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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, May 16, 2018

Chisato Moritaka -- Mi~Ha~(ミーハー)


I'm surprised that none of us had yet covered this particular song by the 80s techno aidoru Chisato Moritaka(森高千里)but here it is now. Seeing that music video made me realize that if there were any Japanese music video that would belong on my old favourite bizarre music video program "City Limits" on Canada's MuchMusic, Moritaka's "Mi~Ha~" would be the one. I simply cannot decide whether it is exquisitely tacky or tackily exquisite. In any case, it could be the first single that she released that rather cemented her image as a synth-driven high-toned teenybopper singer in the short skirt.

"Mi~Ha~" started life as the title track for her 2nd album which came out in March 1988. As for the video above, due to the length and all of the dance music effects, I think the version there may be of her 4th single "The Mi~Ha~ (Special Mi~Ha~ Mix)" from April of that year.



This was the first song that Moritaka had provided lyrics for, with Hideo Saito(斉藤英夫)providing the music and arrangement. I was surprised from reading the J-Wiki article for the album that despite her contribution to "Mi~Ha~", she really didn't enjoy singing it and supposedly the recording of the song was painful according to an interview she gave to "Gekkan Kadokawa"(月刊カドカワ...Monthly Kadokawa), although I don't know whether that was physically or emotionally so or both. Yet, though Moritaka did refer to it as pretty lame, she also admitted that it did come to grow on her.

Hearing the album version above during her appearance on "Music Station", it did sound like she was singing in a lower key so perhaps that was a bit less taxing on her vocal cords.


It may be 30 years since Chisato fans first heard "Mi~Ha~" but it looks like the singer-songwriter hasn't lost her touch on the song according to this 2015 self-cover.

Looking through Moritaka's lyrics, I think the whole story behind "Mi~Ha~" is perhaps one of self-indictment. The protagonist seems to be a young lady who's bitterly warning anyone within earshot to stay away from her since she has had a penchant for chasing and romancing the latest young Lothario, only to get repeatedly and unceremoniously dumped.

Now, I have to say that the first time I heard the term "mi-ha-" was back in my JET days in Gunma Prefecture. When I inquired about it, a few of my fellow teachers tried to explain it and so I countered that perhaps the English translation would be "starstruck". However, they then proceeded to demonstrate the Japanese gesture for "not really" by sucking in air through the side of the mouth like a really avid Dyson vacuum cleaner and tipping their heads to one side. Apparently "mi-ha-" doesn't just describe a person who is celeb-crazed but a rather shallow entity who also chases after the smallest pop cultural fad like a fawning puppy. Not surprisingly, according to jisho.org, the word has been designated as derogatory. The amazing thing that I found out about it was that the slang expression has been in existence for nearly a century!

At first, I was afraid that I would be labeled as the Mi-Ha- teacher of Tsukiyono since I did have a thing for Japanese music and television at the time (of course, one of those two things has stayed with me to the current day). However, my main English teacher reassured me that in my case, I was looking at those things in a purely culturally interested light and not spending every last yen on all sorts of trinkets (although he never found out that I was purchasing 8 CDs a month for my 2 years on the programme 😅) and not harassing the students with any stories on all sorts of fads and celeb talk.

To be frank, though, if there were a mi-ha- time for me, it would have been during my high school years after getting back from that 1981 trip to Japan. I was so obsessed with my ancestral country that I was actually cutting out newspaper clippings on anything having to do with it and I ended up deciding to major in Japanese Studies at the University of Toronto. Still, all that obsession has led me to my life in Gunma and Tokyo (obviously no regrets there) and now to this blog (absolutely no regrets).

6 comments:

  1. Hi, J-Canuck.

    It's really strange that nobody have ever written about that song before on the blog. Speaking for myself, I thought about doing it many times before, but ended not writing anything about it. Yet, it's one of my favorite songs from Moritaka's early years, and I'm glad you wrote a great piece with so many interesting insights about the song's title and your own trajectory as a music lover.

    One new information I grabbed from your article is how Moritaka herself didn't like the song so much at first. Until now, I've always took for granted that she did like it, since it ended being one of her most performed songs during her non-stop tour from 1988~1991... and she did it with so much energy. As for it being silly, Moritaka did write some silly songs back then (I think the ballad "Daite" is one of the silliest from her), but it was part of the charm.

