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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

TOKYO GIRLS' STYLE -- Tsuki no Kimagure (月の気まぐれ)

Over half a year ago, Marcos V. featured "Partition Love" by Tokyo Girls' Style which was their 15th single from February 2014. I rather enjoyed the disco-funk of it all, and when I was browsing around in Shibuya's Tower Records earlier this month, I was lucky enough to come across that very single on the shelf, and quickly took it to the cashier along with my other purchases.

The coupling song is "Tsuki no Kimagure" (Moon Whimsy) which was written and composed by Kikuo(きくお), a freelance composer who has created background music for various games as well as albums involving Miku Hatsune(初音ミク)and VOCALOID.

I spoke with Marcos about how it seemed like the current crop of aidoru over the past couple of years has been trying its hand in different musical genres such as techno, heavy metal and even City Pop (especia is my other favourite). Well, I was glad to hear that "Tsuki no Kimagure" has taken Tokyo Girls' Style into yet another direction. At first, while I was listening to it, I thought the French jazzy music was channeling a bit of Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)circa early 1980s, but after thinking about it, I felt it was just a bit too peppy for an Ohnuki song. Then I realized it may have been taking a stab into breezy 90s Shibuya-kei...perhaps on the same lines as Flipper's Guitar. The lyrics and the music sound very whimsical as the girls sing about drinking 5-colour mixed juice and dancing in one of the craters of good ol' Luna. There's even a reference to "mixed humans". Considering that I also often take a look at the website "Orion's Arm Universe Project" which deals with how humanity evolves and spreads throughout the stars over millennia, I was intrigued by that line.

It's been an interesting year for 21st-century aidoru. Keep on diversifying. Maybe we're entering the age of mixed aidoru. :)

Shinobu Otake -- Mikan (みかん)

(karaoke version)

The week before, I caught another edition of NHK's "Kayo Concert" and was surprised to see multiple award-winning actress Shinobu Otake(大竹しのぶ)on stage performing a romantic cover version of Hiroshi Mizuhara's(水原弘)"Tasogare no Beguine"(黄昏のビギン)with singer-songwriter Masayoshi Yamazaki(山崎まさよし). I was struck by the richness of Otake's voice; I just went "Where did she learn to sing like that?", considering that her speaking voice is usually quite squeaky.

To be honest, although the Tokyo-born Otake is listed on J-Wiki as an actress and tarento, I knew that she had released records in the past, something that even my parents were not too cognizant of. In fact, there was an old video I remember in which a teenage Otake was strumming a guitar and singing some kind of cute little ditty.

And I believe this was the song, "Mikan" (An Orange). This was her debut as a 19-year-old singer back in 1976 although she had already broken into show business as an actress a few years earlier in 1973. Written by Yu Aku(阿久悠)and composed by Katsuo Ono(大野克夫), Otake sang about leaving an orange for a boy she had liked to cheer him up. There was something very wholesome and girl-next-door about Otake when she performed this tune.

In looking up the information, I found out that Otake has released 22 singles and 7 original albums over the decades, so why not add that "singer" label to her? And she released her latest single just last week which is that cover of "Tasogare no Beguine".

(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

Although this doesn't fall under the purview of this blog, I just had to include the above video. I have to admit that though I've never seen any of Otake's movies, I've often seen her appearances on television, and she comes across as this low-key and bashful little sprite who sometimes blurts out something completely adorkable much to her embarrassment and much to our delight .

My case in point is her frequent appearances on a segment of the Fuji-TV Thursday-night variety show, "Tunnels no Minasan no Okage deshita"(とんねるずのみなさんのおかげでした)which involves two celebrity guests battling each other in trying to guess among 4 or 5 dishes which dish is the one that the opponent hates. With the comedic duo, The Tunnels, presiding over the competition, one celeb watches the other go through each dish and looks for visual cues and asks probing questions to figure out which is the disliked food. At the same time, the celeb doing the eating must be able to disguise his/her dislike.

Otake's appearances are probably must-see TV since, although she has won a slew of acting awards, she apparently doesn't have any ability to hide her disdain for any food she hates. The hilarity lies in how she tries to handle the situation...or not. I remember seeing one such battle and after trying the first dish, she unintentionally quipped in a tiny chirp "I give up" to the absolute shock of The Tunnels and the other celeb (I forgot who it was). Once the gales of laughter subsided (part of the fun was watching The Tunnels lose it....a very rare thing), everyone had to figure out how to get through the next several minutes of suddenly useless air. The above video isn't of that amazing scene but it is another appearance of her on that segment.

Maki Miyamae (CoCo) -- Yume he no Position (夢へのポジション)

Every time I play Street Fighter (ストリートファイター) I only choose Chun-Li (春麗) (my friends get really mad at me for not changing the character and because Chun-Li is quite annoying to be beaten, even if I’m not a good player at all). I really like this girl (she was a hottie for every 90s kid), her kicking abilities and her agility in the game. Besides that, one of the things I always pay attention when I’m playing the game is "Chun-Li Theme", an electronic composition typical of games from the early 90s (chiptune) with blatant Chinese influences.

To my surprise, "Chun-Li Theme" was given some lyrics and Maki Miyamae (宮前真樹), one of the five components of aidoru group CoCo, released it as a single in December 1992 under the title of “Yume he no Position”. It’s not really a surprise, as the game became a huge success worldwide, and Chun-Li was the only playable female character of the game at the time (another notable Street Fighter related song is Ryoko Shinohara’s [篠原 涼子] smash hit “Itoshisa toSetsunasa to Kokoro Zuyosa to” [恋しさと せつなさと 心強さと], which was released in 1994).

“Yume he no Position” is notable for respecting Chun-Li Theme's original melody, while only adding vocals and some flourishes here and there in the arrangement (like Chun-Li shouting Spinning Bird Kick [スピニングバードキック] and other memorable Chun-Li's sounds from the game). Maki Miyamae is not a wonderful singer, but we’re not waiting for a high level vocal performance coming from a 90s aidoru. In the end, not much can be talked about “Yume he no Position”, but I quite like how the aidoru world was already capable of dialoguing well with the video game universe back in the early 90s. Nowadays, it’s a very commom practice.

