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.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Morning Musume -- Morning Musume no Hyokkori Hyōtanjima(モーニング娘。のひょっこりひょうたん島)

My days teaching in Tsukiyono, Gunma Prefecture usually started at 6:30 to 7:00 am, and one of my rituals getting up was reaching out from the futon to switch on the television. For whatever reason, the telly would be on TV Tokyo for the morning business program to drone on about the usual ups and downs in the economy (considering I arrived in the country after the end of the Bubble Era, most likely the latter) before the first commercial.

Ah, and speaking about that first commercial, this is what I heard and, sometimes if I were willing to open my eyes early enough, saw:

It was an ad for Nippon Express, and at the time I had thought that Nittsu put out a particularly cute commercial with a bunch of old-style puppets. Give Marketing that extra bonus!

Little did I know at the time that the jingle I heard morning after morning was actually not a jingle at all, but a theme song for a beloved 1960s afternoon children's show titled "Hyokkori Hyotanjima" (Island of Unexpected Contradictions) with those old-style puppets. Debuting in 1964 for a 5-year run, Yoko Maekawa and the Hibari Children Chorus(前川陽子とひばり児童合唱団)sang the chirpy theme for the NHK program. It was written by the creators, Hisashi Inoue and Morihisa Yamamoto(井上ひさし・山元護久), and composed by Seiichiro Uno(宇野誠一郎).

My interest in the music of Morning Musume(モーニング娘。)had already waned by 2003 with my last purchase of an MM single being the snazzy and jazzy "Mr. Moonlight" in 2001. Still I was reminded of my Gunma morning ritual when the girl group went ahead to give their own longer and more revved-up version of the theme song titled "Morning Musume no Hyokkori Hyōtanjima" as their 17th single in February of that year. The video was appropriately adorable with the usual choreography and camera close-ups of every member. And I just thought that petite Mari Yaguchi's voice dropped down a fair bit to speak her English at the beginning.

The single went Gold and peaked at No. 4 on Oricon.

Some time after the 2011 earthquake, this heartwarming ad for Toyota came on TV featuring SMAP member Takuya Kimura(木村拓哉), comedian Tsurube Shofukutei(笑福亭鶴瓶)and director Beat Takeshi(ビートたけし)with "Hyokkori Hyotanjima" as an overarching theme. The gimmick had the three being re-born versions of famous figures from Japanese history.

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