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.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Original Love -- Sunshine Romance (サンシャイン ロマンス)

I wonder if anyone reading this was anywhere near born...or for that matter if anyone's parents were born...when The Fifth Dimension was really big in the 1960s. Well, I was around. In fact, I remember that one of the first songs that I actually listened to and enjoyed was their huge hit of "Up Up and Away" in 1967. I wasn't even 2 years old when this came out and listening to this again, I can see where later bands like Swingout Sister got their inspiration.

The above is a song by The Fifth Dimension that I hadn't heard about until basically tonight. This is "It's A Great Life" which was a track on their 3rd album "Stoned Soul Picnic" from 1968. It's a similarly sunny song that I could love just from the horns in the intro alone.

And apparently, Takao Tajima (田島貴男, did he look like a stringbean back then) of Original Love also loved that brassy intro enough that he adopted it for his 4th single, "Sunshine Romance" from May 1993. And as the title states, there is plenty of good ol' sunshine in this song that I re-discovered tonight (it's on the "Sunny Side of Original Love" BEST compilation that I bought years ago). This is quite the pick-me-up song that actually had me thinking of some of those 80s bands such as The Style Council.

The keyboardist for Original Love at the time, Ryutaro Kihara(木原龍太郎), came up with the lyrics. The single managed to peak at No. 48, and it was also a track on the band's 3rd album "Eyes" from June 1993 which made it to No. 4 on the Oricon weeklies.

Hiroshi Miura & Honey Six -- Konya wa All Night de (今夜はオールナイトで)

Wow! You couldn't get more Mood Kayo than this chestnut from 1982. The saxophone is in there as is the Latin guitar, plus the haunting chorus and the give & take between the man and woman in this romantic tete-a-tete. And they happen to be brother and sister!

Before we go down into some scary territory with my last statement, allow me to say that Hiroshi Miura & Honey Six(三浦弘とハニーシックス)is a family affair. Starting in 1965, the Miura siblings start with the eldest brother Hiroshi himself followed by Sadao, Haruo, Hisao, Hideki and sister Kyoko. Good golly! It's a Mood Kayo Osmond family!

(karaoke version)

Not sure if the loving couple in "Konya wa All Night de" (Tonight All Night) consist of partners who are already married to other folks or if they are happy innocents but this song written and composed by leader Hiroshi Miura definitely has that flirtatious feeling in the music and lyrics...and especially in those (synth?) strings. Dancing, drinking and loving...they never want it to end. It's the right Mood Kayo to hear in the karaoke box for a group of a certain age on a Friday night in Ginza.

In 2008, Hiroshi decided to call it a day when he turned 70, so now the group has been renamed Kyoko Miura & Honey Six(三浦京子とハニーシックス)with singer-songwriter Roy Shirakawa(ロイ白川)joining the family.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

dip in the pool -- Tong Poo (東風)

Gonna exercise my blog right and pull off something rather sudden here. As I usually do, I go through my many entries to see if there have been any videos pulled down due to the usual copyright claims and sure enough there were a few. During my usual housekeeping, though, I also found out that my lone entry for the fascinating duo, dip in the pool, was rendered almost without any songs due to the demise of music163, and there were a few folks trying to look in.

Felt somewhat badly about that but then I came across this YouTube video which according to the uploader may have been put up around 1993 on some TV show. It turned out to be Miyako Koda's(甲田益也子)soft and appealing cover of Yellow Magic Orchestra's classic "Tong Poo". On the article for the song, there was YMO's original technopop version along with Akiko Yano's(矢野顕子)fun and quirky cover.

However, with dip in the pool's take, Koda just plays her voice like a piano during a midnight jazz session with a quiet bossa arrangement of the melody. If I can now use a foodie analogy, her vocals just sound so chocolate and caramel; they simply flow steadily.

I don't know whether this was a one-off performance of "Tong Poo" or whether Koda's version has actually been recorded somewhere but I will appreciate it if someone can inform me. Hopefully, putting this article up will make up for losing a lot of songs from "KM 93.11" although I managed to find one video to put in there.

EPO -- Ongaku no Yo na Kaze (音楽のような風)

For all those who like older Japanese music and older American sitcoms, I can probably declare that EPO is the Mary Tyler Moore of J-Pop. To paraphrase a lyric from the opening theme song to "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", she can turn on the fans with her music. Her songs aren't going to cure cancer or spur folks to demonstrate in front of Parliament or the White House but they are just darn happy.

In fact, it's pretty hard to peg when an EPO single first came out since they are all either peppy and catchy or wistful ballads. So I was a bit surprised to find out that "Ongaku no Yo na Kaze" (Wind Like Music) was actually her 9th single from August 1985 since it sounded like a tune that could have easily come from her earlier catalog at the beginning of the decade.

Well, no matter its launch date, "Ongaku no Yo na Kaze" was a total creation by EPO which starts out with a cute tinkly synth before its companion keyboard goes into a 60s Burt Bacharach-like riff. And perhaps I can continue my Mary Tyler Moore analogy in that I could imagine a Japanese version of ol' Mer (Murray Slaughter's pet name for her...yep I was a big fan of the show) sitting by herself at a sunny cafe reminiscing over a past love while hoping for some future love. Ever the optimist.

"Ongaku no Yo na Kaze" also made it onto her 8th album from June 1986 "PUMP!PUMP!", a title that sounds appropriately optimistic.

Chris Hart -- Boku wa Koko de Ikiteiku (僕はここで生きていく)

(Sorry but the "Minna no Uta" video was taken down.
Instead, here's the shortened version of the music video.)

Nope, it doesn't have the best sound quality but I was quite charmed by this video from NHK's "Minna no Uta"(みんなのうた...Songs For All)music vignette program for the kids. It is about a moving guy just getting started in the craft and having to pay his dues but also slowly finding his feet...a typical story arc that has been in tons of dramas especially when it comes to those morning 15-minute serials on the national network.

(karaoke version)

I also like the song that Chris Hart(クリス・ハート)sings for the video, "Boku wa Koko de Ikiteiku" (I Will Keep On Living Here). This is his 5th single from February 2016 which was written by him and Yoichiro Takagi(高木洋一郎)and composed by Ryo (?) Nakamura(中村僚)and Yu (?) Nakamura(中村友). It has that inspirational and joyous feeling which was probably why it was on one of the final episodes of "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)when the theme of the evening was songs to cheer one up. And I believe it was on the same program that Hart announced that he was now a Dad for the first a way, I think the song could be rather autobiographical.

