Tokyo is one of the great cities in the world. Like all great cities Tokyo is exciting, dynamic, creative, complex and cruel. But we have a saying here that for every true thing you can say about Tokyo the opposite is also true ! ! ! You can live your whole life here and still be surprised by the beauty and also the cruelty of the city. Tokyo is not one city, it is a million villages and tribes crushed together each keeping it’s own character but passing on and receiving something from its neighbours. This it what gives Tokyo such a unique and varied atmosphere.
Obviously I’m not an expert on Tokyo. All I know of the place is what I’ve seen in films or read about. There’s no doubt. I think, that it’s an interesting and exciting city. There seems to be so much going on. Music, fashion, food, shopping, strange night clubs and dodgy “character ” cafes etc. I’m not a city guy these days, I’ve served my time in London and prefer the quiet life but I’d go to Tokyo. I think it would drive me crazy.
Sakura – Scandal – Tokyo
In this track Scandal take us into the dark and hedonistic Shibuya nightclub scene that some girls in Tokyo inhabit. Compensated dating, and the empty relationships, the jealously, and the desperate attempts to have fun. The song is even more powerful for its totally superficial J-pop feel. They describe girls passed out in night clubs, the hopelessness of their lives, and appeals to their Ojiisan (uncle – the term used by girls for the older guys they date in compensated dating relationships) and appeals to parents to give them some sort of guidance to what all this means. It is a strange and powerful track somehow.
Really like this one, you can see that they are “taking the mick ” here with the posing etc. Amazing how they manage to play their instruments using thought power alone too ! Shibuya is famous, of course, for it’s nightlife “Compensated dating” means, basically, old guys buying “favours” from young, attractive women. Something, of course, that I’m dead against.*
*On account of having no money. “Do you take Credit Cards , Miss ?”
Pairubu – Blue Hearts – Tokyo Zonbi ~ Roshian Ruureto
“Them again” I hear you cry. I make no apologies here, I love the Blue Hearts with an almost religious fervour. Not sure why , I just do. This is quite a sprightly number with a driving backbeat. I presume a “zonbi” is something like a “zombie” that has got a bit mangled in translation. I don’t think there are many actual zombies in Tokyo but, thanks to cosplay, there are plenty of pretend ones around.
This track is from maybe the most famous of all the Japanese punk bands. They were a great fun band, with lots of energy and people of all generations have their favourite Blue Hearts tracks. This is from the 1991 Album High Kicks and was released as the B side to the single Yume. It is typical fo their simple fun and direct style . If you want to actually see a Tokyo Zonbi then head to the crazy alternative universe of Harajuku ! ! !
Sakura – Miwa – Megurogawa
Only 10 minutes from Shibuya and Harajuku is Meguro. But it could be a million miles ! ! ! This is the area in Tokyo where I live. It is very central but a green and spacious neighbourhood and an area where many artists, writers and musicians live. Part of the area is very fancy and the Crown Princess of Japan lives here and many countries have embassies in the neighbourhood. There are nice parks and a great art museum and, running through the neighbourhood is the Meguro river. It is a famous place in Tokyo for enjoying the cherry blossom time as the river is lined by thousands of cherry trees and in spring the view is really very lovely. Singer songwriter Miwa lives here and she wrote this song describing the river in spring time with the cherry trees, and walking by the river and hiding in the trees so she could kiss her lover.
Lovely girl, lovely sound. What’s not to like here ? Meguro, from the pictures I’ve seen, certainly looks at it’s best in Cherry Blossom season. The trees by the river really are a thing of beauty ( apart from all the girls hiding in them waiting to jump out on unexpecting guys, of course). A little bit of nature in the heart of the city and wildly popular. Cherry Blossom viewing really is “Big in Japan” and you can see why.
Pairubu – Takashi Takagi – Tokyo A Go Go
Wonderful , old style GS type rock from the olden dayes ( 60s) . This is really evocative of old films from Japan ( BBC used to show them ( and other foreign films on a Friday night, years ago, nowadays it’s very rare to see anything on TV, a real shame) .
I defy you not to be singing “Tokyo a go-go” in your head all day !
