When I went to Japan in 1981, video games were already a huge and welcome distraction. Of course, from the ancient Pong and Breakout, my classmates and I headed over that summer and had some fun at the video game cafe near the Tokyo Prince Hotel where we could play Space Invaders and Galaxian on the tabletops while getting some of that essential libation in the form of iced coffee. It was a typically steamy July after all.
And then there was the craze over the mini-games by Nintendo called Game & Watch. I brought back two copies of Fireman for my brother and me. Then in 1982, when he got to go over with this graduating classmates, he one-upped me and brought back the orange clamshell that held Donkey Kong. Hours of pleasure ensued.
Obviously, the games that I've told you about are most likely being admired as museum exhibits now. Nintendo and other companies have gone much further. For example, I did get my Sony PlayStation in 1996, and my brother did get a Game Boy some years earlier. Then, there was this commercial broadcast in 2001 featuring a bunch of school students who were so eager to get their hands on Super Mario Advance 4 that they resorted to parkour en masse to get to the one shop where it would make its debut. Now I know where Tom Cruise got the ideas for his stunts for the last number of "Mission: Impossible" movies. Hopefully, none of those younglings ended up breaking their ankles.
The atypical song that accompanied the kids on their hunt for Super Mario Advance 4 also got some notice. I found out it was titled "Hatsukoi" (First Love) by singer-songwriter Mayumi Kojima（小島麻由美）. And this was her 5th single from June 1997.
I had heard of Kojima for some years while I was living in Japan but always thought that she was just making kids' tunes for NHK's "Minna no Uta"（みんなのうた）. Plus, while I was doing my usual browsing through places such as Tower Records, I would see those cute cartoony caricatures of her on her album covers which enhanced my image of Kojima as simply a kids' singer.
Ah, well...I'm having my slice of humble crow pie tonight. It turns out that she has been a songstress of Shibuya-kei all these years. According to her Wikipedia page, Kojima fell in love with the American standards sung by folks like Rosemary Clooney (I grew up with Rosemary, Bing and The Boston Pops) but couldn't cut through the English lyrics. So, she decided to make similar-sounding music with her own lyrics...kinda like how musicians in the 1970s such as Yumi Arai, Happy End and Sugar Babe approached their creations to form the genre of New Music.
She made her debut in July 1995 with "Kekkon Sodanjo"（結婚相談所...Matrimonial Agency）and has gone on releasing singles and albums up to the recent day. As for "Hatsukoi", I like its cool and jazzy beatnik waltz style and she does have some distinct vocals, alternately purring and crackling. Perhaps in a way, she was the predecessor for acts such as Ringo Shiina（椎名林檎）and Ego-Wrappin'. "Hatsukoi" only got as high as No. 95 on Oricon but the BEST album where it was placed, "me and my monkey on the moon〜single collection and unreleased track (1995〜1999)" peaked at No. 54 after its release in December 2000.
In any case, I would like to hear some more of her work now. In fact, "Poltergeist" sounds pretty darn good.