Happy Monday! And it truly is a happy sunny Monday since we may be breaking temperature records today with the high possibly reaching into the low 20s Celsius. Even if it's the beginning of the work week, I'm betting that there will be a flood of folks swarming the al fresco restaurants later tonight. Good thing it's plenty warm, too. We had a fairly large power outage covering several neighbourhoods earlier this morning so it would have been horrible if we had to go through the weather that we had last week which was perpetually cold and rainy.
If I were to be asked which areas of Tokyo were my favourites, it would be initially difficult since I enjoyed the wide variety that was available in the Big Sushi. However, one of them would be West Shinjuku. The hotel area still has that gleaming futuristic look after all these decades with all of those skyscrapers soaring into the blue sky. And although the area doesn't have a lot in terms of restaurants and stores (though obviously a lot of accommodations), I still find it a nice place to walk through. One of the things that got me interested in the nation of my ancestry in the first place was a tourist poster of West Shinjuku, perhaps by JAL or JTB, which shows the sun setting between two of those super structures. Looking at that poster, I knew that I had to go to Tokyo!
To get to the area from JR Shinjuku Station, I just need to walk through a long covered passageway from the west exit extending to West Shinjuku. The passageway shows up in the above video for Mr. Children's breakthrough song and 5th single, "innocent world".
"innocent world" was a song that had come out some months before I got to Japan to start my second stint of life there. My knowledge of Mr. Children really began with the following hit, "Tomorrow Never Knows" and went on from there. But "innocent world" was one of those songs that had been in the relative fog of my knowledge about J-Pop spanning between 1991 and 1994 when I was actually here in Toronto trying to earn my certificate in TESL. However, since Mr. Children has arguably become the premier band of the 1990s, that single kept popping up in retrospectives of the band.
My first glimpse of "innocent world" was through the inevitable excerpts of the official music video, notably showing vocalist Kazutoshi Sakurai（桜井和寿）all in white trying to shelter himself from the rain while the film seemed to be ripping. I finally got to see the entire video today (!) and realized that it wasn't all avant-garde, although the director really liked his blacks and whites.
Sakurai wrote and composed the song which starts off with a melody that feels as if the protagonist is confidently and sturdily heading off to another day. It's all very uplifting so I wouldn't be surprised if it has gotten onto some list (and Japan absolutely adores pop culture lists) pertaining to uplifting and positive experiences. The lyrics also seem to describe the fellow's past relationship which is now definitely in the past but also expresses hope that he and his old flame can still have a reunion although as good friends rather than lovers.
According to Sakurai in an interview on the NTV Friday-night music show "FAN" (and yup, I saw a few of the episodes) via J-Wiki, he remarked that it was extremely hard for him to come up with the lyrics. Supposedly that innocent world didn't particularly refer to some place that was envied or desirable but a place that at times will be separated from you. So I gather that that place (or situation) actually can exist but perhaps fleetingly before the inevitable change. Feel free to discuss.
The song, as I mentioned above, was the big break for Mr. Children. Released in June 1994, it not only hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies but became the No. 1 song of the year, selling 1 million copies in about 2 months and ultimately selling just a little under 2 million. It is currently the 3rd-most successful single in the band's history, after No. 1 hit "Tomorrow Never Knows" and their 10th single, "Na mo Naki Uta"（名もなき詩...Nameless Poem）. In terms of Oricon history, "innocent world" is currently ranked No. 26 in all-time sales.
Mr. Children also earned a Grand Prize at the 1994 Japan Music Awards on New Year's Eve but no one was there to collect it since the entire band was on site in Australia filming the music video for "Tomorrow Never Knows". That kinda strikes me as rather strange since that single was released in November; they hadn't bothered getting a video done before the release of the single?
For the band, the even better benefit was that the success of "innocent world" led listeners to go back and explore their first four singles. Single No. 4, "Cross Road" and "innocent world" are on their smash hit album "Atomic Heart" which came out in September 1994.