He Said She Said – Music From The Capital Of Cool – Shibuya Kei

Mr P – Are you sure we are cool enough for Shibuya ? ? ?

She Says:

Tokyo, like all cities has many neighbourhoods and  each has it’s own style and character.  Of all the neighbourhoods in this vast and crazy city Shibuya is . . . .  well Shibuya.  It is young, hip, loud, crowded, bright, fun and high energy.  There is nowhere else like it and you either love it or hate it.   Shibuya is  Asia’s capital of cool ! ! !   In the 1990 decade, a style of music particular to this neighbourhood began to develop which took a different and unique direction from the music in the rest of Tokyo and Japan.  It used European influences and styles from the 1960 decade rather than the US rock influences.  The style became known as Shibuya Kei which just means Shibuya Style.  We would like to share some of  the wide variety of music that has come from this unique neighbourhood.

He Says:

To be honest Shibuya sounds like my worst nightmare these days. Busy , noisy full of life and neon lights. I’m more of a “sitting alone in a field” kind of a guy now. When I was younger, though, I frequented the back alleys of Soho and Oxford Circus and I think Shibuya is a bit like that area. Swinging, sophisticated, naughty. A place for the young, the young at heart and , apparently, faithful dogs ! ( eh ? Look, just google “Hackiko” O.K.) . Here then, are some sounds from “Swinging Tokyo”. Hope you like them.

Sakura - Flipper’s Guitar  - Young, Alive,  In Love 

She Says:

Flippers Guitar were the band that really started it all ! ! !  This track is from 1990 and you can really hear the European and Jazz influences and it really has a swinging sixties feel to it ! ! !  Flippers Guitar were only active from 1989 to 1991 but they had a really big influence on everything that came after them and they really marked Shibuya Kei as being something dofferent from what was happening in the rest of Tokyo.  I love this track as it is really cheerful and bright and has great groove ! ! !

He Says:

Ha ! Love the video. They went all the way to Paris to get the feel of the thing, hope they weren’t too disappointed.

Very “French” feel to this one, bright and cheery.

Pairubu - Cuppie Rumne- Postman


He Says:

Love this one. It’s so silly. Taking a bit lump of “Ye ye” and chucking some groovy synths in too. Post-a-man !

How can it not make you smile ?

She Says:

This is typical what Cuppie Rumne call their Bambi Pop style.  They were an electronica group that  somehow could not take themselves seriously ! ! !  Their fun style developed in the famous Shibuya club the Blue Room which is where the school girl chic style really developed.  Shibuya is maybe the only place in the world where school girls go home and change out of their school uniforms and into a fake school uniform to wear for going out! ! !   I think this track is really catchy and a definite earworm! ! !

Sakura - Paris Match – Desert Moon

She Says:

This is is a big contrast to Cuppie Rumne ! ! !  I love the smooth sophisticated euro jazz pop style of this track.    They formed in 2000 and since then they have released 14 albums and one of the most enduring Shibuya Kei bands.  They took the name from a song by the UK group Style Council and were influenced very much by this group.  They include bossa nova, house and jazz tracks on their albums which are always interesting.  I just love the singer (Mari Mizuno) I think she has a wonderful and sophisticated delivery.

He Says:

Sakura, dearest, Paris Match is ( was ?) a magazine from France well before Weller snaffled the name. I used to “read” it in the school library when I was a lad ( O.K. I admit it, I was looking for boobs, they occasionally had “topless” models !). A very sophisticated sound. Not usually the thing that I would go for but it’s actually very pleasant. Doesn’t she have little legs ?

Pairubu - Kahimi Karie- Lolitapop Dollhouse


He Says:

A little bit “punky” this one. It has a great , hypnotic groove to it, breathy vocals and some subtle and lovely fuzzy guitar sounds.

Bwaaang ( but in a quiet, sophisticated sort of a way).

She Says

Kahimi Karie was know as the Princess of Shibuya Kei in the 1990 decade.  This track is from her first album Larme de Crocodile which was released in 1997 but she had released six EPs before this.  She moved to Paris to live for many years where she did a variety of work including translating subtitles for films, making music for TV commercials, web site design and hosting a weekly radio show.  She is now back in Tokyo and recently did some of the music for the Nintendo game Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure.  I really enjoy this track for the vocals which I think are really atmospheric and the really great beat.