To finish, here’s a Korean aidoru unit called Orange Caramel dressed like Chun-Li while performing their cheesy hit “Shanghai Romance”. The song is not related to the original Chun Li song at all, but I just thought it would be suitable and fun to post it here... well, I’m a big Orange Caramel fan, and that explains all.

“Yume he no Position” reached #19 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Neko Oikawa (及川眠子), while music was composed by Yoko Shimomura (下村 陽子) and Alph Lyla (アルフ・ライラ), CAPCOM's house band. As for the arrangement, Seiji Toda (戸田誠司) was the responsible.

Hitomi Shimatani -- Perseus -ペルセウス-

Thanks to Noelle Tham, I had my very first Hitomi Shimatani (島谷ひとみ) experience with "Falco -ファルコ-". Although a very famous J-pop singer of the last decade, I had never listened to a song by her before. I explain this by admiting that I do have some kind of prejudice with Avex 00s artists (the lovely aidoru group TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE [東京女子流] is a notable exception, but they just came out in 2010). For me, the agency is the one which relies heavily in copying Western's style of pop artists. With Hitomi Shimatani, my main thoughts were not different. I always compared her to Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ), Kumi Koda (倖田來未) or post-TK’s (小室哲哉) Namie Amuro (安室奈美恵), but Noelle’s post about “Falco” proved me that I was somewhat wrong (not totally wrong, though) about the girl.

Just like “Falco”, I realized very quickly that a lot of Hitomi’s songs are a mix of exotic and Asian melodies with standard dance pop, and that’s ok for me. After hearing from five to ten of her early-to-mid 00s singles, one that caugh my attention was “Perseus”, which was released in July 2003.

In “Perseus”, the steady clubby dance beat is there, but the synths and the main melody are pure Asian music estereotypes in the most Orientalist of the ways (and I’m not complaining here). Based on that, it’s not a surprise that my favourite parts are the instrumental sections. Somehow it made me remember of Chun-Li (春麗), from the Street Fighter (ストリートファイター) video game series. If she didn’t have a proper theme (click here), sung by Maki Miyamae (宮前真樹) from aidoru group CoCo, this one would fit very well. Also, Orientalist J-Pop songs are not rare to find at all. Some fantastic examples are Chisato Moritaka’s (森高千里) “Hong Kong” (香港) (listen here) and “RESCUE ME” (listen here), a song composed by TK for Kylie Minogue’s younger sister Danii Minogue, and later recorded by Chinese singer SUIREI (翠玲 [スイレイ]), also under TK’s wings.

“Perseus” reached #8 on the Oricon charts, selling 72,384 copies. Lyrics were written by BOUNCEBACK, while music was composed by Shigeki Sato (迫茂樹). As for the arrangement, h-wonder was the responsible.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

ALFIE -- Natsu Shigure (夏しぐれ)

On one of my last days of my trip to Tokyo earlier this month, my anime buddy and I met up with a friend who runs a small technology company in Akihabara. My buddy knows him through yet another mutual friend of ours, and I used to teach some of his employees about a decade ago. The president picked us up at JR Shinjuku Station and walked us down all the way to the Yoyogi area where he treated us to lunch at a small restaurant specializing in home cooking. It was definitely homey inside (I could endure the seiza style on the tatami for a few minutes before I cried "Uncle!" and just had to stretch my legs out for the duration) and the lunch set of sumptuous grilled salmon, hot rice and umami-rich miso soup was marvelous.

However, I also noticed that to the left of me was a number of THE ALFEE discs and one picture of the iconic band placed on a slender ledge. When I asked the proprietor whether he was a huge fan, he proudly said that he was, and that Toshihiko Takamizawa, Konosuke Sakazaki and Masaru Sakurai (高見沢俊彦・坂崎幸之助・桜井賢)were regular customers at his place! When I told him that I was also a fan, it was the old man's turn to be surprised since he had never expected a (J-) Canuck to know let alone enjoy the epic sounds of this trio, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Well then....let's go way back to the beginning. In fact, let's listen to the very first single by The Alfee when they were actually known as just ALFIE, and their stock-in-trade wasn't rock but folk. And on top of all that, the band was a group of four.

"Natsu Shigure" (Summer Shower) was released in August 1974 as this sad ballad of someone getting that dreaded Dear John/Jane letter with the precipitation coming down. Another difference to add to the trivia is that ALFIE's debut hadn't been written or composed by any of the band members; instead, it was the famed duo of Takashi Matsumoto and Kyohei Tsutsumi(松本隆・筒美京平). When I first listened to the song, I realized how far the guys have come. There was that familiar nasal delivery by Takamizawa but the arrangement was definitely not the epic rock that I have been accustomed to hearing. "Natsu Shigure" is 70s J-Folk with a subdued arrangement reflecting the mood and weather within the lyrics. Y'know...when I often listen to some of the folk bands from that era such as GARO and Kaguyahime, I automatically imagine cafes. ALFIE's debut is most certainly a tune for a cafe acting as shelter from the elements.

As for that 4th member, he was Yasuo Miyake(三宅康夫)who played the guitar for Masaru Sakurai's old band, Confidence, before jumping over to ALFIE with his leader. However, he left the band in 1975 for reasons that were never explicitly given, although they may have had something to do with his father suffering from health problems.

"Natsu Shigure" was also on ALFIE's debut album, "Seishun no Kioku"(青春の記憶...Memory of the Old Days), which was released in July 1975.

Miki Fujimoto -- Romantic Ukare Mode (ロマンティック浮かれモード)

According to J-Wiki, Miki Fujimoto's(藤本美貴)"Romantic Ukare Mode" (Romantically Merry Mode) is one of the touchstones of the 21st century for the aidoru fan. And why not? It's just one of the most effervescently happy songs that I have ever heard. Hello Project Svengali Tsunku(つんく)wrote and composed Mikitty's 3rd and most successful single seemingly to induce instant contraction of the zygomatic major and orbicularis oculi muscles ( :) Although I haven't exactly grinned like a Cheshire Cat whenever I hear it, my mood does lighten up a fair bit.

With the possible exception of Morning Musume's "The Peace", "Romantic Ukare Mode" is the Hello Project worm in my ear. My ex used to hum this all the time, and I have to say that the verses and the refrain are both gets the urge to suddenly march around the living room and generally look at life through cotton-candy glasses. The only thing that bugs me about it is the backing vocal (provided by Tsunku?) that simply grates on me.