    Another interesting discussion you brought was about the mi-ha slang itself. Honestly, since I discovered Moritaka
    many years ago, I've never truly understood the meaning behind it, but I finally did get a more proper idea after reading your post. At first, I understood it as someone who pretended to be something without really being it. Something like a fake person who only cared about the status provided by something else. However, it seems like mi-ha is more related to being a true enthusiast about something, even if in a shallow way.

    Back to the song, from what I can remember, there are three recorded versions of "Mi-Ha" in Moritaka's discography (maybe four, if we count this new one from 2015). The first one was included in her sophomore album of the same name (I like the arrangement, but Moritaka's vocals were not on point at the time). Then, it was remixed and released as a re-cut single from the album, and that's the version from that wacky music video. Finally, the third one was a re-recording for the "Moritaka Land" self-cover best album, from 1989, which is probably the finest version, based on the vocals alone (personally, I've grown fond of the remix version from the single, because of how crazily annoying all the sounds and effects are at times). Based on that, it's interesting to think how much better she got at singing between early 1988 and late 1989 (maybe she took lots of singing classes). And the video is truly a most, even if I think she was trying to emulate Debby Gibson a little bit at the time (maybe it's just the hat).

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    1. Hi, Marcos. Good to hear from you.

      Yes, I was also a bit surprised about her initial disdain for "Mi~Ha~" but I'm glad that she has embraced it as one of her own. Perhaps once she figured out that she didn't have to pitch her voice so high, she probably got more accepting of it.

      As for the titular term itself, I've come to see it as describing someone who chases after every trend or fad product like a squirrel going after nuts, and perhaps not doing too much to hide his/her enthusiasm.

      I think it was probably from this song that we got to see the evolution of Chisato into the singer that we've known her best as, although there is "The Stress" that came afterwards.

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    2. Hi, J-Canuck.

      In some songs, she really pitches her voices very high. One I've always find kind of jarring is "Watashi no Natsu" (I still like the song, though). Well, in fact, her voice has never been the best, but she has an interesting and distinguishable tone that not every aidoru out there can brag about. Also, I admire her breath control, stable singing and overall technique during live concerts, since she's one of the most energetic performers I've seen.

      I kind of see her evolution in a gradual way. "Mi-Ha" is surely a development in comparison with earlier singles, like "Overheat Night (another one she has trouble singing, due to high pitch) or "Get Smile" (coincidentally, both of them are also from the "Mi-Ha" album). However, as you have pointed out, I think "The Stress" really molded her in the way she became well known. It was with "The Stress" that she changed her looks and became the sexy aidoru we love. For me, "The Stress" is quite iconic with the waitress outfit and more cold funky sound. Back in "Mi-Ha" days, she was still a little bit ackward and too youthful (that's why I compared her with Debbie Gibson before), as we can see in the music video and the Yoru no Hit Studio live performance.

      As a side note, I've watched one of Moritaka's early concerts today, just a couple of hours before reading your post. "Mi-Ha", of course,
      was part of the setlist, and it had a cute and funny moment when she forgot the lyrics for the song and started giggling and side-eyeing with shame. I just love her live performances.

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    3. Hi again.

      Yes, watching the video for "The Stress" rather cemented that look for Chisato with the straight long hair and the legs that rather went up to there.

      Good to see her doing those self-covers 30 years later. I think she's hitting the half-century mark sometime next year.

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  2. The Miha and Princess Princess’ 19 Growing Up were the two songs that hooked me on Japanese pop when I first lived in Japan in the late 1989’s. At first it was the fact that Chisato Moritaka and Kaori Kishitani were drop dead gorgeous. Later I begin to appreciate their talents and musical abilities. Moritaka’s singing abilities were mostly just adequate but her style and at times self deprecating songs (like “Watashi wa Obasan ni natta mo) caught my eye. She also played multiple instruments unlike many Jpop idols. Get Smile is another favorite song of mine from her. From there I started listening to Kaoru Koiruimaki, Kix-S, and the Barbee Boys. I was definitely hooked.
    As for the word ‘Miha’, I always took it to mean groupie as in one of many girls chasing after a guy.

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    1. Hi, Wolf. Good to hear from you again.

      Chisato and Princess Princess were the two new singers that I got to know when I was settling into my new life in Gunma in 1989 through "Michi" and "Diamonds" respectively.

      And yep, both ladies are drop dead gorgeous. Kahoru was also another new face to me along with Wink, B'z, Mariko Nagai and others. It was quite the time for Japanese pop music...quite the change from the beginning of the 1980s when I first really got into the music.

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