"Boku wa Koko de Ikiteiku" managed to hit as high as No. 37. Hart has been one of the non-Japanese singers to make a splash in the J-Pop scene alongside Hikaru Utada(宇多田ヒカル)and Jero over the past several years, and hopefully they will be able to make further inroads and perhaps inspire other folks from other nations to join in.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Miki Imai -- Retour (Follow-up)

Much like I did for Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)"Romantique" a couple of months ago, I've decided to do a follow-up on an article I did on another favourite album. This time, it's "Retour" by Miki Imai(今井美樹)from 1990. As I mentioned in the original article back in 2012, Imai's 5th album to me is the quintessential album by the lithe singer with the wide-as-the-Mississippi smile. All of the songs are wonderful concoctions of uptempo fun tunes and mellow ballads, and a few of the tracks that weren't included in the "Retour" article got their own entries: "Ame ni Kiss no Hanataba wo"(雨にキッスの花束を)"Nakitakatta"(泣きたかった)and "Motto Motto Motto"(もっと、もっと、もっと).

"Kakehiki 27" (カ・ケ・ヒ・キ 27...Strategy 27) is another one of the playful tracks written by Imai and composed by Jun Sato(佐藤準). It's nice and brassy and seemingly fit as the theme song for a trendy drama on Japanese TV that could have easily starred the singer herself when she was acting fairly regularly. The lyrics by Imai themselves paint a scene from such a comedy-drama as two friends just chat away at a restaurant or cafe while one of them is wondering how she can get her significant other to promote themselves up to a level above merely buddies. Considering the number of strategies in the title, the guy might be as dense as a brick.

(cover version)

"Kyonen wa Hachi-gatsu datta" (去年は、8月だった...Last Year, It Was August) by Keiko Aso(麻生圭子)and MAYUMI is a soulful number with Imai singing about a relationship a year in with the protagonist making an assessment about how things have gone and how might they go. I wonder if this might have been a sequel to "Kakehiki 27".

"Hansode"(半袖...Short Sleeves)is hopefully not a further sequel to the two songs above since the sad ballad is about life after the end of a relationship...perhaps due to the death of that significant other. Yuuho Iwasato and Chika Ueda(岩里祐穂・上田知華)were responsible for this 3-Kleenex song.

The final track, "Atarashii Machi de"(新しい街で...In A New Town)is one of the truly memorable songs on "Retour" and makes for a fine finale to the album as well as a fine finale to any Miki Imai concert. There's very much a sunset feeling to KAN's melody and Iwasato's lyrics talk about a new start. The piano that starts things off and that saxophone during the bridge are the highlights for me.

The remaining two songs are "Fuyu no Market"(冬のマーケット...Winter Market)with Akemi Kakihara(柿原朱美)providing the melody to Iwasato's lyrics and "Kagayaku Hoshi ni Natte"(輝く星になって...Shining Star)by Imai and Mioko Yamaguchi(山口美央子)couldn't be found except through excerpts on the Amazon site selling the CD but they are also just fine to listen to, especially the former. If either or both of them pop up on YouTube someday, I would be happy to cover them as well.

Knowing that I would be writing about the album tonight, I decided to pop the CD into the player again earlier this afternoon. No change...still just as wonderful as when I had bought it back over a quarter-century ago.

Kiyoshi Hikawa -- Miren Gokoro/Setouchi Blues (みれん心/瀬戸内ブルース)

I don't know about those of you who are fans of Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし), but in the recent months I've noticed that this fellow has become more mature. Probably he's more aware of his age now and is trying to be more appropriate? Or perhaps it's just to match the tone for his new single, "Miren Gokoro" - it had Hikawa keeping a straight face and restricting his otherwise bombastic movements for about 90% of his performance on "Kayo Concert" about a month ago. Be as it may, I'm liking his slightly more serious mien... and hairdo. If he keeps this up, could it be possible for him to be promoted to one of my favourites? Hmm...

Alright, "Miren Gokoro" is definitely not as severe as I may have just implied and it definitely doesn't have the style of a heavily melancholic, cry-in-your-sake sort of enka. Hideo Mizumori (水森英夫) had put together a rather retro score that fits a joyous drinking occasion and Hikawa's funny manner of dragging some of the words does make it seem like it is so. The lyrics on the other hand, penned by Daisuke Shiga (志賀大介), tell a different story, one of heartbreak, regret and perhaps some wishful thinking on the part of our heroine who hopes to see the one who got away once more. She also seems to be berating herself, probably for giving herself some false hope.

"Miren Gokoro" came out on 15th February 2016 and as usual it managed to hit the top 3 on the normal charts, peaking at 2nd place. Reading it's description on the Oricon site, "Miren Gokoro" is apparently Hikawa's first go at singing in the perspective of a woman.

(cover version)

Now we shall move on to the B-side to "Miren Gokoro" for the A-type version. I don't believe I've seen/heard of Hikawa tackling a Mood Kayo of his own before - it's either that or I'm simply not well versed in his discography - until "Setouchi Blues" came along.

The moment I heard the mournful sax and the "Wa wa wa" at the beginning, my mind immediately went to another Kiyoshi and his five-now-reduced-to-four cronies as it really sounded like something they would have sung back in the 70's or maybe even now with it's modern kick. Mizumori was also responsible for the music to "Setouchi Blues", and writing it was Daizo (?) Saito (さいとう大三) this time round. I enjoy both the A and B-sides, but I think I prefer "Setouchi Blues" by a slim margin. I'm kinda hoping that Hikawa would sing it on TV some time, though I figure it'd be unlikely as B-sides tend to not get as much love.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Snakeman Show -- Sakisaka to Momonai no Gokigen Ikaga 1-2-3 (咲坂と桃内のごきげんいかがワン・ツゥ・スリー)

The fellow in the video above is Katsuya Kobayashi(小林克也). Wearing a number of hats as a radio DJ, a tarento, an actor and a narrator, he's got a voice that is ready-made for that first job. Plus probably most people of a certain age (notably me) knew him as the host of the late-night music program "Best Hit USA" which started in the early 80s as a showcase for all of the top songs coming from Stateside at that time. And last but not least, with his prowess with the English language, Kobayashi was also helping out with language training. I actually got to see the man in person years ago at a Xmas party hosted by one of my wealthier students; he was making a good raid at the buffet table...not that I blamed him since there was always some of the best food I've ever tasted in Japan served in that house.

