Of course, when it comes to Christmas music in Japan, there is none other than Tatsuro Yamashita's（山下達郎） "Christmas Eve". There is no escape....whether you're in a department store, a karaoke box or at home watching the telly, some form of this song will pop up. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that this is the "White Christmas" of kayo kyoku. Or if you're a Trekkie, it's the Borg of J-Pop Xmas songs.
And the song was created from an "I'll show you!" frustration from Yamashita. Getting annoyed at being labeled as "a summer guy" for creating all those happy tunes like "Ride on Time" and "Loveland, Island", he went a full 180 degrees, seasonally speaking, and whipped up "Christmas Eve". I think it worked all too well for the fella...arguably, it has become Yamashita's most famous song.
It originally came out as a single in December 1983 that peaked at No. 44 on Oricon, and was the final track on Yamashita's 7th album, "Melodies" that had come out even earlier in June. The album itself peaked at No. 1. But it took a tie-up with a JR Shinkansen commercial in 1988 to have his 12th single become firmly entrenched into Japan's Christmas consciousness. I think the commercial images of having a young couple being reunited on either a Japan Railways platform or in the station while the song was playing hit a major chord (no pun intended). The video above includes those commercials which star a lot of major actresses (Eri Fukatsu for one) who were only starting out at the time the ads were shot. Once those ads started rolling out, "Christmas Eve" hit No. 1 on the Oricon weeklies in 1989.
Since then, there have been periodic re-releases of "Christmas Eve" with the 2000 release getting as high as No. 6. The 2012 re-release is at No. 29 so far. Yamashita has even come out with an English-lyric version of the song which is included in his semi-Xmas album, "Season's Greetings" (already profiled). However for me, the Japanese original will always be the one.
Here are the original commercials for Japan Railways with the Tatsuro Yamashita classic.
In any case, as I finish writing this, some of you may have just survived the rush of last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve on this side of the Pacific, or some of you are firmly nestled into your futon getting ready for another day of work on a non-statutory Xmas on the other side but with the promise of KFC and perhaps some Fujiya Christmas cake. Wherever you are and whatever you do on the 25th, have a Merry Christmas! メリークリスマス！
(December 25, 2017: You can also take a look at some of the singers who have covered the song since then right here.)
|Tatsuro Yamashita -- Christmas Eve|
|Tatsuro Yamashita -- Season's Greetings|