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Top 10 Japanese Songs of Summer 2

In Japan, Japanese Music on August 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Japanese Top 10 Songs of Summer (part 2)

Here I am. Rock me like a Hurricane.


Part 2

#6
いちぬけ Ichinuke

Today we start off where we left off yesterday – with 地獄少女 Jigoku Shōjo Hell Girl. This song’s title means “one pull.” Although this phrase is dangerously close to the Japanese phrase for “to rub one out[i]”, it actually refers to the Hell Girl offering one pull of a string to take all of your sorrows away[ii]. It’s dark and sultry and… quite frankly, sexy. It’s also spooky as hell which makes it perfect for お盆 o-bon. So I think this is the best song to start off my next half of the list of top 10 summer songs for Japan.

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#7
金魚花火 Kingyo Hanabi

This is a song by Ōtsuka Ai, the title of which translates as Gold Fish Fireworks. Kingyo fireworks are actually a real thing. They a cluster of explosions that after being launched from boats, appear to “swim around” over the water. The water reflects the lights and the smoke is saturated with light.

Kingyo Hanabi ie; Goldfish Fireworks

Kingyo Hanabi
ie; Goldfish Fireworks

Anyone who has spent a summer in Japan, knows that all summer long, not only are there festivals, but there are also great firework displays all over the country. There are at least 12 major firework displays in the Tōkyō Metropolitan area worthy of the capital city. Some of these, for example the Sumidagawa Fireworks date back to the Edo Period. Needless to say, Japan takes its fireworks seriously. And fireworks tie into the Japanese love of 儚い hakanai the fleeting moment.

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#8
ジョイ  JOY

This song is by YUKI, if you don’t know her… I’ll just say that you should and that her pedigree comes from a group called Judy and Mary. Anyhoo, Judy and Mary are ancient history and to be honest YUKI could have gone that way, but as pop artists go in Japan, she holds a certain classic position as just being YUKI. For better or for worse.
This song was a single during my days as a resident of Japan. I arrived in January of 2005 just when the track was released and even though it was a winter release; the song was so big that it rode a wave of popularity well into the spring. The lyrics are great, I think, and it takes me back to my first year in Japan and because it’s so positive, I think it works as a perfect summer song. If you hear this song at the beach, everyone gets really super genki.

By the way, this is one of the most memorable videos of all J-Pop’s history. Probably everyone between 20 and 40 knows it… and if they don’t, you don’t want to know them.

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#9
リルラ リルハ  RiRuRa RiRuHa
This came out in March of 2005, my first year in Japan. The song was everywhere because it was used as in a Vodafone commercial – a company that doesn’t exist anymore in Japan[iii]. It was a massive hit and the song was in heavy rotation well into the spring and early summer. So again, I have great memories of this tune and because it’s so positive, I tend to associate it with summer barbecues by the river and drunken revelries on the beach.

The actual video isn’t available on YouTube[iv], but you can see it if you try this song at karaoke.
For the time being, here’s a live version of it.

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#10
FAKE IT
This song has absolutely nothing to do with summer. It just rocks any time of the year. It’s by the only original “idol” act – an act which recently has been repeatedly imitated or outright ripped off in Japan and throughout Asia. I fucking love them and think their producer, Nakata Yasutaka, is a freaking genius with a capital “G.” Anyways, I couldn’t make a list of Japanese pop music without including Perfume. That would be sacrilege[v].

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[i] ie; male masturbation

[ii] By condemning another person to 地獄 jigoku hell for eternity.

[iii] Softbank bought them out.

[iv] Fuck you very much, traditional bullshit Japanese record companies. You suck because you haven’t left 1990. (Don’t get me started on the Japanese music business… a brother’s got opinions.)

[v] And we all know, Yours Truly would never commit sacrilege.

Top 10 Japanese Songs of Summer 1

In Japan, Japanese Music on August 1, 2013 at 2:03 am

Japanese Top 10 Songs of Summer (part 1)

Are you ready for summer Japanese-style?

Are you ready for summer Japanese-style?

This list is divided into 2 parts. The first part is a little more traditional, or at least songs that you’ll associate with summer because they only are heard in the summer or because they are about the summer. The second half is made of songs I think sounds awesome when chilling at the beach or a barbecue.

PART 1

#1
阿波よしこの Awa Yoshikono

This is the song the accompanies the most famous of the 盆踊り Bon Odori dances. The dance and this incarnation of the song originated in 徳島県 Tokushima-ken Tokushima Prefecture, the former 阿波国 Awa no Kuni Awa Province. Without a doubt, this song and its accompanying dance and costumes are the prevailing image of お盆祭り o-Bon Matsuri O-bon Festivals on 本州 Honshū, the main island of Japan. Summer in Japan is wicked hot and if you’re gonna spend all day outside sweating and eating and drinking, you might as well have this hypnotic music and dance and costumes to make the event more festive.