Of course, all you anime fans will know Desslar, the first Big Bad (later ally) of the intrepid crew of the Yamato from "Uchuu Senkan Yamato"(宇宙戦艦ヤマト). His basso profundo was supplied by actor and seiyuu Masato Ibu(伊武雅刀). I never got to see him in person although he had a minor role in that Steven Spielberg movie "Empire of the Sun" starring a very young Christian Bale.

Well in the mid-1970s, Kobayashi and Ibu got together with a fellow named Moichi Kuwahara(桑原茂一)who also wears a number of hats: music producer, sketch writer, and a general writer for TV and radio to form Snakeman Show(スネークマンショー), a unit that has hosted radio shows, wrote comedy sketches and created some of those zany Japanese commercials.

My introduction to Snakeman Show was through Yellow Magic Orchestra since I often read both names together in the same sentence. And in fact, the two units did collaborate on the 1980 YMO album "Multiplies"(増殖). From then on, Snakeman Show also started putting out comedy records and even some music releases including the topic of this article "Sakisaka to Momonai no Gokigen Ikaga 1-2-3" (Sakisama and Momonai's How Are You 1-2-3) from 1981.

The song would probably fit in the same weird category as Frank Chickens' "We Are Ninja". I first heard "Sakisaka to Momonai no Gokigen Ikaga 1-2-3" a few months ago on that CD of techno kayo that I had purchased for Xmas. Composed by Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)from YMO and written by Snakeman Show, it's a tongue-in-cheek rap that some commenters on YouTube have opined as being the first Japanese rap attempted, although I think Hosono may have beat them to it with "Rap Phenomena". The other interesting point is that the composer also might have had a devotion to Blondie's "Rapture" when he was putting the notes together. However, instead of rapping about that man from Mars and eating Cadillacs and Subarus, Kuwahara and company wanted to do their tongue twisters from both sides of the Pacific and practice their English with Ibu even bringing in a bit of Desslar into the proceedings. As I said, all tongue-in-cheek.

I couldn't think of anything weirder than this picture
to put in for this article.

capsule -- Tokyo Kissa (東京喫茶)

A Caffe Latte at the Tower Records Cafe in Shibuya

In one of my university textbooks on Japan, the author once described the country as having a bar culture which is a point that I do not disagree with at all. At the same time, I can describe my old stomping grounds of Tokyo as currently having a cafe culture. Now, there have been coffee shops in the Big Sushi for decades and decades with one of the venerable franchises being Renoir which has an interior design that has remained in the 80s at its most recent. But since the very first Starbucks in Tokyo set up its first branch in Ginza 20 years ago, there has been a mammoth influx of the famous chain along with other similar chains such as Excelsior Coffee. I would say that the Japanese have as much a need for caffeine as they do for alcohol.

For good or bad, a lot of my years in Japan have been spent professionally as well as personally in places like Starbucks, Doutor and private Mom and Pop cafes. Although it was somewhat awkward teaching a student in those places, when we were lucky enough to be in a nearly empty coffeehouse, the atmosphere was very conducive for study with some decent coffee and some jazz music helping out the lessons. If I were to actually write a book about my time in Japan, I would title it "My Life and Career in Cafes".

Well, all that preamble to introduce my first song of the week, "Tokyo Kissa" (Tokyo Coffee Shop) by capsule. Released as their 3rd single from October 2001, the song created by Yasutaka Nakata(中田ヤスタカ)was very much from their early period of Shibuya-kei. In fact, a number of the comments on YouTube have remarked at how much the duo of Nakata and Toshiko Koshijima(こしじまとしこ)sounded like good ol' Pizzicato Five. And I think the song seems to match the atmosphere of some of the more trendier cafes I've visited in downtown Tokyo. The only place in Toronto that I've been to which has had something similar in terms of decor is this gourmet donut cafe near Kensington Market called Jelly which would be perfect for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down)

Apparently there were two short-but-sweet music videos of "Tokyo Kissa". The one above has Koshijima so coquettishly singing the song in an apt setting of a café. I've always enjoyed the vocalist's eyes so it was a pity that she felt the need to cover them up when capsule decided to go full techno some years later.

Here is the other video done up in a cutesy sketchy anime style. "Tokyo Kissa" is also available on capsule's debut album, "High Collar Girl"(ハイカラ・ガール)from November 2001. You can also check out the other article I've written on the group, "Music Controller".

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Taro Takemura & Shonen Shojo Gasshodan Mizuumi -- Ultraman Taro (ウルトラマンタロウ)

My interest in all things Ultraman(ウルトラマン)lasted up to and including "Ultraman Ace"(ウルトラマンエース)when it came to the TV franchise, basically when I was visiting Japan for the first time in 1972 as a kid. However back in Toronto, when my family visited the old Furuya food store in Old Chinatown downtown one day, I discovered an elementary school reader that had an Ultraman that I had never seen before.

It was pretty fascinating to me. Looking like a hybrid of Ultraman Father and Ultra Seven(ウルトラセブン), this was Ultraman Taro, and he made his debut on TV screens in Japan the year after my first visit. The story of his debut in the opening pages of the kids' book that I most likely pressured Mom to purchase was totally epic. In a span of 6 pages with color pictures, my eyes absorbed ad nauseum the spectacle of what seemed to be an invasion of Nebula M-78, the homeworld of the Ultramen, by a ton of kaiju during which all of the previous Ultramen seen including the Ultra Parents and first son Zoffy (ゾフィー) looked to be in over their shiny chrome heads. But then new son, Ultraman Taro, comes on the scene to miraculously turn the tide on the invaders with his big brothers getting that second wind to oust the beasts. I couldn't read Japanese at that point, but I was still mightily impressed.

Now where that reader has gone I've got no idea. It may still be lingering in one of the storerooms or my parents may have pitched it out long ago. In any case, I never really had that major urge to see the TV series although I finally got to see an episode many many years later as an adult. Still, I have some recollection of Taro's theme tune since it has gotten onto many a variety show for whatever reason.

Titled simply "Ultraman Taro", it was sung by Taro Takemura(武村太郎). At first, I had imagined that the powers-that-be must have worked really hard to find a singer with the same name as the character. But it turns out Takemura was merely a stage name for actor/singer/seiyuu Ryoichi Fukuzawa(福沢良一). He and the Shonen Shojo Gasshodan Mizuumi(少年少女合唱団みずうみ...Boys & Girls Chorus Group Mizuumi)got together to do their heroic rendition of the Taro theme written by no less than Yu Aku(阿久悠)and composed by Makoto Kawaguchi(川口真).