The song came out in September 2002 and peaked at No. 3 on Oricon, selling around 62,000 copies. It is also available on Fujimoto's debut album, appropriately if dully titled "MIKI(1)" which came out in February 2003. It also got as high as No. 3 on the album charts. And NHK also came knocking to which Mikitty happily responded as the top batter on that year's Kohaku Utagassen.

Miki Fujimoto hails from Hokkaido and debuted earlier in 2002 with "Aenai Nagai Nichiyobi"(会えない長い日曜日...A Long Sunday That I Can't See You)as a solo singer in Hello Project before becoming an official member of Morning Musume in 2003. She even had a very brief tenure as the leader of the group in 2007 until a "scandal" forced her to leave MM after only a few months since she had been caught dating a popular comedian, Tomoharu Shoji of the duo Shinagawa Shoji. Considering that the two of them got married and now have a 2-year-old son, I think the lass still won out. And I still see her weekly as a regular guest on the NHK morning program, "Asaichi".

Perhaps her aidoru career has now been put away as part of her geino history, but that song will always be jingling somewhere deep in my head from time to time.

Chiharu Matsuyama -- Koi (恋)

Other than his distinctive voice, I currently know Chiharu Matsuyama (松山千春) as the poor guy who lost most of his hair... but I must say he's rocking the bald look with that untidy salt and pepper scruff on his chin - kinda makes him look a little like a walrus though, especially when it grows out.

But with that aside Matsuyama's 8th single from 1980 'Koi', which just means love, pretty much had me with the soft chords of the acoustic guitar and sharp yet gentle whine of the harmonica at the start, giving a sort of nostalgic feel to the song. Definitely a far cry from the rock and roll of 'Nagai yoru' (長い夜) that would come out a year later.

Now that I think of it, this song just gives me the image of the folk singer-songwriter in his early days sitting on a bench in a near empty train station platform at sunset, singing this ballad in a heartfelt way while strumming away at his guitar, probably yearning for that special one to arrive... if she is even coming in the first place! Ah hah hah, now that gives it some extra depth!

Moving on, being one of Matsuyama's self-written and composed hits, 'Koi' did well on the Oricon charts peaking at 6th on the weeklies and managed to stay on people's radars long enough throughout the year (released on 21st January) for it to rank 34th in 1980.

Here's a live performance of Matsuyama from back in the day singing an acoustic version of the song.

And another thing I found was a duet version of 'Koi', between Kiyoshi Maekawa and Sayuri Ishikawa (前川清 . 石川さゆり). From the looks of it (and from Maekawa's non-existent glaring perm), it was performed either during the very late 80's or the early 90's, and yes I coincidentally discovered this after approving the pair's recent duet 'Aiyo shizuka ni nemure'. It's interesting really to have a song originally sung by one to be split into the verbal give and take between man and woman, but it worked.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Akemi Ishii -- Lambada (ランバダ)

Years before the Macarena enraptured the planet for a short while, I was witness to another dance phenomenon that had swept Earth (including Japan) for a good year...or at least, the song that the folks danced to did.

I am talking about the the time, I had no idea where it descended from exactly, only that it took hold within Japanese pop culture via variety shows and music programs. There was no way to escape it from 1989 to 1990. As much as the songs of Wink and Princess Princess filled the air, the Lambada also managed to carve its aural niche.

Akemi Ishii(石井明美)was the one singer who decided to do a cover version of "Lambada" as her 8th single released in March 1990. As someone who also fell under the thrall of the Latin rhythm, I not only ended up getting her cover via her 4th album, "Nettaiya"(熱帯夜...Sultry Night)which came out later in July, but I also got the original version by French-Brazilian pop unit, Kaoma, via CD single (released in 1989). And I'm still glad that I got that single, too, since whenever I do pop it into the player, I get all those feels from my JET days once again.

The crazy thing, though, is that Kaoma really wasn't responsible for the original version. And "Lambada" wasn't really the original title.

"Llorando se fue" was the birth title (in Japan, it is known as "Nakinagara"...泣きながら/While Crying), and it was released all the way back in 1981 by the Bolivian folk band, Los Kjarkas. Translated as "Crying, He/She Went Away", the true original was quite a bit more laid back in delivery unlike its peppy incarnation as "Lambada". Los Kjarkas got rather peppy as well since Kaoma apparently did an unauthorized interpretation of the song which resulted in the worldwide phenomenon. One lawsuit later, the latter started paying the licensing fees to the former, and presumably, Los Kjarkas was dancing its own way to the bank.

"Llorando se fue" was written and composed by Ulises Hermosa and Gonzalo Hermosa. As for the Ishii cover, Kaoru Asagi(麻木かおる)took care of the Japanese lyrics.

I never dared to dance to the Lambada, and especially now I would most likely break my hip instead of shaking it.

Anzen Chitai -- Ame Nochi Hare (雨のち晴れ)

Although I don't have a long history with mainstream J-pop/rock band Anzen Chitai (安全地帯) - we're comparing about a year of them to almost 5 years of Chage & Aska - I managed to pick up some favorite tunes by the quintet along the way. One of them being their 26th single 'Ame Nochi Hare', which roughly translates to clear skies after the rain.

In fact, it was one of the first 5 Anzen Chitai songs I had come to know through random YouTube searches. After hearing its cheery, upbeat music composed by front man Koji Tamaki (玉置浩二) himself, the feel-good tune began to have heavy rotation over the course of a month late last year while hitting the books big time in preparation for the national exams, the GCE 'O' levels, also known as every 16/17 year-old Singaporean kid's worst nightmare. 

So during that horrible period at least by listening to the lighthearted 'Ame Nochi Hare' and seeing the unfortunately now deleted MV of the group happily singing away in a wide open field and playing (or at least trying to) a game of baseball in a puddle ridden pitch, I was able to relieve some of the burden... and kinda ignore Aska's ongoing predicament...

Although I like the song, I don't think it was that well recieved since it was released in 2003 - way past their prime in the 80's - and when I tried to find videos of it on YouTube, 95% of the results came out as a Mr Children's song under the same name... from my knowledge, Mr Children seems to have the upperhand in the early 2000's, so I suppose it was inevitable.