Takashi Tagaki was the father of Japanese surf music and maybe the most famous in the genre. In this track he celebrates the swinging life style of the Tokyo night life in the 1960 decade in Shinjuku and Ginza. In the occupation following the war Shinjuku grew as entertainment and business district fueled by the black market in stolen US Army goods and GIs with a lot of money and not too much time to spend it. These days it is still one of the main entertainment districts and has clubs of all types catering to all tastes ! ! !
Sakura – YUI – Tokyo
This is my really favourite track by singer songwriter YUI. Tokyo is full of girls who have left their home town to work or study in Tokyo. In Okinawa where I come from and many rural prefectures, there is work for the guys in the tough jobs of fishing, and farming, but for the girls
often there is really nothing for us. So we leave our homes and come to the big cities like Tokyo. Full of fear and hope we take the bus, train or plane and leave our homes, families and friends behind. YUI always writes form her experience and at 17 years old she left her home and came Tokyo like so many before her to follow her dream. This song captures the experience of so many girls ( like me at 18 years old ) who have done the same thing.
One can see why this song is important to Sakura and , no doubt, other simple young country girls who have come to the big city to seek their fame and fortune. I think times have changed in Japan, it’s easier now for women to make a life for themselves without some hunking great oaf of a guy getting in the way. Yui is a great artist, who, I would say, deserves to be better known outside of Japan.
Pairubu – Puffy Ami Yumi – Sunday In The Park
How much do I love this track ? Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii……iiis much ! Really. It’s one of my favourites not just from Japan but all round. I just love the tremulous guitar and the melody. It reminds me of a 60s song which I can’t quite place in parts and fits in with my “slightlydelic” classification.
It also makes me think of Yoyogi park. See that creepy old geezer in the bushes oogling all the young “cosplay” lasses ? That’s me that is ! I really admire their style. Particularly the “D.I.Y” attitude. It’s very “punk” in a way. Making something out of cheap tat. Google “Ganguru” for some startling images from a few years back. Any girl that’s prepared to use Tippex instead of eye-shadow get’s my admiration , that’s for sure ! If you listen carefully you will hear the BEST Japanese word ever. “Tokidoki” which means ( I think) “sometimes”. Okiedokie ?”
Puffy Ami Yumi have a great and eccentric J-Pop carrer playing punk, rock, J-Pop, and kids songs. I really like this track. In Tokyo people usually live in quite small apartments and so on weekends, when the sunshines we all head to the parks to relax and enjoy some air. Yoyogi park is next to the weird and wonderful district of Harajuku but it is also next to the Meiji Shrine one of the most beautiful and important holy places in Shinto and it is surrounded by a park with ancient and towering cedar trees. Here on Sundays, the traditional and the eccentric and modern of Tokyo meet. You can see rockabillies and Elvis impersonators, punks, J-pop dance groups, gothic lolitas and the many urban tribes of Tokyo performing or just enjoying themselves, but in the huge expanse of the park, families and couples find quite places to enjoy the sun and peace and pensioners promenade amid the rose gardens. On the un-tended endges of the park are tents and shacks of the homeless, it is only park in Tokyo where the police do not move them from, a reminder that not everyone who comes to Tokyo makes it. Somehow this track seems to capture all of this for me.
Tokyo is an amazing city. It has variety and energy but it can be cruel and lonely place also. People usually either love it or hate it. You will rarely hear someone say “Tokyo ? ? ? Oh yeah, it is OK “ ! ! ! Whatever you think about Tokyo now you will probably be right, but remember the opposite will also be true! ! ! ! There are thousands of songs about Tokyo but we can only choose three each . . . .But we hope our little musical tour has encouraged you find out more about one of the world’s great cities ! ! !
So there you are. A whirlwind tour of one of the greatest cities on earth. Rather like London, I suspect, most people would have a “love/hate” relationship with the place. It’s got everything you want ( and more) on tap but it’s possible to get lost in the crowds. London can be a lonely place when you’re on your own and I’m sure the same applies in Tokyo. No denying it’s a “success” though, that’s why so many people want to live there, I’m sure. I’d love to go there but I think I’d be freaking out within a couple of hours. Too busy, too noisy, too many people…but then again , so much to do…
Next Week ! ! !
Next week will have the J-Factor ! ! ! Some of you may have heard fo the X- Factor well next week Mr P and I will be having our own J-Factor competition and you will have opportunity to vote about our choices ! ! ! We are really excited about it so tune in next week ! ! !