This video is of a stage performance of the dance. I chose this one because it was the clearest audio recording I could find with dancers who were pretty good. This performance is a little more stylized then what you would see at a festival, but you’ll get the idea.

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The second video of an actual performance in Tokushima where you can see how the dance is done at a festival. It’s basically a parade. Throughout the main island, at local matsuri that have adopted the dance, it’s not uncommon for the dancers to invite partiers to join in the parade. I don’t think they do that in Tokushima… but I’ve never been so…
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#2
エイサー踊り Eisā Odori

First one thing; Eisā is the name of dance and not the song. I don’t know the name of the song.
This is a style of music and dance associated with Bon Odori that is from 沖縄 Okinawa. It’s freaking bad ass. Dudes with big ass banners lead two opposing “armies” of synchronized male drummers followed by cute girls in Okinawan yukata who “battle” each other. I’m not an expert but I think the “battle” is determined by which team can keep their rhythm better than the other team. If I team is getting confused by the other team’s conductor and tempo, they’ll back off to “re-group” and then “attack” again. I may be totally off on this – I’ve never even been to Okinawa – but it seems like that’s what’s going on.

When I first lived in Tōkyō, I lived in a small corner of 中野区 Nakano-ku Nakano Ward called 鍋横町 Nabeyoko-chō. They have an awesome small but local matsuri that I attended every year that I lived there and even now, I head back for this great neighborhood festival. Naturally, they have Awa Odori, but for whatever reason, they always feature Okinawa Eisā Odori too. So this style of Bon Odori has a special place in my heart as a great sound of summer in Japan.

From Nabeyoko-chō Matsuri 1:




If you see me or Mrs. JapanThis in either of this video, I wouldn’t be surprised.

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#3
夏祭り  Natsu Matsuri

OK, this is a pop song from 2000 by a girl band called Whiteberry[i]. The band is pure J-Pop, but there are some punk[ii] undertones, and somehow the managed to release a summer anthem that shows no sign of disappearing. The lyrics capture a quintessential summer romance that any person who’s lived in Japan should be able to recognize. It’s a celebration of young love, fireworks and, yes… the yearly summer festivals that everyone looks forward to – and everyone never forgets.


 

 

#4
島人ぬ宝 Shimanchu nu Takara

This is a classic pop song by an Okinawan band called BEGIN. They mixed rock[iii] with traditional Okinawan elements… something that if I just read without listening would tell me, never listen to this. But I first heard this song in the winter at karaoke and suddenly found myself enchanted by the love of Okinawa that these guys had. The title is actually in the Okinawan Dialect[iv] and means “The Island People’s Treasure.” If you study Japanese, you may be interested to know that the ぬ nu in the title corresponds to the Standard Japanese の no. There, now you know as much Okinawan as I do.

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#5
あいぞめ Aizome

This is a song from a classic Japanese animation called 地獄少女 Jigoku Shōjo Hell Girl sung by the Japanese voice actress Nōtō Mamiko – who also voices the lead character. This is a weird one, but please, hear me out. O-bon is the season when the Japanese believe ancestral spirits return to their homelands to meet their families. Calling it a “Festival of the Dead” is a bit dramatic, but in the Edo Period, when family members could enjoy time off and be reunited in their ancestral homes with loved ones, they undertook the tasks of cleaning up the family graves and performing Buddhist ceremonies for the dead. As such, they were thinking about dead people a lot. The result was on hot nights, some clans would light 100 candles as the sun was setting and would supposedly tell 100 ghost stories. At the end of each story, a candle would be extinguished. By the time it was dark and you were just down to one last candle, you’d been talking about ghosts all night. When the last candle was put out, it was said a ghost would appear[v]. A lot of the imagery in Jigoku Shōjo centers around o-bon and similar creepy traditions, so I think this song fits in well with the O-Bon and Japanese summer tradition.

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Part two is coming tomorrow.
Honk if you ready!

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[i] Not to be confused with Whitesnake.

[ii] I use “punk” in the very loosest of meanings… ie; a J-Pop meaning.

[iii] I use “rock” in the very loosest of meanings… ie; a J-Pop meaning.

[iv] I use “dialect” in the very loosest of meanings… ie; Okinawan is a separate language from Japanese, even if most Japanese don’t admit it.

[v] Life before TV… am I right? am I right?
Anyways, this kind of ghost story telling party was called 百物語怪談会 hyaku monogatari kaidankai 100 ghost stories party.

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