Oh yeah I almost forgot, the lyrics were done by Chihiro Kurozu (黒須 チヒロ ).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nona Reeves -- Daydream Park

Another track I enjoyed from the City Pop/J-AOR compilation album "Light & Mellow - Moment" along with Mariko Tone's(刀根麻理子)"Just A Moment" was Nona Reeves' "Daydream Park". There are already a few other entries in the blog by this cool band but "Daydream Park" comes about 8 years after those disco songs, and this one is more for the Prince funk. Written and composed by vocalist Gota Nishidera(西寺郷太)as the title track for their 8th album from February 2007, Nishidera goes into sexy growl mode as he swoons about the woman of his dreams who he promptly labels as his daydream park.

"Daydream Park" keeps on the insistent funk beat and then Nishidera has even more fun with the chorus as he leads them into a merry call-and-back chase. He even uses the slang expression "crackalackin" or something close to it....a word that's probably quite dead now or only used by late-night talk show hosts in America trying to be post-ironically funny.

Mariko Tone -- Just A Moment

(excerpt only)

I'd been ignoring Mariko Tone(刀根麻理子)for a long time...something that I now regret. I've come across her name over the years through the Net and during my forays into the music stores of Tokyo but never gave her a shot.

During those 2 weeks in Japan, another disc I bought during my mad rush through those same old stores was my 2nd purchase of the "Light and Mellow" series of City Pop/J-AOR tunes (this disc being called "Moment"). And after listening to it for the first time earlier this afternoon, I discovered Tone's "Just A Moment", which is indeed a light and mellow ballad reminiscent of a lot of those David Foster and Rod Temperton pop songs from the 80s. Man, if there are any more of these tunes in her career, I will have to extend my Xmas wish list in the next couple of months. "Just A Moment" came from her 4th album from May 1987, "Just My Tone" (clever). It was written by Tone along with Gary Stockdale (who also composed it) and Dave DeLuca.

Going through her J-Wiki and Wiki entries, I found out that the Kawasaki-born Tone debuted back in 1984 with "Derringer" which was the second theme song for the anime "Cat's Eye" following the more famous titular song by Anri(杏里). Listening to that one as well and thinking about "Just A Moment", there seems to be a certain parallel in their sound when it comes to the two singers. But hey, it's all good for me.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Seiko Matsuda -- Heart no Earring (ハートのイアリング)

"Stay with me..."

For some reason, "Heart no Earring" (Heart Earring) has been one of the quintessential Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)songs. I think it's just the way she especially delivers that first line in that sweet chirp of a voice; I suddenly get that image of My Little Pony and sugar and spice and all that's nice. As I recall, our Seiko-chan specialist back in our days of hitting Kuri in Yorkville was always singing her 19th single, and getting some good measure of applause once she finished.

"Heart no Earring" was released back in November 1984, and I actually heard the original version from her 10th album, "Windy Shadow" which came out a few weeks later in December. The lyrics about a young lady who is trying to entice that beau of her dreams from that other girl were written by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and the laid back melody was by Holland Rose. It hit No. 1 and despite the lateness of the debut, the song managed to become the 68th-ranked song of 1984. It even went up a couple of spots to No. 66 for 1985.

Now, as for that Holland Rose character. Well, it was apparently a pseudonym straight out of the playbook that Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)had used to create her Karuho Kureta (呉田軽穂...when read in the Japanese way, it sounds a bit like Greta Garbo) moniker when she created songs for Seiko. Pop-rocker Motoharu Sano(佐野元春)was hosting his radio program when one of his listeners, an elementary school student, mistakenly wrote mail with "Holland Rose" in katakana when he/she had meant to refer to American duo Hall & Oates. Sano was amused enough to adopt it as a pen name when he gave his contributions to the Seiko discography.

ZYYG, REV, ZARD & WANDS featuring Shigeo Nagashima -- Hateshinai Yume wo (果てしない夢を)

What triggered my memory of this interesting oddity was Marcos V's article on that Mood Kayo duet between SDN48 and television presenter Monta Mino, "Kudokinagara Azabu-Juban"(口説きながら麻布十番). I think there have been a fair share of duets between singers and non-singing celebs over the years, and "Hateshinai Yume wo" is one that has really settled into my brain.

I was never a big Japanese baseball fan but even I couldn't avoid the Shigeo Nagashima(長嶋茂雄). He is the legendary Mr. Giants...the winning Tokyo (Yomiuri) Giants player from 1958-1974 and then manager of the same club from 1975-1980 and then 1993-2001. What has also increased his stature among the folks is his affable adorkability due to forgetfulness (feigned or not) and his hilarious remarks, often involving English (just check out the Trivia section in the Wiki article on him). Just imagine New York Yankees' Hideki Matsui and Yogi Berra spliced together. I've always stated that when Nagashima leaves this mortal coil altogether, there probably will be a few days of national mourning, whether or not one loved or hated the Giants.

So, just imagine my surprise when my J-Pop-loving university friend back in the 80s lent me a CD single of this mega-collaboration of pop/rock artists whose names sound like they were fished out of a bag of Scrabble tiles. And Nagashima is in there, too. "Hateshinai Yume wo" (Neverending Dream) was written by Show Wesugi(上杉昇)of rock band WANDS and the late Izumi Sakai(坂井泉水)of ZARD while Masayuki Deguchi(出口雅之), aka REV, took care of the composing duties, and the song was meant to be the theme for NTV's nightly baseball program back in 1993.

The result was this rousing song of determination to boil up the blood of many a baseball player (pro, amateur or armchair) with this 90s J-Rock sound that made me wonder why B'z didn't get into this project. I also have to say that Sakai and one of the other vocals must have been reaching for the throat lozenges considering how high their voices had to go during recording. However, one must not forget the inclusion of Mr. Giants near the end....who frankly sounds like my father at the few times he's been to karaoke. Nagashima's adorkability quotient probably spiked a bit from this song as well.

(karaoke with no one singing)

Released in June 1993, "Hateshinai Yume wo" went as high as No. 2 on Oricon and became the 39th-ranked song of the year.

SDN48 with Mino Monta -- Kudokinagara Azabu Juuban (口説きながら麻布十番)

(karaoke version)

I confess that I’m not an avid Mood Kayo listener, but I just wanted to make a humble contribution to the genre here on the blog (thanks to J-Canuck, nikala and, now, Noelle Tham, this genre gets its share of love on KKP). As for my chosen song, it’s “Kudokinagara Azabu Juuban”, a collaboration between aidoru group SDN48, the now defunct mature and sexy AKB48’s sister group (in their theatre, the shows had an age limit of 18 or older), and the famous television presenter Mino Monta (みのもんた).

