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.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Kinokuniya Band -- 4AM

When it came to Kinokuniya, the two things that came to mind were the famous bookstore in Shinjuku and the chic and expensive supermarket in Aoyama. I've been to both where one was a place that I actually did make a lot of purchases over the years while the other one was more for window shopping, although I did get some pumpkins there for carving with the students for a few years.


Now I find out that there was actually a group called Kinokuniya Band(紀の国屋バンド). I don't know if they ever had a connection with either the bookstore or the supermarket, and in fact, I couldn't glean much information on the group at all online although I will keep on trying if there are some more songs available on YouTube.

Anyways, Kinokuniya Band is another one of those mystery artists/groups that put out just that solitary album in its history. Consisting of 7 members with vocalist Masako Takasaki(高崎昌子), that album for them is "Street Sensation" in 1979, and one of the tracks is a cover of Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)"4AM".

"4AM" over the past couple of years has become a fair sensation in that area of YouTube where the City Pop/J-AOR fans visit and reside, almost on the level of Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)"Plastic Love". In my original September 2015 article on "4AM", I didn't exactly treat Ohnuki's track as a home run...more of a "good try" bloop single because I wasn't too sure whether the singer was quite suited to the soulful side of City Pop. However, my feelings toward the song have mellowed and become more affectionate since then, and obviously a lot of other listeners have embraced it right from the get-go.

Kinokuniya Band's take on "4AM" has even more of a bohemian downtown beat as if Takasaki and company took a solid walk through Tokyo's Shimo-Kitazawa district before arriving at the live house to perform their set. There's even more funk in the vocalist's delivery, and the whole performance really feels like it was meant to be done live in front of an intimate audience.

For me, the original by Ohnuki will always be the one but I think the cover by Kinokuniya Band is slowly growing on me. The song was also the B-side for the band's 1979 EP "Crystal Magic".


  1. Hello Canuck!

    Here's all I know about the band. Apart from the singer, Takahashi, the lineup included the brothers Shimizu (Mac the drummer and Nobuyuki the keyboard player), Nobuyuki, the younger one, goes on to become an arranger/songwriter whose extensive work with EPO, I'm sure, you're familiar with. He's also worked with artists like Mari Iijima, Mariya Takeuchi, Taeko Onuki (he arranged Metropolitan Museum), Junichi Inagaki and Yousui Inoue among many others.

    The band's name, by the way, comes from the name of Ryokan/Inn that the guitar player Haruto's family runs in Kanagawa near Enoshima.

    1. Hi, Kaz.

      Thanks very much for the information on Kinokuniya Band. Yup, I remember Nobuyuki Shimizu due to his work with EPO as you mentioned, especially on her album "Vitamin EPO". Had no idea about the origins behind the naming of the band. :)

  2. Hello J-Canuck,

    Another great find!

    Is it me or does Masako Takasaki have that Hatsumi Shibata kind of delivery. Or maybe it's because it is of its era. Maybe that vocal style was one of many vocal styles that were popular at that time?

    Anywho, thanks for the recommendation.

    I will be looking for this one.


    1. Hi, Chasing Showa.

      Y'know I wouldn't be surprised by the comparison with Shibata. In fact, I think that Takasaki can be included in that group of female singers including Minako Yoshida, Noriko Miyamoto, Kimiko Kasai, etc who have those soulful voices. I think, now that you mention it, that particular style may have been quite popular in the late 1970s.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.