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.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jun Togawa/Haruomi Hosono -- Yumemiru Yakusoku (夢見る約束)

I've been meaning to write about Jun Togawa (戸川純) for a while, but often dropped the idea since there is a lot written on her on the web in both Japanese and English thanks to the cult following she has acquired on both sides of the globe. But she is just so intriguing that I had to post something. Just listening to her songs from the 80's and early 90's you will get an idea that she's no ordinary singer. Yes, she was also one of my go-to artists when I was getting addicted to Japanese technopop and new wave in 2004, although I had no idea back then what she actually sang about (she is often associated with eroguro subculture). I was just so fascinated by how she could switch between parodic aidoru squeals and aggressive operatics within a single song. Plus, her PVs are a riot to watch. Some people compare her to Shiina Ringo, but I say her style belongs in a bizarre world of its own. And her life hasn't strayed too far from her ideas. I will bring you over to generasia to explain the rest.

Meanwhile, I chose to profile one of her more "normal" songs, "Yumemiru Yakusoku" (夢見る約束...Promised Dream), and by normal I mean there aren't any vocal acrobatics or disturbing lyrics she is usually known for. Instead, we have a haunting folksy melody accompanied by jittery techno synths as she sings about an innocent picnic with someone on a hillside. I could see Miharu Koshi (コシミハル) tackling this kind of song in the mid 80's, though Togawa's vocals give it a different vibe. Just my opinion, but there's something subtly sinister in her delivery. Perhaps the lyrics are ironic. The song appears on her album "Kyokuto Ian Shoka" (極東慰安唱歌...Far Eastern Comfort Songs) from March 1985, which she released under the collaborative project name Jun Togawa Unit (which also included Yoichiro Yoshikawa and Iio Yoshifumi). It peaked at 15th spot on Oricon weeklies.

Not surprisingly, "Yumemiru Yakusoku" is a cover of an obscure song by Haruomi Hosono (細野晴臣) (who has frequently collaborated with Miharu) which appeared as a bonus track on the limited edition of his 1982 album "Philharmony" (フィルハーモニー). His version is more chunky techno and while it's good technically, Togawa's is still the definitive one. You know, Hosono may be a musical genius but he's not exactly a singer per se...

Lastly, here's Togawa in action performing the song on TV. She definitely doesn't take herself seriously here. Just another day of media exposure.

Source: generasia


  1. Thanks for putting up an article on Jun Togawa. She's definitely a character. I actually kept passing some of her albums at Tower Records in Shibuya; her record covers were quite the standout. One time, I was able to listen to one of her more recent efforts via a listening post there. And yup....quite a lot of shrieking and screaming...pretty and punkish.

    Your comment on her like of eroguro was interesting since I remembering reading about it in my Japanese History class. I think it was an expression that came about in Taisho Era Japan, and I noticed in some of her videos that there was some of that period's imagery. Perhaps Togawa had a general interest in post-Meiji Restoration Japan. And certainly I could see how some of her stylings got transferred onto Ringo Shiina.

    From your generasia article, I read about her late sister, Kyoko Togawa. I remember watching one of her videos on MTV Japan years ago and noticing that she was closer to the mainstream pop side of things.

    1. Thank you for mentioning the connection between eroguro and Taisho Japan. Yep, she was definitely interested in that particular era and even covered a number of songs from back then. Her first music project Guernica (with Koji Ueno) was an obvious homage to pre-war jazz and cabaret music of Japan.

      I did listen to Kyoko Togawa for a bit. She was definitely more poppy and not as eccentric as her sister but I kinda enjoyed her first album. Youtube actually has an interview of the two of them on some TV show: Jun was decked out in a strange dress and a big blonde wig whereas Kyoko came normally dressed. The interviewers couldn't get enough of those two.

  2. I was looking for info on this song. I love JT and think she's really a superior artist amongst Japan's so many superior artists.

    What puzzles me about this song is the style. You said "folkish", I agree, but what exactly? To me it has some Spanish air, like a Pasodoble or whatever (I'm very ignorant). I love it, and I especially love it sung by JT. I think you perceive true genius in performing when you realize it is an utterly different song. She grabs styles by the neck and re-invent them.

    I find curious your perception of something sinister added by her, never thought of that. First time I heard it she sounded so honest, modest, elegant and serious that I knew I would do whatever she wanted me to do, despite not understanding a word. It makes sense though if you consider her whole career imho.

    Thanks for your post, it's wonderful.

    Some Guy

    PD: So... What style is this then?

  3. I found an album Jun Togawa, Miharu Koshi, Hosono and others all worked on from the depths of suggested YouTube videos, 超時空コロダスタン旅行記 (Chojiku Korodasutan Ryokoki) as "Apogee & Perigee". Apparently it's a concept album about a romance between two robots (I really wish the lyrics were translated somewhere), and all their styles mesh together really well. Unholily catchy. It's on YouTube:

    1. Hi, Goomz. Good to hear from you. I'm afraid nikala doesn't really work on the blog anymore due to work but I got a chance to hear the first few minutes from "Apogee & Perigee" and I'm already starting to fall in love with it...and the robots on the cover. Togawa seems to be quite the character but she's also got an adorable voice to me. Many thanks. How did you come across it, by the way?

    2. My friend found it through that YouTube channel (one of those channels that upload a lot of random obscurities) along with a Guernica album. I feel like it was plucked from the void without any context...I always get attached to albums I find that way. Recently I got a dozen new albums to listen to on a long drive and I ended up listening to this one repeatedly.

    3. Yeah, it's quite the find. Always nice to know that no matter how long I've been enjoying Japanese popular music, there will always be new albums and songs to find.


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