Released in December 2011, “Kudokinagara Azabu Juuban” was one of the farewell songs to SDN48. I remember seeing it live on Music Japan and feeling very intrigued by how this aidoru group, devoted mostly to edgy dance-pop songs, ended collaborating with high-spirited Mino-san in this Showa-styled Mood Kayo number.

About the song itself, it’s probably a cheap and funny joke to a real Mood Kayo fan, but I like it a lot. Sometimes I play the live performance where Mino and the girls are lip-synching to the song and, somehow, it just feels right to me. For me, the arrangement is where the songs shine, especially when I hear the dramatic and distorted guitars that are part of the song’s overall cabaret feeling.

Unfortunately, the full official video is not on YouTube, but here’s a small part of it.

“Kudokinagara Azabu Juuban” reached #3 on the Oricon charts, selling 69,885 copies. Lyrics were written by Yasushi Akimoto (秋元康), while music was composed by Takao Konishi (小西貴雄). As for the arrangement, it was done by Yuuichi “Masa” Nonaka (野中“まさ”雄一).

Hitomi Shimatani -- Falco - ファルコ -

I have to admit I'm not a fan of anime. Or at least I tried to in order to fit in a little more with my age group. About 5 years ago I remember having my first go at this brand of cartoons with ninja 'Naruto' and alien frog invaders 'Keroro Gunso(ケロロ軍曹), but I eventually gave up as I found that the story lines became more and more twisted, difficult to comprehend and just plain weird as it progressed.

Then came The Law of Ueki (うえきの法則). Like Keroro, I was introduced to it via this manga comic book by the name of CO-CO/COCO... the much slimmer Singapore version of it unlike the ones they have in Japan. Man, those there are as thick as phone books! But anyway, having discovered that there was an anime - or to me back then, it was just known as a cartoon - based on this manga by Tsubasa Fukuchi (福地翼), I decided, "Hey, why not? The comic (manga) seemed pretty interesting anyway!" And so I did watch it. 51 episodes long with a plot heavily emphasizing on justice/righteousness, it wasn't too bad... I liked it.

Hitomi Shimtani's (島谷ひとみ) 19th single 'Falco - ファルコ -' served as the series' theme song for the first 32 episodes, and it also caught my attention with its use of instruments like the sitar and its exotic, middle-eastern/Indian arrangement. An intriguing song to say the least and it at its chorus it sounds like your typical catchy anime song... or anisong, as I think they are known as. And I would say that it was one of the more memorable theme songs I had heard then. Another one being the 5th theme song for 'Keroro' 'You-You-You' by the rock band Polysics... although I never actually made it that far into the series.

Just a about a week ago I revisited this relatively old anime (aired in 2005 and ended in 2006) and listening to 'Falco' again just brought back all those cherished memories from the last year of primary/elementary school... back in the good old days. Hmm, I wonder if my friend watched it. I knew he watched 'Keroro' but I'm not sure about 'Ueki', never did ask.

For the song's stats, it was released on 10th August 2005 and peaked at 11th place on the Oricon weeklies, eventually settling at 265th place by the end of the year. It was written by this songwriting duo BOUNCEBACK (yes, in all caps) and was composed by Kazunori Watanabe (渡辺和紀). The video below shows the anime's opening sequence, by the way.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Kiyoshi Maekawa & Sayuri Ishikawa -- Aiyo Shizuka ni Nemure (愛よ静かに眠れ)

For some unknown reason I used to have this peculiar aversion to duets, especially if it was between a male and female singer. Probably because I couldn't appreciate it? Or because I didn't have a good impression of it? Either way, I just didn't like it. So what made me decide to listen to a duet between my favorite En-kayo crooner and a then undiscovered (to me) Enka singer? Actually I have no idea too, I'm just strange in that sense.

It was an interesting song, 'Aiyo Shizuka ni Nemure' and it allowed me to view such duets from a whole different angle. That being just looking at it/listening to it makes it a bore. But if you were to delve deeper into it and 'feel' it, it wouldn't be so flat... ... Oh boy, that there was the artsy side of me trying to explain things, so I wouldn't blame you if you don't get it... that happens quite a lot.

The music with a pretty bold arrangement (by Takashi Tsushimi (都志見隆)) gave the song an overall sense of passion. For the lyrics (by Toyohisa Araki (荒木とよひさ)), I remember asking fellow blogger J-Canuck about its meaning when I shared this song with him a while ago when I was still a commenter. Although rather obscure, its something on the line of how love can be so good, and yet can be such a pain. So those two combined with Kiyoshi Maekawa's (前川清) deep rumble complimenting Sayuri Ishikawa's (石川さゆり ) smooth and not too high-pitched delivery, it makes a pretty good song to listen to while out on the town at night (it just gives me that particular feel).

Anyway, released on 21st August 2013, this was one of the songs for the 'Teichiku Entertainment 80th anniversary duet festival' (wow, that's a mouthful). So you have En-kayo singers from this entertainment company, like Ishikawa and Mae-Kiyo, singing duets... others include George Yamamoto and Sanae Jonouchi (山本譲二 . 城之内早苗) etc.

(Sorry the live performance got taken down.
But here is a karaoke version.)

The video above is a live performance of this song. From the looks of it, it's from the episode of NHK's 'Nippon no uta' that I missed by a week. One thing that you would notice in this performance is that Maekawa was actually moving along to the song. I would say it's a rarity, but he usually isn't that stiff when performing with others as I have observed.

To end off, I'd like to share a little fun fact: You see that grey suit with black shirt Mae-Kiyo wore? That gave me an idea on what to wear for the last lesson for one of my compulsory modules in the first semester of college 2 months ago, where we had to do a formal presentation. Ruling out the sneakers, I got some good comments on the suit. Hah! So drawing dressing inspiration from old singers does pay off! Although I have to admit, wearing a suit for the first time wasn't the most comfortable of experiences... ...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

X Japan -- Forever Love

I have to admit that for a guy who had been into Japanese pop music for nearly a decade (sober-suited enka performers and cheerfully fluffy aidoru), to first see X Japan (at that time, still known as X) perform on TV in the late 80s brought a couple of instant impressions:

1. Holy Crow! It's the Japanese KISS!

2. There goes the neighbourhood!

To see Toshi, Yoshiki, the late hide and the gang wailing away as the pioneers of visual kei on the stage brought a thrill to hundreds of thousands of kids and most likely terror to their parents. I never got into the genre myself, but X Japan was one of my signposts signalling that Japanese music was starting to diversify...or at least, diversify more openly.

