Now, looking at the above photograph of the gorgeous Minato Mirai area of Yokohama at night, you might be asking how I took it? Well, there were two factors: one was the sparkle function on my digital camera and the other was a sudden hiccup (I'd just had the buffet in Chinatown). In any case, let this shot get you in the mood for my picks of favourite night-themed kayo kyoku/J-Pop.
Years ago, I was perusing one of the songbooks within an issue of Myojo magazine and came across several pages to which the publishers devoted to nighttime music. It was an interesting concept, and since my favourite genre of City Pop often covers the after-6 p.m. scene, I decided that I should give it a go as well. Of course, like my choices for favourite songs of the 1980s, the songs here are also subjectively selected and not comprehensive in the least. However, these are the ones that immediately came to mind when I started thinking about such a list. Most likely, months from now I'll probably come up with a second list or nikala, JTM or Marcos V may want to put their own lists up for a nighttime selection.
In any case, here goes:
1. Ayumi Ishida - Blue Light Yokohama (1968): I couldn't think of a better song to start off this nighttime selection than Ishida's masterpiece. The horns and strings not only take me back to the old days but also back to my memories of walking through the streets of Yokohama itself during my one evening of vacation over there. I just get that desire to head up to the rooftop bar of the Hotel Intercontinental and have a drink.
2. Mariko Takahashi - My City Lights (1982): This was never an official single and I'm not even sure where it rates amongst Takahashi fans, but "My City Lights" will always be a favourite with me. This one strikes me as something to be heard near or past the midnight hour in Tokyo. People are tippling and/or tipsy but the fatigue is also starting to set in after an evening of carousing. And in a moment of clarity, they look out the window and discover how wonderful the nightscape is. Tsuyoshi Kon's guitar is a standout.
3. Yumi Matsutoya - Night Walker (1983): I actually never covered this one in the blog, but recently listening to it in her 2007 BEST album, "Seasons Colors", I had to include "Night Walker". Originally from her 1983 album, "Reincarnation", it has that melancholy melody accompanying a young lady slowly walking the otherwise nigiyaka streets of the big city while she nurses a heartbreak.
4. Anzen Chitai - Wine Red no Kokoro (1983): With all of the moodiness and the heavy karaoke treatment it got in my personal circle back in my university era, this Hokkaido band just had to be represented on this list. Frankly, any of their hits (or even the other songs that I remember hearing from them) is most welcome here, but why not go with their breakthrough entry? Listening to "Wine Red no Kokoro" on the Walkman or in the car will provide the theme song for your journey through the popular quarters of Tokyo past sunset.
5. Minako Yoshida - Shooting Star of Love (1977): One of the unsung gems in Japanese popular music, I was very fortunate to have discovered this one. It has a great hook and groove, and provides all of those studio musicians to riff away. Great for a cool, clear night when you're comet-watching. This is the one that got me started on my current project of collecting her past albums, and I haven't regretted it yet.
6. Mariya Takeuchi - Plastic Love (1984): This is one of the standout tracks from Takeuchi's first album after her relatively long time away from the recording studio, "Variety". She was now going for a more mature pop sound, and out of all of the tracks on this album, "Plastic Love" went for a Steely Dan-type cool fusion sound. All of the songs on the album are great, but this one song is the final trigger when I decide to put the disc into the player.
7. Miki Imai - Chijo ni Oriru Made no Yoru (1989): Remember that Myojo songbook I was talking about at the top? Well, this was the one song that I remember from that list of nighttime music. Some of the other entries here may take me to the disco quarters of Roppongi or Shinjuku, but Imai's gently swaying ballad keeps me strictly and happily at home in the armchair with that mug of cocoa in the late hours. This is more Sunday night than Friday night.
8. Masayuki Suzuki - Wakare no Machi (1989): Thank you Camellia Diamonds for having the wherewithal to provide this cool, urban and urbane song by Martin as one of your commercial tie-up songs. This is another theme song for walking down the streets of Akasaka or Omotesando with some melodic swagger. It has Suzuki's soulful delivery, great contributions by trumpet and sax, and, oh yeah, Kazumasa Oda backing everything up.
9. Kazumasa Oda - Oh! Yeah! (1991): I wish the official video had been somewhere on the Net since there were some nice overhead night shots of the metropolis. But, hey, the song by itself is cool and very comfortable for nighttime listening. On his "Oh Yeah" BEST album of 1991, this was the final track following his mega-hit of "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni", and it makes for a fine cool-down to the excitement of the "Tokyo Love Story" theme tune. Backup by Masayuki Suzuki and Sing Like Talking's Chikuzen Sato, great singers for this article's topic, provide the icing on the top.
10. Sing Like Talking - Mitsumeru Ai de (1995): So we finish off with a song that sounds like the evening is just beginning. With Satoru Shionoya's jazzy keyboards signalling the setting of the sun and then jumping into another fun night on the town, Chikuzen Sato and company are happy enough driving around the big city without needing to stop off anywhere. Getting there is half the fun. So, hop on the Kan-Etsu and drive.
As I said before, this is far from a comprehensive list and while I was writing this article, there were a fair number of "Oh, I forgot about THIS one" moments. But as I also noted, there will always be a next time.