I have to say that although I never got into the original series I did find Ultraman Taro to be quite the imposing figure especially with the least until Ultraman Leo (ウルトラマンレオ) came along.

The Top 10 (ザ・トップテン)

When it came to the two big music ranking shows of the 1980s that helped me get more and more into Japanese popular music, I always saw TBS' "The Best 10" (ザ・ベストテン) as the sempai over the kohai of NTV's "The Top 10". And the former was indeed the longer-lasting of the two (1978-1989) while the latter's reign was from 1981 to 1990. Plus, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi(黒柳徹子)who was one-half of the hosting team on "The Best 10" was really just larger than life itself....her hairstyle alone was larger than life.

Basically though, I saw the two programs as two sides of the same coin with their in-studio and onsite guest performances. Still, "The Top 10" which took over for the long-running "NTV Kohaku Uta no Best 10"(NTV紅白歌のベストテン...NTV's Red-and-White Songs Best 10)(1969-1981) had its differences from "The Best 10" in that it ran on Monday nights instead of the latter's Thursdays which kept the managerial teams for all those singers quite happy, I imagine. Also, instead of the mirror ninja wall and the clattering airport terminal-friendly ranking boards at "The Best 10", "The Top 10" had a glittering elevator and a computer screen with a smiling/pouty monkey face to show the rankings on that show.

And of course, there were the hosts. The aforementioned Kuroyanagi and Hiroshi Kume(久米宏)were the mile-a-minute emcees on "The Best 10" but "The Top 10" had the amiable and former Group Sounds cat Masaaki Sakai(堺正章)and perennially pixie aidoru Ikue Sakakibara(榊原郁恵)handling things. One thing that I hadn't known was that legendary lyricist Yu Aku(阿久悠)was the overall major domo of "The Top 10".

Another thing was that "The Top 10" actually ended its run in early 1986. But right there to take its place was "Uta no Top 10"(歌のトップテン...Songs Top 10). With a change in set design and hosts, the show took the baton and continued until March of 1990 with a few other small adjustments here and there.

For the first year, the hosts were broadcaster Kazuo Tokumitsu(徳光和夫)and former aidoru Mako Ishino(石野真子)with singer/tarento Akiko Wada(和田アキ子)and comedian Shinsuke Shimada(島田紳助)taking over from 1987 onwards.

Beginning with all that VHS footage I saw at my classmate's house back in late 1981, I was hooked on both "The Best 10" and "The Top 10" so that I often would rent out videos of the two programs to catch up on my music. "The Best 10" finished its run in 1989 but I remember seeing "The Top 10" some months into my stay in Gunma Prefecture so when that final episode aired, I realized that an era just ended.

And totally off-topic here but since we are in Easter Weekend, I just wanted to give my tribute to the holiday with "Velvet Easter" and "Peter Rabbit to Watashi". Enjoy the ham and chocolate bunnies and eggs.

Frank Nagai -- Ichiman Sanzen Happyaku En (13,800 円)

The late kayo singer Frank Nagai(フランク永井)released a countless (or when it comes to me, too lazy to count) number of singles between 1955 and 1985 of which up Noelle and I have covered 10 up to now in the blog. Most of those 10 are his Mood Kayo contributions such as the classic "Tokyo Nightclub"(東京ナイト・クラブ)of 1959, and that's how I've seen this crooner: as that middle-aged fellow in a suit or a tux singing away in a smoke-filled club with a tumbler of whisky in his hand.

I know that in all likelihood though that Nagai has done his fair share of enka tunes and that is how I see this particular tune, his 7th single from February 1957, "Ichiman Sanzen Happyaku En" (13,800 Yen). Instead of the smoky nightclub and the tux, I see Nagai in something far more casual getting off work at either the office in the concrete building or in some shop in Ueno. With the jaunty down-at-home feeling of Ichiro Tone's(利根一郎)music (I can imagine some Bon Odori being performed to it), Seiichi Ida's(井田誠一)lyrics have Frank singing cheerfully about what to do with the titular amount of money that he now has in his pocket. Does he spend some of it on that drink at the local watering hole or take the family out to the zoo on Sunday? Considering those days, 13,800 yen must have been a very nice sum. Ah...decisions, decisions.

The above version was recorded by a YouTube uploader by the name of Peter Firth (and no, I don't think he's the British actor), and I think he's just fantastic singing his version of "Ichiman Sanzen Happyaku En". The arrangement sounds as if it had been performed by a particularly swinging chindon'ya(チンドン屋)band. These are the traditionally dressed street musicians who often walk around areas such as Asakusa promoting the opening of new shops or some sort of special discount. My hat is off to him!

What did 13,800 yen mean to me back in the day? Well, it used to mean 3 or 4 CDs or perhaps a nice full night on the town with friends at the izakaya followed by karaoke.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

MICHI -- Checkmate?!/Ayana Taketatsu -- Hey! Calorie Queen (Hey!カロリーQueen)

I've seen manga-adapted anime covering a number of aspects of Japanese pop culture including rakugo performers and love of food so I wasn't surprised to hear about a manga that covered the wonderful world of Japanese snacks. In 2014, "Weekly Shonen Sunday" introduced "Dagashi Kashi" that became adapted into an anime back in January. The story has the eccentric daughter of a confectionery magnate, Hotaru voiced by Ayana Taketatsu(竹達彩奈), arriving in a countryside community to persuade a good-hearted if slightly frustrated teenage boy, Kokonotsu, to come and work for her Dad although the kid really wants to become a manga artist instead of taking over the family candy business.

The anime is fun enough and I have not heard or seen the vast majority of the snacks on display in the series, although to be honest, even during my years in Japan, I never really got into the kashi scene all that much outside of potato chips and chocolate bars. However, I do remember when my brother and I were kids when we often got those boxes of Botan rice candy with the edible clear wrappers around it at the Japanese food stores in downtown Toronto.

Strangely enough, I've also become drawn to the opening and ending themes for "Dagashi Kashi". The two of them don't sound conventionally hit-bound but their melodies for some reason kinda strike me as being somewhat Ringo Shiina(椎名林檎)...or at least off-kilter pop.