Let's move ahead several more years. This time, I was now firmly entrenched in my life living in Ichikawa, Chiba and working there and in Tokyo. There was a new Prime Minister in the saddle by the name of Junichiro Koizumi(小泉純一郎)....a politician who had recently been called a henjin変人...weirdo)by fellow parliamentarian Makiko Tanaka (herself a daughter of a former PM, Kakuei Tanaka). People soon found out Koizumi was cut from a slightly more different cloth than the other old fogeys in Nagatacho. One of the things that stuck out for me about the lion-maned PM was his taste in music. He was not only a huge Elvis fan but he also had an affinity for the music of X Japan. Usually, my impression of politicians' favourite music had been more akin to the older vintage of enka or Mood Kayo, so it was with some surprise and delight for probably most people to find out that Koizumi was more than happy to declare his love for these musical legends on both sides of the Pacific.

"Forever Love" was X Japan's 14th single released back in July 1996, and is a ballad that Koizumi loved so much that it was even used for a while as a campaign song for his party, the Liberal Democratic Party. And I have to confess that it, along with their earlier "Endless Rain", is my favourite song by the band. Written and composed by Yoshiki, what got me about the song was its epic operatic nature and how Toshi seemed to be plaintively screaming into the dark for some sympathy, any sort of shoulder to cry upon...something that most of us can relate to. I've never been to an X Japan concert but I can imagine that this would be the showstopper every time. Get the hankies out!

The song reached No. 1 on Oricon and became the 47th-ranked song for the year with re-issues happening over the years since its initial release. It was also performed at the Kohaku Utagassen for 1997. "Forever Love" was also performed at hide's funeral in 1998. I remember the days surrounding the guitarist's death with a huge number of fans amassing by his home and then the funeral itself which brought out over 50,000 of them to the Buddhist temple of Tsukiji Hongan-ji in Tokyo.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mayumi Itsuwa -- Atsui Sayonara (熱いさよなら)

My other entry tonight was on the playful side of cafes. However, I came across an old chestnut that I hadn't heard in years by beautiful chanteuse Mayumi Itsuwa(五輪真弓)that also envisions a cafe. Titled "Atsui Sayonara" (Passionate Goodbye), Itsuwa wrote and composed this bittersweet ballad as her 28th single from June 1984, and it's about a woman keeping on a good face while inevitably giving her farewells to a once-thriving romance.

When it comes to Itsuwa, I can always imagine her penning her songs at a Parisian cafe along the Seine while sipping that cafe au lait. As soon as I heard the first notes of "Atsui Sayonara", the song immediately hit me as an Itsuwa creation...the piano weaving a wonderful and introspective melody from decades past. First hearing this on a highlight episode of "Sounds of Japan", I could almost feel the chill of l'automne that Itsuwa could have felt while writing.

Petits Rabbit's -- Daydream Cafe/Chimame-tai -- Poppin' Jump (ぽっぴんジャンプ)

According to the good folks at Wikipedia, an earworm is "...a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person's mind after it is no longer playing...The word earworm is a calque from the German Ohrwurm...first used in the 1980s".

I myself also like to envision the earworm as the Ceti Eel used to torture and subdue Commander Chekov and poor Captain Terrell in the original version of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" all the way back in 1982. One wonders whether a German Trekkie was inspired by that movie to come up with the name for a song that just...blast it all...won't leave your mind.

For this year, I've got a couple of those aural larvae hanging out in my brain, and they just happen to come from the same anime. My buddy unleashed "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?"(ご注文はうさぎですか?...Is The Order A Rabbit?)on me earlier this year, complete with the opening and ending themes. As for the show itself, it was adapted from a manga, and it's basically a pleasant half hour of watching 5 cute girls going through life while working at 3 different cafes in a small European-type town. Mind you, among those kids are a girl with a sister complex, a future NRA member and a moe version of Mr. Spock (yes, another "Star Trek" reference). Bringing in the foodie analogy, when I view "Space Cruiser Yamato" as some serious kaiseki ryori and "Space Dandy" as delectable junk food, "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?" is basically a nice cup of coffee with a small slice of strawberry shortcake. And I do appreciate my cup of joe and shortcake.

"Daydream Cafe" is the opening theme, and just like the show itself, it is an adorable and breezy ditty featuring all of the 5 main seiyuu put together as the group Petits Rabbit's (as a former English teacher, that apostrophe in there annoys me to no end). Written by Aki Hata(畑亜貴)and composed by Kaoru Okubo(大久保薫), it is as sugary as a Xmas candy cane but without the added calories and can almost get me to skip on the street whenever I hear it...over and over again. I was surprised to find out that Petits Rabbit's Ayane Sakura(佐倉綾音), Inori Minase(水瀬いのり), Risa Taneda(種田梨沙), Satomi Sato(佐藤聡美)and Maaya Uchida(内田真礼)even pull off a nice little song-and-dance in the official music video as above.

Ceti Eel II is the ending theme, "Poppin' Jump" by Chimame Tai( チマメ隊). Inori Minase is joined by Sora Tokui and Rie Murakawa(徳井青空・村川梨衣)who voice two of the minor characters, and the name chimame is an acronym of the three characters of Chino, Maya and Megu who are classmates. If anything, "Poppin' Jump" is even cuter than the opening theme and if taken in large doses, could induce uncontrollable hopping just like the titular animal in the show's title. As it is, though, it has just gotten me to sway my head. Still, it is what it's doing inside my head that's been the problem. I can blame the creators of the song, Uran(うらん)and Yuuki Kimura(木村有希)for making me feel like a 5-year-old at Xmas time.

"Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?" will most likely not enter the annals of significant anime in the 2010s (note from 2019 me: Oh, really?) but neither will it send me to bed racking my brain about what the meaning of life is or trying to purge existential horrors. And you know what? The songs there are probably what I would like to hear in my brain when I enter and exit a particularly welcoming small cafe...not a Starbucks or even a Timmies.