Sakura  - Sakanaction – Me and the Flower

She Says:

It may be a little controversial to say Sakanaction are  a Shibuya band as they are originally from Sapporo but they moved to Shibuya in 2007 to be where the action is and it is in Shibuya that they made their first album and achieved success.   They have a really great pop rock sound and you can hear the European and  jazz influences of the classic Shibuya Kei in the bass lines of Ami Kusakari who is the only member of the band to actually be from Tokyo.  I really like this track and the mix of influences and the changes it goes through as the track progresses.

He Says:

Very inventive and fun video with this one. The visual side can’t be dismissed with these bands. Image is everything, I think.  As fragile as a butterfly made from real butter. Fun. Makes me want to go to Shibuya, form a band “The Elderly Duck Pluckers” and be cool.

Pairubu  - Macdonald duck eclair- Poodle


He Says:

I don’t care what it sounds like. It’s called “Poodle” and that’s good enough for me ( actually I can’t abide real poodles !). A wordless “pa pa pippy pippy ” number that manages to be both “French” and yet typical electronic Japanese. Somewhat like the music a Gallic Dalek might make, perhaps.

She Says:

This is a group I really admire actually.  They formed in 1998 and are still active and released a great album last year.  They record at home using their computers and protools software and release their music through independant record lables.  But they are really successful artistically and also have some really good sales and even worked with Kylie Minogue in 2005.  I think you can hear many typical Shibuya Kei influences including I think a French pop sound with the vocals.  A really nice track to finish with I think.

♪  ♫  ♪      ♪  ♫  ♪     ♪  ♫  ♪    ♪  ♫  ♪     ♪  ♫  ♪

Mr P ! ! ! Is that your dog ? ? ?

She Says:

I hope you have enjoyed some of the music that has come from the Tokyo neighbourhood of Shibuya.  It is an amazing place but maybe you will hate it if you visited but  maybe, like me you will love it ! ! !   The music scene is really varied there and of course we have selected our favourites, but we hope you enjoyed the post and think we have given a good selection.

He Says:

So there you are ! A strange and exotic mix of Europe and Asia that is, I think, quite unique. Rather like Shibuya, I suspect. Not a place for me, as I have said. I imagine it to be full of “cool” dudes and wild eyed , shop crazed women frantically buying shoes ( Hi Sakura !).

Perhaps, though, if I sat sipping a Cappucino at a bar, dressed in a white linen suit, brogues and a panama hat, perhaps I might recapture a bit of my mispent youth there…..who knows ?

♪  ♫  ♪

We Say:

We are planning on making a He Said – She Said post every two weeks over the summer.

Next time we are going to write about Chinese and Taiwanese popular music from the 1940  - 1960 decades.  We hope you can join us again then ! ! !

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22 thoughts on “He Said She Said – Music From The Capital Of Cool – Shibuya Kei

  1. I was looking forward to this and really enjoyed listening to your choices. I imagine it’s no surprise that I particularly liked Flipper’s Guitar – Young, Alive, In Love – a real mix of Francis Lai and Burt Bacharach (Laibach ? and think of France). The bus they’re rolling around in at the beginning is often used for fashion shoots, tres chic ! Another standout track was Macdonald duck eclair- Poodle. It reminded me in part of some of Hilmar Om Hilmarsson’s work or maybe even Michael Small. Anyway, I really liked it and plan to investigate further. Paris Match – Desert Moon I agree with Sakura, she has a lovely voice and sophisticated delivery – very Sade. Cuppie Rumne – Postman…what a hoot ! Bardot’s Contact meets France Gall’s (forgot the name of the track i was thinking of.) Thanks Sakura and Pairubu. littleriver

    • Hi Little River ! ! !

      I am really pleased you liked the post we has a lot of fun making it ! ! !

      Actually I did not make the Sade / Paris Match connection but you are right there is a similarity ! ! !

      Cuppie Rumne and postman is really funny I think and really catchy ! ! !

      Thank you reading and taking the time comment ! ! !

      Love

      Sakura x x

    • Thanks for your comments. I find this style of music a lot of fun. It’s interesting , I think , that it caught on. I guess that if you are Japanese it doesn’t really matter where you take your inspiration from , it’s all “foreign” so French pop is as good a source as British or American.
      Hooray for that, I say !

      Arigato bien for listening.

  2. btw, I wasn’t trying to lessen the creativity in the work.It’s just that I can hear some strong influences in it, which is what it’s all about right? :) lr

    • Hi Little River

      Of course – Shibuya Kei is special and different because of the references and influences it uses. At the time it was very refreshing to hear Japanese bands not just being influenced by US bands and artists (and still is of course)
      :-)

    • “Shibuya is maybe the only place in the world where school girls go home and change out of their school uniforms and into a fake school uniform to wear for going out! ! ! ”

      Is this a real place or some strange parallel universe?