The opening theme of "Checkmate?!" by MICHI sounds pretty funky and sultry for the most part with strings that had me thinking of Dexy's Midnight Runners before the refrain suddenly goes all happy and hopeful. With that title along with the song overall, I think the opener is the perfect theme for the character of Hotaru since she is playing a bit of a chess game with the unknowing Kokonotsu.

I had assumed that the singer MICHI was the half-British half-Japanese singer who had popped up several years ago but her nom de guerre is actually spelled MiChi. MICHI, whose real name is Michiko Touyama(當山美智子), hails from Okinawa and debuted just in 2015. "Checkmate?!" is her 2nd single which was released in January 2016 and got as high as No. 51 on the charts. The song was written by lyricist-novelist RUCCA and composed by Junpei Fujita(藤田淳平).

As for the ending theme, "Hey! Calorie Queen" sung by the lead seiyuu Taketatsu herself sounds like it mixed in some trance and Latin in there, and it kinda comes off as a bit of a frenetic march. The ending credits with the "Alice in Wonderland" motif are also kinda nifty. Written and composed by Yashikin (やしきん), the song was also released in January as Taketatsu's 8th single which did better than the opener by peaking at No. 19. Interesting tune although I wouldn't be yelling the title too loudly in the diet aisle of a supermarket.

The ironic thing about Ayana Taketatsu according to my anime buddy is that she's not as much into kashi as she is into gyudon. Apparently, she can eat the beef bowl all day. Hey, calorie queen indeed!

Well, since we are on this topic, I might want to recommend for all those who may be heading for Tokyo (where my friend is right now) on vacation this year to give the Ameyoko (アメ横) district in the neighbourhood of Ueno a try. There are tons of restaurants and shops there including Niki-no-Kashi (二木の菓子), the very venerable snack shop. I am pretty darn sure that whatever has popped up in "Dagashi Kashi" is on sale in that establishment. Since I used to teach a student on Monday afternoons in the area, I often had some really nice lunches in Ameyoko such as kaisen don (fresh seafood on rice), rice curry, doner kebab and other goodies.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Blue Hearts -- TRAIN-TRAIN

About a half-hour ago, the top story on the NHK morning news was the official launch of the Hokkaido Shinkansen. I'd heard about the build-up to the big launch over the past number of months but wasn't aware that the day was today. Not surprisingly, a lot of the tore-ota (train otaku) were there to see off the newest Bullet Train on its inaugural run. My anime buddy actually and a couple of other friends took off this morning to head for Japan for a few weeks of holiday; I'm sure my friend would have been more than happy to have had the opportunity to get some shots himself but the schedule just wasn't meant to be.

So I actually thought for a few minutes about what would be a commemorative song for the event. It didn't take me too long, actually. The words "TRAIN, TRAIN" suddenly started to echo through my brain with the slightly growly voice belonging to Hiroto Komoto(甲本ヒロト)of The Blue Hearts.

Hey, it's a Friday night as well so it probably means the karaoke boxes are (or were, to be exact) going through the busiest night of the week. As I remember, "TRAIN-TRAIN" was as much a karaoke favourite and stress-busting song as The Blue Hearts' big hit of "Linda, Linda" which was a personal favourite of some of my former colleagues. And just like that good time song, "TRAIN-TRAIN" starts off slowly before going off on full rock speed which would match quite nicely with the acceleration of a Bullet Train.

Written and composed by guitarist Masatoshi Mashima(真島昌利), "TRAIN-TRAIN" was the 7th single released by The Blue Hearts (the J-Wiki pages for this particular song and the band have different numbers for the song depending on the band's professional status...I just counted down the chart) in November 1988. I think along with the raucous fun that Mashima produced through the arrangement, that refrain of "Train, Train" which sounds something like a bunch of little kids would yell out was the key element to its success.

"TRAIN-TRAIN" was the first Top 10 hit for The Blue Hearts as it rose to No. 5 on Oricon, and it became the 29th-ranked song for 1989. Not only was it a karaoke hit but other entities were more than happy to borrow it for their own purposes. It became the theme song for a TBS drama titled "High School Rakugaki" (はいすくーる落書...High School Grafitti) starring aidoru Yuki Saito(斉藤由貴), and a number of variety shows liked to co-opt it for anything related to trains. Plus it seems like sports events also used the song for particular athletes. And why not? What better song to show off happy unleashed energy to infiltrate the spectators and lucky players? Not quite sure if Japan Railways ever got onto the bandwagon, though.

Hiroshi Itsuki/Kouhei Fukuda -- Tabigarasu (旅鴉)

In my article regarding Ikuzo Yoshi's (吉幾三) "Kadode" (門出), I mentioned that I had discovered that song via a video of part of Kouhei Fukuda's (福田こうへい) concert. Another song that had been introduced to me through this concert was Hiroshi Itsuki's (五木ひろし) "Tabigarasu" (Travelling crow). However, this time I was fully aware that Fukuda was doing a cover, but as I listened to the original afterwards, I must say that there is a stark difference in their delivery that gives the same song contrasting qualities  - Fukuda's power-packed vocals gives the song a manly edge, while Itsuki's gentler voice makes it a little more refined.

So far, I think "Tabigarasu" is one of the grander-sounding and dramatic songs about the wandering ronin especially in the newer, live version thanks to the trumpets blaring away in a deeper tone that come after the husky shakuhachi. This was brought to you by the great Minoru Endo (遠藤実) - he's one composer whose style I have yet to recognize. Masato Fujita (藤田まさと) was responsible for the lyrics, and it involves our masterless samurai hitting the road and going where the wind takes him, like, well, a travelling crow.

"Tabigarasu" was one of Itsuki's earlier works being released on 5th November 1972, and it did well on the Oricon charts peaking at 19th place. It was also used at the theme song to a period drama called "Hasegawashin Series" (長谷川伸シリーズ). As for Fukuda's rendition, it can be found in his cover album, "Kirameki" (), just like "Kadode".

To wrap up this post, here's the March-Itsuki-calendar picture. According to it, Itsuki's birthday was on the 14th... Happy belated Itsuki! He's now 68. I like the colours of this one and all, but I feel that he should've worn a plain shirt instead of one with stripes.

Nice cake. Nice smile.