Tiramisu and coffee at Cova
in Shinjuku Times Square

Hiroshi Itsuki -- Yozora (夜空)

Oh my goodness, he's so cool...

Pretty much satisfied with what he had to offer in the early 2010's, I became more willing to delve deeper into Hiroshi Itsuki's (五木ひろし) large repertoire of hits after being enamored by the electric guitar playing Enka singer in a navy blue pinstriped suit with no tie and rolled up shirt sleeves from his 2012 single 'Yoake no blues' (夜明けのブルース).

'Yozora' (Night sky) was one of the first to come along after that. Thinking it was one of those slow and I dare say boring ballads or another 'When you wish upon a star' kinda thing (well, it is called night sky), I mostly gave this song a pass. But with Ikuzo Yoshi (吉幾三) having a go at Itsuki's 21st single on an episode of 'Nippon no uta' about half a year ago, I had decided to give in and see why it was one of the massively popular Enka singer's hits.

Anticipating the gentle notes of string instruments to come on first after that trademark tinkling (I don't know how else to describe it) that sounds like a shooting star through the dark sky, I was taken aback when the trumpets took over instead to start off the relatively fast paced song. And unfortunately it was also when I realized that Mr. Sake's husky voice isn't fit to sing such songs.

With its lyrics and music done by Yoko Yamaguchi (山口洋子) and Masaaki Hirao (平尾昌晃), also known as the same duo who spawned Itsuki's breakthrough hit 'Yokohama tasogare' (よこはま・たそがれ) two years before, I suppose there's no wonder 'Yozora' made it all the way up to 4th place on the Oricon charts in 1973 and allowed Itsuki to bag the grand prize at the 15th Japan Record Awards. But he only sang it once more than two decades later during his 29th appearance on the Kohaku in 1999.

So far it seems like 'Yozora' has gotten faster and more intense over the years. Sounding more placid in its earlier state, the current amped up renditions of it has Itsuki swaying around more and throwing out punches into the air with more vigor, especially at the angst-filled 'Akirame ta' part.

Wow, just wow.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Minako Tanaka -- Weekend Pain

Minako Tanaka (田中美奈子) was an edgy and sexy girl during the late 80s and early 90s. Her debut album, “Kimi no Hitomi ni Utsukushiku” (君の瞳に優しく), which was released in January 1990, featured some of her most memorable singles, but also had interesting hidden gems inside, just like “Weekend Pain”, for example.

Although Minako Tanaka started her career in a more Eurobeat vein with songs like “Namida no Taiyou” (涙の太陽), “Be My Baby” and “Tell me”, the overall sound used in her album was an interesting fusion of the Stock Aitken Waterman’s Eurobeat sound with touches of Janet Jackson’s New Jack Swing. “Weekend Pain”, for example, follows this formula, and it works.

It may be strange to somes that I brought up New Jack Swing to the table, but although really melted down (well, the genre itself is a melted result of fusing Hip-hop, R&B and Pop), Minako Tanaka’s debut album features an evident New Jack Swing in songs like “Weekend Pain”, “Shinku no Kyouhansha” (真紅の共犯者), “Fujitsu Paranoia” (不実パラノイア) and “Amai Sensou” (甘い戦争), for example.

Back to the song, I like the beginning with the synth twinkles (they really sound like “the party is about to start” to me), the background percussion and the steady electronic bass. Also, although the verses are kind empty in the arrangement department during the first half of the song, some interesting crashing synths are introduced in the second half's verses. As for Minako, it’s not a mystery that I really like her vocals. They’re sexy and, most of the times, she sings in a correct manner.

After the album release, her subsequent single, the Komuro-penned (小室 哲哉) “Yume Mite TRY” (夢見てTRY), was a return to a more SAW Eurobeat sound, but she soon would commit herself with the edgy New Jack Swing sound once more in “Dancing in the shower”, the lead single for her sophomore album, “Gimmick”.

The “Kimi no Hitomi ni Utsukushiku” album reached #15 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics for “Weekend Pain” were written by Natsumi Tadano (只野菜摘), while music was composed by Paul Chiten and Sue Sheridan. As for the arrangement, Tatsuya Nishiwaki (西脇辰弥) was the responsible.

To finish, here's my "Kimi no Hitomi ni Utsukushiku" album.

You Kikkawa -- URAHARA Temptation (URAHARAテンプテーション)

I’m a longtime You Kikkawa (吉川友) fan. In late 2011, she released a great single called “Konna Watashi de Yokattara (こんな私でよかったら), and when she performed it on Music Japan in early 2012, I watched it live on my television. I just adored the song, and really hoped she kept releasing nice songs. Well, Kikka didn’t release another interesting song during 2012 and 2013, unfortunately. In 2014, though, she redeemed herself with the club banger “URAHARA Temptation”.

“URAHARA Temptation”, which was released in June 2014, was a departure from what she’s been doing since her debut in Hello! Project. Unlike her cheerful aidoru stuff, this new song was dance-oriented and even sexy in its nature. I confess that Kikka is not very good at portraying a sexy girl in the video, but she tries, and that’s adorable per se.

About the song, it’s not very different from nowadays America’s mainstream electronic pop music. I didn’t think I’d be so hooked on this song, mostly because I have some restrains when J-Pop acts tries to emulate what’s trendy in America, but I’m listening to it non-stop since it was released three months ago. Even Kikka’s rap is fun.

I really think this new direction Kikka is following will be good for her (I’m waiting for a new album next year). Now, in late October, she’s releasing another single which follows the same formula inaugurated with “URAHARA Temptation”: a double a-side single with the first song being edgy and the second one portraying Kikka’s cute persona. But this new single is a talk for another day.

“URAHARA Temptation” reached #17 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by NOBE, while music and arrangement were done by michimoto.

Tetsu and Tomo -- Horoyoi Blues (ほろ酔いブルース)

This week's episode of Kayo Concert was pretty interesting, with the theme revolving around trains and all. We had the sibling duo Karyudo (狩人) - that's such a cool name - singing their debut single 'Azusa ni Go' (あずさ2号). It was the first time I heard most of the song, and now I know why it was such a big hit. And then there was this young Enka singer by the name of Hiroshi Miyama (三山ひろし) singing the late Enka veteran Michiya Mihashi's (三橋美智也) 'Aishu no Resha' (哀愁列車). His delivery of the angst-filled song was alright save for the fact that he kept smiling throughout!

