Y'know...we've gotten used to actress/singer Ryoko Shinohara（篠原涼子）stressing more of that first part of her job description over the past several years to the extent that perhaps it might be surprising to know that Shinohara did start out as an aidoru and sketch comedienne in the early 1990s. And yet, earlier this year, folks in Japan got a reminder of her less heavy material when she began to sing and dance in this series of McDonalds commercials which emphasized the good ol' days of show tunes, especially with Charlie Chaplin's "Smile".
Commenter James Noah sent me a message asking about all those commercial tie-ups which was a good question since in Japan, those popular pop songs and famous brands have frequently synergized as a win-win for all involved. James' favourite ad is the one for Gekkeikan sake with a very clean Hiroyuki Sanada（真田広之）, who has seemed to be appearing in Hollywood movies looking all scruffy for some reason, walking to the strains of Anzen Chitai's（安全地帯）"Ano Koro e"（あの頃へ）. It's all about that beauteous mood and mood has always been a thing in Japanese commercials. In fact, it once took me a whole minute watching an idyllic scene in Switzerland with a happy family to figure out that the commercial was selling life insurance. You just never know...Clara could have fallen out of her wheelchair to her death off that cliff. Was she in good hands with Allstate?
Anyways, that did get me thinking about what some of my favourite Japanese commercial tie-ups have been over the decade.
1. Tatsuro Yamashita -- Christmas Eve (1983) and Japan Railways
Now, the song itself first saw the light of day in 1983 but things really didn't get cooking for Tats in the Xmas department until half a decade later in 1988 when Japan Railways used "Christmas Eve" for their Christmas campaign. After those first commercials involving couples on the platforms and in the stations had aired, any romantic meetups in a train depot will most likely have this song planted in everyone's heads. Ironically for the fellow who's been hailed as the summer song guy and one of the pillars of City Pop, "Christmas Eve" may be Yamashita's（山下達郎）most famous song for the public at large.
2. Saburo Tokito -- Yuuki no Shirushi (1989) and Regain Vitamin Drink
I've had my fair share of vitamin drinks when I was living in Japan although I don't personally think that I worked anywhere near as hard as some of those businessmen that I had taught regularly. To me, they all tasted like some tangy-sweet water. I may have even coughed up the yen to guzzle down a Regain. But when the first commercials of the ultra-Japanese businessman played by actor/folk-rock singer Saburo Tokito（時任三郎）hit the air with the proud march "Yuuki no Shirushi"（勇気のしるし）, it had folks laughing and throwing out their chests in pride to see if anyone could work those 24 hours with a ton of Regain in them. I had just arrived in Japan when the Regain boom began and I believe that the commercial was of such fame that it even reached Anderson Cooper at CNN.
Ah, while I'm at it...one of my businessman students taught me one way to get rid of a cold lickety-split because of course, businessmen can't be allowed to take a day off. As soon as you get home, take a hot shower, drink down two bottles of vitamin drink and then wrap yourself up in as many blankets as you can in bed. Basically, you're to sweat your cold to death at the sacrifice of some very smelly blankets the next day.
3. B'z -- Bad Communication (1989) and FM Towns
As I have already mentioned in the original article for B'z's "Bad Communication", this was the song that usually woke up in the mornings when I was living in Gunma Prefecture. I believe that it was the morning business show on TV Tokyo or TV Asahi and the commercial was of Rie Miyazawa（宮沢りえ）touting the charms of Fujitsu's FM TOWNS computer which sounds more like a local radio station. "Bad Communication" was the jingle and it was the most dynamic one that I had ever heard thus far. Alarm clocks should be as effective.
4. Carl Anderson -- Pieces of a Heart (1990) and Parliament Cigarettes
Parliament had a long reputation for putting out some very urban and urbane commercials for their death sticks, and although I've never smoked a cigarette in my life thankfully, watching the Parliament ads even had me thinking "I really need that lifestyle...NOW!". Of course, some of those urban contemporary songs by folks like Bobby Caldwell and Boz Scaggs came in handy to add that touch of class. But the one that really hit the heart was "Pieces of a Heart" by Carl Anderson. I believe that the ad came out during episodes of "Music Fair" on Fuji-TV late on Sunday night, and it was definitely something when I always looked forward to watching that one minute and change of the good life in Manhattan or San Francisco.
Are there any Japanese commercials and their tie-up songs that you've cherished over the ages? Let us know.