Kiyoshi Maekawa -- Miyako Kaze (都風)

Though I'm not broken up about having no more "Kayo Concert", I can't say the same about having no more of Korokke's (コロッケ) musical and comedic skit show "Gokigen Kayo Shogekidan" (ごきげん歌謡笑劇団). It began in March 2012 and the final episode aired just last Thursday. Although the skits in the first half of the show, featuring the day's enka-yo singers and comedians, have taken a slightly more serious tone, I still enjoy seeing my favourite artistes in sometimes strange costumes doing the darnest things and Korokke doing his silly impressions while the rest of the actors stifle their laughs. Ah, I will miss it. Well, at least it ended off on a good note - for me, that is - with Saburo Kitajima (北島三郎) and Kiyoshi Maekawa (前川清) as the guest singers.

While it was fun to see Mae-Kiyo in the role of a not very bad baddie, what I found myself looking forward to more was the last part of the show where the guests sing their new songs; in Maekawa's case, it was "Miyako Kaze". As usual, I was pretty excited and equally curious when I saw news on Twitter that the kayo crooner was going to release a new single on March 16th, even more so when the single's cover was released closer to date - had him looking rather spiffy in a dark blue suit with a sort of worried expression on his face... My first reaction upon seeing that was, "I WANT IT." He looks good in that suit...

Eh, the blue suit's a lot better.

Cover picture aside, what piqued my interest was the title itself as it seemed like it could be one of Mae-Kiyo's more enka-sounding tunes or something more contemporary. Hearing it for the first time on a recent episode of "Nodojiman" proved that it was the latter, for that I'm glad. In fact, "Miyako Kaze" was an instant like the moment the music reached my ears, hence my anticipation to hear Mae-Kiyo sing it once again on Korokke's show.

Composed by Shin Tanimoto (谷本新), the combination of strings and the soft tinkling of the piano makes the ballad sound light and comfortable, and I find that the MV materializes what comes to mind when I listen to it - sun rays gently shining through the greenery as they sway in the wind. There is also the notes from the koto which brings out the enka side. And my favourite part of "Miyako Kaze" has to be the addition of the wonky electric guitar about halfway through; it reminds me of one of the songs by ASKA that I love, "Kaze no Inryoku" (風の引力), which has that same thing. As for the lyrics, musician Yoji Kubota (久保田洋司) took care of them and it seems to be about love lost.

"Miyako Kaze" did average on the charts, barely getting into the top 100 by peaking at 100th place. I was kind of expecting that though; Maekawa's less enka-y songs tend to not do as well. Well, but at least I'm a big fan of it.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maki Ohguro -- Harlem Night

My personal Maki Ohguro(大黒摩季)favourite will always be the blood-burning "Atsukunare"(熱くなれ)which was used as the NHK theme song for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. BOOM! Better than a Trenta cup of coffee from Starbucks.

However, the very first Ohguro song I came across was not while I was in Japan. It was actually during those 3 years that I was back in Toronto between Japan stints. I forgot who I had borrowed the audio tape could've been one of my friends at university or even one of the students that I tutored at home. But in any case, I got this tape of various early 90s singers who were up and coming that I hadn't heard of. There was DEEN, TRF and then Ohguro.

And one of the Ohguro songs on the tape was "Harlem Night", the singer-songwriter's 5th single from July 1993. I wasn't quite sure what to make of the song at first. It did have quite the sultry beat but I didn't immediately cotton onto "Harlem Night" initially. I couldn't really say it was an R&B song despite the title and perhaps it was also the first time I had heard Ohguro's voice. Thinking about it much later, perhaps it was because her vocal style seemed a bit more suited for pure rock than pop.

But that was then and this is now. And of course, I started liking Ohguro's material after I did get to Japan again. In fact, I bought a few singles and one album by her in short order. And at the time, her star was indeed rising. I heard her fairly often via the various TV shows, music show appearances and commercials so I was able to get accustomed to her delivery quite nicely. As for "Harlem Night", it peaked at No. 3 and was a track on her 3rd album, "U.Be Love" which came out in November 1993 to get as high as No. 2.

It's something to say that I find her quite nostalgic now.

Tatsuro Yamashita -- Let's Dance Baby

Well, I read this just this morning but Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)has actually gone into the Guinness Book of World Records. "Christmas Eve", one of his most famous songs, has been recognized for getting into the Top 100 Oricon weekly rankings every week for the past 30 years. So, does that mean if I put every copy bought of that CD single from 1986 up to now end-to-end from the ground into the sky, I may end up at the Moon? The mind reels. Anyways, many congratulations to Tats! And if he ever reads this article, I actually mean Mr. Yamashita...sir.

On having discovered this honour, perhaps Yamashita might have declared to Mariya, "Let's dance, baby!"...a wild guess, I know. And by coincidence, that declaration also happens to be the title for his first single as a solo singer in January 1979.

I was reading the J-Wiki article for "Let's Dance Baby", and originally it was meant as a track to be sung by the vocal group The Kingtones for one of their albums in the 1970s. Yamashita was given the lyrics for the song by Osamu Yoshioka(吉岡治)so that he could add some of his melodies. The thing was, though, Yamashita was having some problems getting that music together for some reason. However, "Let's Dance Baby" eventually did get onto The Kingtones' album, "Resurrect" (1978), and it was even placed onto the recording list for Yamashita's 3rd album "Go Ahead!" (Oricon ranking: No. 75) for release in December 1978. The director, Ryuzo Kosugi(小杉理宇造), who hadn't heard any of the sturm und drang that his client endured for the song believed that it was good enough to be released as its own single.

(cover version by TMMP)

And I guess the rest was history. "Let's Dance Baby" is on at least two of my BEST compilations for Yamashita (although it apparently didn't chart), and the mellow good-time music for the song pretty much set the template for the Tats sound for a number of years into the next decade in my estimation. I hadn't known that it was his first solo single and listening to it, I think it could have fit into any year in the early 1980s. I could drink a Perrier with a pink fluffy sweater wrapped around my waist listening to this. By the way, director Kosugi and singer-songwriter Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)were the backup vocals. Those two were also just as responsible for setting up that Tats sound for City Pop.

Let's eat, baby!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tanpopo -- Otome Pasta ni Kando (乙女 パスタに感動)

OK, the above is not the greatest photo of my Spaghetti Bolognese; it's actually before I put the leftover pasta into the microwave. It is the pasta that has been cooked in my family for decades. However, my life in Japan not only had me finally trained to drink beer but it also introduced me to the various other forms of pasta other than the above family pasta, lasagna and macaroni & cheese. Even in my supermarket, I came across take-home servings of Peperoncino Spaghetti and pasta with Carbonara sauce. The Japanese love their Italian cuisine. In fact, I can say that any one person can throw a rock anywhere in Tokyo or my old digs of Ichikawa and the odds are that it will hit a place that serves some form of pasta. We have Chinese takeout here in Canada...Japan has Italian to go alongside their McDonalds and ramen joints.