Moving on, the performance that piqued my interest was by this other duo present, Tetsu and Tomo (テツ . トモ). I pretty much knew they weren't an Enka duo when they began to sway and dance in such a lighthearted manner as they sang their latest single that mentioned something Shinbashi train station (released on 15th October 2014). After a little research a while later, I learnt that these fellows are in fact a comedy duo who began their careers in 1998, comprising of Tetsuya Nakamoto and Tomoyuki Ishizawa (中本哲也 . 石澤智幸). Well, that explains their names, overall goofiness and enthusiasm. Hmm, so I guess they're something like Tunnels?

'Horoyoi Blues' had its lyrics done by Natsumi Watanabe (渡辺なつみ) and was composed by renowned composer Keisuke Hama (浜圭介). Listening to the music, I could just see the 2 of them doing that little jig of theirs in tuxedos and canes. Actually, it sounded more like an Enka/Mood Kayo song that someone like Hiroshi Itsuki (五木ひろし) would sing!

There's this other thing that I had just discovered this morning while listening to 'Horoyoi Blues' again: This song seems to sound a little like the sped up and funkier version of 'Hoshi wa Nandemo Shiteiru' (星は何でも知っている), sung by another famed composer, Masaaki Hirao (平尾昌晃) in his younger days. It's either that or I was still groggy from waking up early again for school, or as I had said in an earlier article, I do not very very discerning ears.

In Red most of the time: Tetsu
In Blue most of the time: Tomo

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Keiko Fuji -- Kyoto kara Hakata made (京都から博多まで)

I heard this torch song, "Kyoto kara Hakata made" (From Kyoto to Hakata) last night on NHK's "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)sung by one of the guest performers, and on hearing that this was a Keiko Fuji(藤圭子)song during the introduction, the Yu Aku(阿久悠)lyrics pretty much cemented that fact. Fuji once again brings forth a story of womanly woe about going on a seeming fool's errand by getting on that train from the ancient capital to one of the major cities in western Japan to go after that man that she's fallen for.

Kosho Inomata(猪俣公章)was responsible for the cool urban feel of Fuji's 11th single from January 1972, and as usual, I'm a sucker for a lonely trumpet. I could imagine the singer in that trenchcoat as a lonely figure waiting for that last train on a rain-soaked platform. Apparently, the supposedly quixotic voyage was patterned from an actual train run by the Matsukaze (now known as the Super Matsukaze according to Wikipedia), a limited express service operated by JR West. Inomata, by the way, was also behind Fuji's big hit from a couple of years previously, "Onna no Blues"(女のブルース).

"Kyoto kara Hakata made" peaked at No. 20 on Oricon and first appeared as a track on Fuji's 8th album, "Shiranai Machi de"(知らない町で...In a Town I Don't Know)from December 1971 before it got its official single release. Several months later, she would perform it on the Kohaku Utagassen of 1972 which is shown above.

Revisiting the old shops

During my 2 weeks back in Tokyo, I managed to visit some of my old music haunts in the hopes that I would be able to pick up some good discs.

First off, my anime buddy and I hit Nakano Broadway. Now, it was my buddy who told me that Recomints had closed down during his last visit there in 2012. Well, going there in 2014, Recomints has apparently given a Wolverine-like "I got better" response, and to my relief, was very much alive, However, the two different outlets in Broadway selling discounted Japanese and Western discs respectively have merged into the original space for the Japanese stuff on the 3rd floor. The tables of cut-rate discs are gone only to be replaced by shelves as you can see above but the mix of Western and Japanese albums is still very cheap.

Happily, I was able to make my first purchase for the trip there, Akiko Yano's classic "Gohan ga Dekita yo".

(July 5 2016: Here is an update on Recomints...not a happy one, though.)

Of course, a visit to the planet's largest music store, Tower Records in Shibuya, was mandatory. At around 2010 and 2011, the store enabled the re-mastering kick of some of the old albums from the 70s and 80s. Well, going back to Tower three years later, that re-mastering has gone into high gear. In fact, I found a section on the 3rd floor which paid tribute to 70s/80s City Pop. As much as I had wanted to grab the entire selection, I just went with Tomoko Aran's "More Relax" from 1984. Such is the lot of a person on a limited tourist's budget and yet, I hit the place twice and purchased a total of 8 CDs there.

The J-Pop section was moved sometime during those 3 years from the 2nd floor to the 3rd floor. Now, the formerly 7th-floor magazine/book department was moved down to the 2nd floor, and to boot, a pretty cool-vibe cafe has been placed on that same floor. After that first giddy visit to Tower, we just had to relax a bit there with some lattes. Early in my time as a teacher in Tokyo in the mid-90s, Tower Records Shibuya did have a cafe in the basement which had the rather hilarious arrangement of having a non-smoking spot in the centre of the remaining smoking area without any barriers. That incarnation didn't last too long.

*Ah, I should let you know about one thing about Tower. The store does accept credit cards, but the staff doesn't ask for PIN numbers to be typed in...they just swipe it through something. I made my purchases on credit there and there was a bit of a consequence. Some days later when I was to pay my share of the hotel bill by that same credit card, I was rejected, even though I had informed the credit card company before the trip that I would be using the card overseas (thankfully, I was armed with another card). After returning to Toronto, I called up the credit card hotline and the operator there told me that it's possible that Tower apparently not needing the PIN but having the purchases go through anyways may have put up some red flags and froze things on my card for security purposes. However, the operator told me that things were fine and dandy now.

After my second trip to Tower a few days later (and a satisfaction for a craving of McDonalds), I hopped onto the Hanzomon Line (purple on the Tokyo subway map) and made a beeline toward Jimbocho Station. And I was reassured when I saw the familiar blue-and-white sign of Tacto once more. Tacto, as I mentioned in the article for the shop, specializes in the older and/or rarer CDs and I gave the shelves on the first floor there a good browse before I settled on four or five discs, including Kenjiro Sakiya's BEST collection.

I also visited RecoFan in Shibuya and Yamano Music in Ginza although I didn't take any shots of those old haunts. But as you have noticed, when I go to Japan, there will always be a standing order for me to replenish my want of kayo kyoku/J-Pop.