      I am loving these songs. Flipper’s Guitar is wonderful. The next two are very nice.

      My flashplayer plugin keeps crashing. I’ll be back…

  3. It is real ! ! ! There is a whole school girl chic thing going on with school uniforms. (School uniforms are really popular with girls and girls often choose their high school by how cute the uniform is.)

    Of course you can not wear your real uniform if you go to club or out in the entertainment districts so girls will buy a fake one (usually with a much shorter skirt than the regulations for a real school) and wear them to go out in.

    In my high school we had a really nice summer uniform which was a white sailor suit with blue trim but our winter uniform was really boring . . .

    I am really pleased you like the tracks ! ! !

    • That’s interesting Sakura. In your opinion, do they dress that way in their leisure time because they like the ‘look’ and/or it makes them feel part of a club? Or do they do it because boys their own age like the ‘look’? Or, maybe there are other reasons ? lr

      • Hi LittleRiver ! ! !

        I it is an interesting question actually and not very easy to answer.

        I think really there are many reasons.

        The first reason partly historical and partly to do with style. Western people often forget how late it was that Japan modernised. The meiji restoration was the event that tried to break the power of the traditional feudal lords in Japan and this happened in 1860 decade and the rebellions and civil war that followed this only finished in 1876 when the Samurai were disbanded and after that Japan was able to begin to open up to the west.

        The change in society of course followed this at a slower pace than the economic, but western clothes were seen as being a statement of modernity, so the first modern schools for girls adopted the western style sailor suite as uniforms and this was seen as a revolutionary step as it was rejecting in a visible way traditional Japanese feminine roles so the sailor suite was a statement of modernity and maybe also a little revolutionary and maybe even feminist.

        I remember reading a kids book a long time ago which was set in 1913, about a girl who with her friend tries to start a girl baseball team in her school and the trials they endured before girls sports were accepted, and the ambition of this girl was to be able to have the (Optional) sailor suite uniform instead of the traditional kimono. This is I suppose the time of my grandmothers mother, so it is only one generation away from living memory.

        Also there is a very positive image of Japanese schoolgirls Japan. School girls are nearly always portrayed positively in manga and anime, films and TV and other media. There is entire genre of manga and anime designed for schoolgirls called Shoujo where school girls are portrayed as positive and strong and caring characters and even in boys manga (Shounen ) school girls are usually portrayed positively. So there is a positive image for schoolgirls and the uniform which symbolises this.

        Also we do not have the cult of individualism that exists in the west. Belonging to a group or a club or a school or a community or a company is seen as a positive thing and symbols like school uniforms are not seen as uncool or an imposition.

        Also, Japanese girls are much more confident (in my opinion only of course) about being feminine. (And it is a very feminine look). When I was in the USA I was always surprised that girls really did not seem comfortable with being feminine as they seemed think being feminine is like weakness and strength is masculine and this reflected in their clothes and many of their attitudes . We just do not have that. We know girls are stronger and so do the guys ;-)

        This very positive image is of course used by music industry and fashion and the media and so girl groups like AKB48 and many other J-Pop Idol groups wear fake school uniforms when they perform on stage or in videos. So this just makes it even more positive for the girls.

        Personally, when I was at school I did not wear a fake school uniform for going out in the evening, (but I was in Okinawa not cool and trendy Shibuya ! ! !) but when we went out during the day on Saturday or Sunday we would usually wear our uniforms even though we did not have to. It just seemed like the right thing to do somehow.

        (Also of course the uniforms are pretty and comfortable and practical)

        So now I do not know now if I have answered you question or not ! ! !

      • Thanks for that explanation, Sakura. Here, kids generally rush home from school to get out of their uncool school uniforms, which is why the whole concept is so striking. Upon reflection, girls wearing their fake school uniforms is so much more sensible than boys wearing their jeans so low-slung that 8″ of their underwear is showing!

        Also there is collective cultural amusement about schoolgirls as drawn by the late cartoonist Ronald Searle.

    • Thank you LR and SR ! ! !

      I think is interesting the differences in culture and how they show up in everyday things like school uniforms.

      Thank you for the link to Souad Massi and Daby Toure’s duet, it was great. Unfortunately I can not see the Ronald Searle picture but I googled him and his school girls look really scary ! ! !