Well, I gather that it wasn't too much of a surprise that there would be a J-Pop song with the word "pasta" in the title. And tonight, it's "Otome Pasta ni Kando" (The Girl Excited by Pasta) by Morning Musume (モーニング娘。) sub-unit Tanpopo (タンポポ).

Talk about natsukashii. When Morning Musume was in its really big heyday around the turn of the century, there were all of these different sub-groups popping up from the mother group and even mixing in with some of the other groups under the Hello Project roof. It was the Marvel Comics of aidoru-dom!

One of those units was Tanpopo which was the first of the MM sub-units to start up in 1998. With tallish Kaori "Johnson" Iida(飯田圭織), diminutive Mari Yaguchi(矢口真里)and medium Aya Ishiguro(石黒彩), I remember that the first incarnation of Tanpopo was going for a more mature and perhaps downright sultry image compared to the main Morning Musume gang. But then, with Ishiguro's departure after the big hit of "Love Machine", there was an influx of new musume and accordingly an increased number into Tanpopo. Now, there were the additions of Ai Kago(加護亜依)and Rika Ishikawa(石川梨華)to the veterans Yaguchi and Iida.

Plus the style changed in my estimation according to what I saw of the music video for Tanpopo's 5th single, "Otome Pasta ni Kando" from July 2000. Written and composed by Tsunku(つんく), the song was lighter and poppier. According to the Wikipedia article on the group, their songs started to sound closer to the usual Morning Musume material but with "Otome Pasta ni Kando", I believed it stood out for what sounded like a mix between 70s pop and French pop right down to some breathy vocals by the members. The video was also interesting for the four members strutting about in some vaudevillian get-ups designed by Dr. Seuss in what appeared to be the interior of the Vomit Comet.

It was quite the frothy delight about a girl leading a footloose and fancy-free life without a care in the world. The song hit as high as No. 3 and later became the 76th-ranked song for 2000. It was also a track on Tanpopo's 2nd album, "All of Tanpopo"(All of タンポポ)from 2002 which hit No. 4 on the album charts.


Yasuha -- Fly-Day Chinatown (フライディ・チャイナタウン)

No, I didn't goof up on the title up there. It is indeed "Fly-Day Chinatown" and not "Friday Chinatown" according to the write-up on J-Wiki. I gather that singer-songwriter Yasuha(泰葉)wanted to further illustrate the excitement of a night in Chinatown through the title although I think Friday nights in Chinatown can be quite jaunty.

This was another discovery on YouTube and I was automatically drawn in by the booming disco melody by Yasuha Ebina(海老名泰葉)and the interesting horns which start things off. Plus, I also like Yasuha's vocals which are in the same vein as Junko Yagami(八神純子)and Junko Ohashi(大橋純子). With the setting being Chinatown, my brain couldn't help but pull out some of my times in good ol' Yokohama. Toyohisa Araki(荒木とよひさ)provided the lyrics.

"Fly-Day Chinatown" was Yasuha's debut single from September 1981 which managed to peak at No. 69 on Oricon and was also a track on her debut album, "Transit" which was released a couple of months later. The singer is a Tokyo native and the daughter of a rakugo storyteller and an essayist. Apparently, she has also been a tarento although my memory is a bit fuzzy on whether I actually saw her on TV or whether it was another television personality by the name of Otoha(乙葉).

Including "Transit", she has released 10 singles up to 2009 and 7 studio albums.

This was actually a Friday and the photo seems
good for City Pop!

September 27th 2020: Ms.OOJA has provided a nice cover of "Fly-Day Chinatown".

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Yuzu -- Natsuiro (夏色)

I remembered first seeing Yuzu (ゆず) through the video of their debut single "Natsuiro" (Summer Colour) in June 1998. Man, I thought these two were the happiest performers I had ever seen in my life. They could busk in front of Shibuya Station on a rainy day and the clouds would part immediately for them.

Yujin Kitagawa and Koji Iwasawa(北川悠仁・岩沢厚治)from Yokohama were indeed performing on the street. In fact, it all started when Kitagawa saw Iwasawa singing away (they actually have known about each other since elementary school) and got inspired. After a powwow, the duo was born in March 1996 and immediately got into the business of writing new songs while busking. Over the period of a year, Yuzu started to attract a following and by the time they did their last session on the street in August 1998, 7,500 people gathered to hear them...and this was on a day that a typhoon hit the area.

As for the duo's nom du guerre, Kitagawa and Iwasawa had first called themselves Light's after a brand of cigarette that the two of them had smoked but eventually Kitagawa came to believe that the name simply didn't match their image and sounded rather lame. Then, one day they were having some dessert in the form of a sherbet with the Japanese citrus fruit known as yuzu so they became Yuzu. Considering all of the happiness bursting from "Natsuiro", I personally thought that Yuzu was the perfect name with all that bright and spritely flavour.

And "Natsuiro" just has that nice mix of good-ol'-boy guitar folk and pop wonderfully enhanced by that official music video of Kitagawa and Iwasawa just frantically strumming away and beaming at the camera. It's a pity that I can't find the video on YouTube. Kitagawa wrote and composed the song, and it managed to reach No. 17 on the Oricon weeklies, later becoming the 91st-ranked song of 1998.

Yuzu wouldn't make their first appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen until 2003 where they did a medley starting with "Natsuiro". And there has been some further legacy built at Kamiōoka Station in the guys' hometown in Yokohama where the boarding chime has been using the melody from the song since 2008.

Satoko Shimonari -- Ame (雨)

Still nice to discover new faces out there in kayo-land. On YouTube the other day, I saw a video featuring a singer by the name of Satoko Shimonari(下成佐登子)and discovered that there were quite a few of her songs online so I sampled them. So far, the one that I've liked for a first-timer is "Ame" (Rain) which was her 2nd single from May 1979.

