Now and then, I did have my taste of the Japanese dessert delicacy of dango skewered on a stick and covered in sweet sauce when I walked through areas such as Asakusa, although my sweet tooth allegiances will always gravitate toward apple pie or a slice of Black Forest. Having said that, for a period of several months at the end of the 20th century, there was no way I could avoid dango. And this song was the cause.
"Dango San Kyodai" (The Three Dumpling Brothers) was the viral earworm of the year, even before the term existed officially. And it's the second example I've come across that a cute little ditty about a Japanese confection became a 10-tonne cultural monster. First, to give credit where it's due, let me show you the full cast behind this Dango Tango (I only put in just the one group up in the heading since I wanted to save on space): there is the Dango Gasshodan, the Himawari Kids, and then on the lead vocals, Kentaro Hayami（速水けんたろう）and Ayumi Shigemori（茂森あゆみ）.
Originally created by commercial ad planner Masahiko Sato and Masumi Uchino（佐藤雅彦・内野真澄） for the children's program, "Okaasan to Issho" （おかあさんといっしょ....With Mother) on NHK Educational (Channel 3) in January 1999, "Dango San Kyodai" soon took a life of its own beyond its parameters, reminiscent of another song about another Japanese sweet, "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun"（およげ！たいやきくん） from almost a quarter-century previously which made Japanese music history and became the most successful song of the Oricon charts. Just like that sweet bean paste-filled pastry shaped like a fish, the Dango Brothers became a runaway hit. Released as a single later in March, it debuted at No. 1 with over a million copies sold already. Eventually, it would sell just a tad under 3 million CDs, becoming the No. 1 single of 1999, beating out multiple hits by wunderkind Hikaru Utada（宇多田ヒカル） and the rock group GLAY. There was some anticipation that "Dango San Kyodai" could even reach the nosebleed heights of "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" but the Dango Brothers only stayed at the top spot for 3 weeks whereas "Taiyaki" held an iron grip at No. 1 for almost 3 months! Still, "Dango San Kyodai" earned a slew of music awards, and still holds the spot as the 4th best-selling single in Oricon history.
Of course, on a cultural level, I'm sure sales of dango went through the proverbial thatched roof. Apparently, even the configuration of the skewered dumplings underwent a slight alteration thanks to the song. A skewer usually holds 4 of the dango, but during the "Dango San Kyodai" boom, the dango makers decided to take away that one extra dumpling for the kiddies.
My appreciation for dango didn't particularly improve, but now I know that if I ever order a plate of the stuff again, there will always be that accordion playing the theme song in my head.