  4. Okay, I’ve listened to everything except Me And The Flower, which for some reason I can’t get to play. I liked everything I heard but Lolitapop Dollhouse was my second favourite after Flipper’s Guitar.

    Like Pairubu, I used to hang out in the back streets of Oxford Street in my late teens and early twenties- I wonder if we ever met? These days I think Oxford is a happening place. Oxford Street would be way too much.

    I’d love to go and take a quick peek at this district though. Thank you for the virtual tour.

    • I am really pleased you liked the tracks?

      I am sure you would love it if you went. Next to Shibuya and before Harajulu is Yoyogi park and this is where on Sunday the Shibuya crowd hang out.

      I found a nice video made by a American guy of it (I suppose tourists and foreigners are ones that amke the videos rather than Tokyo natives, but the music is nice and it really captures the atmosphere

      Maybe if you have time you will like to watch it.

      • I am really pleased you liked the tracks?

        Sorry SR ! ! !

        That should be

        I am really pleased you liked the tracks ! ! !

        duh . . .

  5. Hey Hoshino, great post! I really like the songs you’ve posted up here. I’m currently learning Japanese, and so to aid this process I’ve been attempting to get into Japanese music for a while now. However, the search hasn’t been too fruitful and I’ve mostly found either super grungy rock or super sickly sweet pop- neither of which is really my thing. About the only artist I’ve discovered who I quite like is Bird, with her eclectic mix of pop and jazz, so it’s nice to have found a couple more! Thank you.

    Also, thanks for your really detailed explanation on the significance of school uniform in Japan! Very interesting. I can certainly see that in Japan secondary school girls are in many ways portrayed in a very positive light, and much more frequently than we see in western media, which is a good thing. However, I can’t help but wonder if Japan tends to focus on this school age a bit too much. For example, so much anime and manga and other Japanese media tend to focus on the idealised portrayal of secondary school children, and to such an extent that perhaps the portrayal of the journey and beauty of adult life is neglected. A result of this could possibly even be that some may find it harder to leave behind that youthful age and transition into later stages of life.

    Another interesting point you mention is about the femininity. I very much agree with you that there is much strength in femininity (and that females are stronger than men!), but in my (admittedly limited) exposure to Japanese media, I have mainly seen quite traditionally feminine portrayals of women- whether that be reflected through clothing, body shape or general attitude- but I by comparison I rarely see portrayals of females with say a larger, less conventional body size, or a more masculine attitude. I have definitely seen exceptions to this, but I guess it would nice to see a bit more diversity, perhaps, as it could help to cheer up and inspire those that find themselves outside of conventional “norms” of the society. Though, let me make no mistake, British media is also responsible for a major lack of diverse representation. Considering that Britain also probably has a much more diverse population (ethnically at least), this is probably of even greater concern

    Ah, looks like I’ve rambled on for too long, sorry, I guess I couldn’t help adding my 2 cents!

    • Hi Blue Train 26

      I am really pleased you enjoyed the post!

      If you lIke Bird then maybe you will like some of these other groups also as they have that Jazz feel to them.

      Orange Pekoe (オレンジ・ペコー)

      Soft Night

      All That Jazz

      Meguro Kisetsu

      (I actually live in Meguro district of Tokyo)

      Ego-Wrappin’

      Calling Me

      There of course more manga and anime focuses on school age and kids as they are the biggest market, but there is a lot of anime and manga for adults about adult themes. Seinen Manga ( for guys) and Josei Manga (for girls) are the genres you shouls look for if you want to read more adult Managa.

      Japan is actually not a diverse country at all. There are really very few people of different ethnic cultures in Japan compared to most countries in the west. But of course greater representation of minorities would be good. My mum is from Taiwan and ethnic Chinese and My dad is from Japan in Okinawa prefecture where I grew up, so I am almost a minority ! ! ! ;-)

      Of course my partner in crime (Pairubu aka MrP or the Rev. ) writes these posts with me so as a collaboration so I am sure he will be happy you liked the post also.

      Good Luck with learning Japanese. It is not so difficult as western people say, (apart from the writing of course ! ! ! )

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment ! ! !

  6. Thanks a lot for those suggestions! I quite like ones you’ve posted there :) I’m definitely more of a fan of jazzy/soulful stuff. Thanks a lot for the language learning encouragement too, I definitely needs all the encouragement I can get right now ahaha. Thanks also to Pairubu aka mrP!

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