Miyuki Suga or Kan (菅美雪) wrote and composed "Ame" for Shimonari, and just from the title and overall melody, I got the impression that it was another song of lost love. However, the thing that sparked my interest was the observation that she sounded somewhat like Junko Yagami (八神純子) handling the mellow ballads of Ruiko Kurahashi (倉橋ルイ子). Since I like both singers, I think I would be quite interested in hearing some more of Shimonari.

According to her J-Wiki article, Shimonari is a native of Miyazaki Prefecture who has not only tackled the pop genre but also provided theme songs for anime. She started her singing career in 1978 and has released 19 singles up to 2015 with 6 albums including 2 BEST compilations.

Will not be getting rain tomorrow...more like sleet.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Carol -- Funky Monkey Baby (ファンキー・モンキー・ベイビー)

I just saw the above commercial this morning. All I could remark about Puppy Monkey Baby was about what kind of horrors those secret genetics labs were creating now. At first, I thought the hybrid creature was uttering "funky monkey baby" which had my memory engrams firing up in the old kayo section of the brain.

"Funky Monkey Baby" has been a song that I've heard off-and-on over the decades but always through its performance covers by some of those middle-aged crooners that have popped up on shows like the recently dearly departed "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート). In fact, up until today, I had never heard the original version by the band Carol(キャロル).

And Carol was a name that I had heard bandied about in kayo kyoku but never really got to know. Of course, I got to know about the band's charismatic leader Eikichi Yazawa (矢沢永吉) in his later years when he provided hits like the sultry "Somebody's Night". So I finally get to hear the band and the original version of the song.

Carol's biggest hit was the band's 7th single from June 1973 which was composed by Yazawa and written by his bandmate, the late Hiroshi (Johnny) Okura (ジョニー大倉). In the early 1970s, when popular music in Japan was about traditional enka, sweet aidoru and long-haired folk music, "Funky Monkey Baby" and Carol in general must have been quite the subversive (and therefore cool with the young crowd) thing with the band members all looking like pompadoured extras from a 60s biker movie. But instead of making trouble, Yazawa and the guys just wanted to make good ol' rock n' roll. The song managed to get as high as No. 57 on the Oricon weeklies and was the title track on their second album which came out a month after the single.

Reading the J-Wiki article on Carol, I found out that although Yazawa was the guy who started up the band in 1972, it was Okura who came up with the concept and look for the band which initially began its short life as a Beatles tribute band when the Fab Four were performing in Hamburg before they made it big in the early 1960s. However, I also discovered that the name for the band came from a rather cute source in that Carol came from Christmas Carol....couldn't really see those guys in Santa suits, mind you.

Carol lasted about 2.5 years before they decided to call it quits. On that J-Wiki article, there was a pretty long section on the band's influence that I will probably cover in any future songs about the band, but frankly I didn't want to destroy my eyes trying to scroll down through all that kanji for the time being. I think one aspect of Carol's legacy has been all those leather-jacketed teens with their pompadours who populated Yoyogi Park on the weekends later in the decade and twisted like all get out. Some years ago, I visited that same park one Sunday afternoon, and there was one fellow around my age still looking like a Carol member bopping away.

Mika Kobayashi -- Before My Body Is Dry

About a couple of years after putting up Miku Sawai's(沢井美空)"Gomen ne, Ii Ko Ja Irarenai"(ごめんね、いいコじゃいられない), aka the first ending theme for the epic anime "Kill La Kill"(キルラキル), on the blog, I'm adding the oft-played insert song "Before My Body Is Dry". My decision came from my watching the show a second time and I'm now in the last few episodes of the final showdown with The Sisters Matoi versus their evil mother, Ragyo (talk about the ultimate teen rebellion).

Sung by Hiroshima-born singer-songwriter, Mika Kobayashi(小林未郁), the song was usually played during a major battle between Ryuko Matoi and one of her many foes. With mpi and David Whitaker providing the lyrics and Hiroyuki Sawano(澤野弘之)making the music, the rock ballad was perfect to frame a 70s movie about a leather-clad lone wolf tough-as-nails female motorcycle rider.

The title may be "Before My Body Is Dry", but I'm always going to remember it as "Don't Lose Your Waaaaaaaaaaaaay!"

However, as one commenter remarked on YouTube, I have to admit that I'm a member of the group that is even more partial to the orchestral version of the song which starts up at 1:06 in the above video. It's a short excerpt but whenever it popped up during a climactic scene on "Kill La Kill", it had the same effect on me as the John Williams soundtrack when the first Death Star was blown up by Luke Skywalker or the music when all of the Doctors Who appeared on the 50th anniversary show to save Gallifrey. It has that superheroic sense of "HERE COMES THE CAVALRY!!" Just imagine you crashing a party to grab that last sausage roll with that music behind you.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Miki Matsubara -- Neat na Gogo 3-ji (ニートな午後3時)

I'm trying to remember what I was doing at the 3pm hour back in my Japan days. Because of the nature of my work, it did vary from day to day. Sometimes I would be teaching a group or individual lesson at one of my schools or perhaps I would be at home watching TV between classes or I may be hanging out at a Starbucks or Doutor somewhere in Tokyo before yet another class.

Apparently for Miki Matsubara's(松原みき)heroine in "Neat na Gogo 3-ji" (Neat 3pm), tea time meant or used to mean waiting for that gentleman caller for an afternoon tryst. Whether that meant some intimate upstairs cafe or the lady's apartment, I'm not sure. In any case, this was Matsubara's 5th single from 1981, and for me it's the disco melody with the City Pop wailing guitar and horns and the singer's Cleo Laine-like vocals that won me over. Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子)provided the lyrics about the passage of this relationship while Yuuichiro Oda(小田裕一郎)made the music.

The frantic nature of the song and the way Matsubara semi-comically traipsed through one passage had me thinking that this could have made for a funny theme song for a romantic comedy on Japanese TV. However, instead it was actually used in a commercial for a spring campaign for Shiseido Cosmetics. I couldn't find the ad but I could imagine the young lady there sprinting all over the city fresh as a daisy on some big job while her male colleague stumbles behind like a goof. I think it was just as well that it was for the spring campaign since I don't think there would be any way that either man or woman would have been able to do much sprinting in the torrid heat and humidity in a Tokyo summer.

Wasn't quite sure where the "neat" from the title came in. Perhaps since it was used for a cosmetics ad, it referred to having some of that cosmetic water to freshen up.

I can say that I savored 3 pm during those hot summers by guzzling down that complementary sweetened iced Nescafe in the air-conditioned Net cafe (see what I just did there) just across from my old subway station.