I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hitomi Shimatani -- Papillon (パピヨン)

This is more like it. After a scorcher of a summer, autumn has come in nice and cool. Woke up to a much cooler and more comfortable 9 degrees Celsius (which would put Tokyoites in winter mode). I could actually take my 45-minute walk and not arrive home looking like 100 kilograms worth of damp rags.

One of the big television events around the New Year is, of course, NHK's Kohaku Utagassen(紅白歌合戦). A long time ago, this was the only game in town on December 31st while families were busy cooking up stuff for the Holidays. But then, the next day on New Year's Day, Fuji-TV had its big do with "Shinshun Kakushigei Taikai"(新春かくし芸大会....The New Year's Hidden Talent Competition)in which a ton of geinojin amass on one stage to show off talents that they had to master within the last couple of months of the previous year. In the 1991 edition of the show, singer/actress/tarento Akiko Wada(和田アキ子)pulled off something when she and some dancers did an identical version of the dance sequence from Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation". Yes, the Akiko Wada and the Janet Jackson.

About a decade later, there was another tribute of sorts to Janet Jackson in the form of a cover version of her "Doesn't Really Matter" by Hitomi Shimatani(島谷ひとみ)called "Papillon" released in February 2001. Unlike the video for Jackson's hit, the video for "Papillon" is a much more straightforward performance by Shimatani dancing along with four fellows. Chinfa Kan(康珍化)provided the Japanese lyrics for the original song from May 2000 created by Jackson, Terry Lewis and James Harris III.

At the time, I'd had no idea who Shimatani was although she cut quite a nice figure in the video and some good vocals with her version of "Doesn't Really Matter". I didn't realize that this was her 3rd single after debuting a couple of years earlier as a potential enka singer with "Osaka no Onna"(大阪の女...Osaka Woman). That didn't quite work out for her so she and her staff decided to go onto the pop route, and the shift in direction was more successful with "Papillon" hitting No. 14 on Oricon. It also became the title track on her debut album which came out later in June 2001. That managed to peak at No. 7 on the charts.

Here is the Janet Jackson original for comparison's sake. I remember seeing the video and remarking that it was nice to see her back in fine form. Apparently, the setting was based on Japanese culture and well, that building where future Janet was living looked awfully like the Tokyo Immigration Bureau in Shinagawa. I often went there to take care of visa and passport matters, and I think it is possibly one of the most hospitable facilities as far as immigration centers in the world go. Mind you, I can't talk about the chambers up near the top where folks who overstay their visas end up.


  1. Four languages in one song! Shimatani's version of "Doesn't Really Matter" makes me smile just for that.
    I have the impression that Janet's career had an impact in the japanese music industry. Like if many artists have been inspired by her since the 80's but the public doesn't really know her.

    1. Hello, Nagaregumo.

      Yup, I think Janet did have an influence on a number of J-Pop singers and perhaps even K-Pop singers as well. Perhaps on the Japanese side of things, Kumi Koda may be one example.


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