'm sure we'll discover some more songs in that mountain.

      I can only imagine how much harder a 90s Playlist will be like. And there's even getting into more specific stuff City Pop or just plain aidoru or even a specific singer. Lot of opportunities out there.

    4. I agree with you, J-Canuck. We've a lot of work to do.

      A 90s list would be very hard too. Also, a 00s would not be easier. Well, I thing every list we come up with in the future are gonna be very difficult. A specific singer list, like you said, is very tricky too because the chosen artist will probably be a very beloved one, which will make things extremely complex. But we surely have some great things to look up in the future.

  2. Hi J-Canuck.

    As always, it was great to listen to your selection of songs while reading the commentaries.

    Your first song, “Downtown” by EPO, was a great way to start this list. I didn’t know a lot of her songs, and “Downtown” was one big and nice surprise with its strong bass line and EPO’s lovely vocals. I was in love right from the start of the song. Great City Pop tune!

    About Seiko-chan, I also like “Akai Sweet Pea” a lot. Seiko’s velvety vocals are a great plus in this one. As I’ve been listening to her early material a lot lately, I consider this song to be one of her highlights. Nevertheless, “Shiroi Parasol” is my favorite Seiko song since you posted it earlier this year (last year as we’re already in 2014). In general, I have a year-end list of best songs of the year and also a separate one of the best songs I came to know in the year, with this second embracing every single song I discovered (and loved) in the year despite the original release date. “Shiroi Parasol” is in my best ten of the latter for 2013, thanks to you.

    As for “Omoide ga Ippai” by H2O, I must admit that I clicked in the link for your original post about it and just preferred to watch the video with old school footage of Harajuku. It was way better to hear the song while watching this oldies environment. And the song itself is quite melancholic, and not like AKB48’s songs about graduation, which are kind of forced melancholy for me (I admittedly like some of them, though).

    “Hatsukoi” by Kozo Murashita was another nice surprise. I wasn’t expecting the synths used here and the overall feeling is nice as well. I will give it some more listens. It’ll certainly grow on me.

    Akina’s “Kazari Janai No Yo Namida Wa” is absolutely awesome. I’m a big fan of hers and was just watching her "AKINA EAST LIVE INDEX DVD" (1989) before coming here to finish listening to your list. I could guess that you were going to include it in your list, and it surely would be in mine too if I haven’t decided to go with a more or less eurobeat list (although I would have a hard time deciding between it and “SOUTHERN WIND”). But it’s great you included it. This song surely deserves lots of love.

    And what a pleasurable song by Miki Imai is “Natsu wo Kasanete”. I’ve only listened to the monstrous hit “PRIDE” and to “Doshaburi Wonderland”, a song from her 1987 album “elfin”, before, so it was great to hear this relaxing piece with those beautiful vocals. I just loved it. Thanks a lot for this one as well.

    Well, sorry for another long answer. Your list was very enjoyable and quite relaxing, if you ask me. It was a great experience, especially because of EPO and Miki Imai. I’ll have to give them more chances for now on. Finally, I hope you have a great New Year, J-Canuck. I just have to thank you once more for letting me contribute in the blog and for the great songs you introduced me this past year. And that goes to JTM and nikala as well. Their contributions are always great, and it makes me feel happy to be part of a team like that. What else can I say? Let’s continue to have fun with Kayo Kyoku Plus, for sure.

  3. Your list was very enjoyable J-Canuck, and for once I was familiar with most of these songs whether by listening to them earlier through this blog or on my own, though I discovered pleasurable surprises like H2O and Kozo Murashita. "Omoide ga Ippai" is very emotional and I gotta admit I also got a little teary-eyed while listening to it. Murashita's "Hatsukoi" was just easy on the ears and understated in many ways.

    I definitely agree that "Downtown" and "Ruby no Yubiwa" are two of the most quintessential City Pop songs and even though huge cities may overwhelm me sometimes, I could definitely see myself skipping down a busy street while enjoying bright neon lights while listening to those. West Shinjuku was a great visit during my trip to Tokyo, by the way.

    I also have been checking out your Seiko Matsuda entries over the past, and like Marcos, I also became convinced that her early songs like "Tengoku no Kiss" and "Nobara no Etude" were nicely made. I have to say, I used to dislike her, but that's not really an uncommon opinion. "Akai Sweet Pea" is sweet and nostalgic and is a perfect anthem for early 80's idol sound.

    Your choices for Ohnuki and Akina were great and are two of my favorites of theirs.

    It'd be interesting what we could come up with if we could expand our lists or make a more genre-specific one. Huge thanks to JTM for proposing this idea and for everyone's great contributions. I really enjoy being part of KKP team with you, Marcos V., JTM and jari, and thankful for your entries which have helped me discover some nice artists. May everyone have a pleasant 2014.

    1. Hi, nikala.

      Glad that you enjoyed Tokyo. West Shinjuku is usually a nice place to walk around, and if you ever need to grab some dessert and coffee, the hotels there are more than happy to oblige...for a price, of course.

      As for Seiko, as much as a lot of people hated the burikko image of her, she did have some quality songwriters backing her up. I think any of her Yuming-penned material would be among her best.

      Taeko Ohnuki has been one of the singers that I have been grateful for finally "getting". She just occupied a different parallel world during those early 80s

      Hope you have a great start to your 2014 in Gifu. As for other lists, I can imagine all of us trying to think up of a 90s list. And although I'm not sure about how JTM and Marcos think about this, perhaps a Top 5 or Top 10 list of the J-karaoke songs we like to sing might be in the offing.

  4. I don't know any of this 80's artists, and I'm happily expecting to listen to all songs in this list when I get home from work :D

    I wanted to ask if you guys like GRASS VALLEY or Masayuki Deguchi. I think there's no tag for these band and artist and, if you don't know their music, maybe I could "introduce" you to them :)

    I LOVE their music. You may like GRASS VALLEY's songs such as "MY LOVER" or "FREEZIN'". And their vocalist in his solo project also has good songs, I love "SPEED OF LIFE", for being so catchy to me.

    I hope you like them (if you don't know them) :D

    1. Hello, Hugo.

      Please feel free to peruse them at the end of your day. Actually, I never heard of Grass Valley but I realized that Deguchi became REV in the 90s. He took part in a collaborative effort with Zard, Zyyg and Wands called "Hateshinai Yume wo". (

      I will have to take a listen to "My Lover" and the others later on this weekend. Thanks for the tip!


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