Denny Sinnoh's "Akihabara Starlight"

Archive for the ‘Pop Music’ Category

How to write an anti-Japanese Idol article or blog post

In my continuing series of blogging posts of “How to write more gooder”, my topic today is a special one!

How to make an anti-Japanese Idol article or blog post, similar to the garbage in The Japan Times or RocketNews.*

Step #1 – Title your article something salacious such as “Japan’s Pervert Culture” or “Weird Japanese Music Fans and the Idols They Worship.”

Step #2 – Broach topics in the opening paragraphs, including elements about the Japanese pornography industry, prostitution, pedophilia, etc.

Step #3 – Important: Conflate these social ills with Japanese Idol singers. Make sure to mention AKB48 or other popular idol groups.

Step #4 – Be harshly critical of Idol music. Link an Idol music video, but not an artistic one. Chose one in which in your narrow mind, you think is the silliest. Then write:  “see how terrible it is…” Important: Make sure to not reveal your own vulgar musical tastes. This is especially true if you enjoy violent “thug” performances. If we heard what you actually like, no one would take you seriously.

Step #5 – Insert older photos of AKB48 throughout these steps– you may be able to confuse the readers. Include some of the members interacting with fans, and they will associate the group with pornography and prostitution.

Step #6 – Mention that Yashushi Akimoto is “literally Hitler”.  Otherwise dig up older scandals which have long since been debunked. If you repeat the lies enough, then you make them true.

Denny lisping just like a Social Justice Warrior: “Liturali Hitluur”.

Step #7 – Open the article to comments, but then make sure to delete all of Derek Vasconi’s well reasoned comments. If someone gives an alternative opinion– you might not be right!

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*RocketNews, now called SoraNews24 is the Gold Standard for ignorance about Idol culture. No one knows less about Idols than them, although there are some blogs on WordPress that come close.

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Kimonos on Someday: Hanako Oku’s O-mikuji is read at her Hatsumode

It is a lovely kimono – and what a lovely smile!

This photo was posted on the official Oku Hanako website on January 7:

https://ameblo.jp/kokoroletter/entry-12342670278.html?frm_src=thumb_module

Ms. Oku-san is at a Shinto shrine, her first visit to a shrine this year.

The Japanese term “Hatsumōde” refers to a person’s first shrine visit of the New Year. Typically, it refers to a visit to a Shinto shrine, however a visit to a Buddhist temple is sometimes done. The translated page indicates that she admitted she has not visited a shrine in a long time. She also says it has been a long time since she wore a kimono! Oku-in-kimono photos are almost impossible to find.

She is doing that smirk, because that scroll she is reading is her O-mikuji.

An “O-mikuji” is a rolled or folded preprinted fortune which is purchased by making a small offering at the shrine.

I cannot tell from her post what the fortune reads, but she seems a bit amused — and maybe more than a bit skeptical about the prediction.

Perhaps the fortune predicts “at long last an unrequited love will be fulfilled”!

That would be great … but then she would be out of a job … Ha Ha … Oh.

Starlight: Missed this by only a month!

A song? Oh, OF COURSE you get a song!

 

Kimonos on Monday — My daughter Sakura is finally an ADULT!

Kimonos on Monday — Sakura-tan is an ADULT!

My lovely daughter* Sakura Miyawaki has had her “Coming of Age Day” on January 8, 2018. (Japan is 12 hours ahead of my time zone.) This means that the mega-talented and incredibly adorable twenty-year old is accepting the responsibilities of being an adult.

The Shinto ceremony was held at Kanda shrine in Tokyo.

According to the AKB Daily website (article linked here), a total of forty members of the AKB48 family participated in this year’s event. This is the largest number of participants in the group’s history.

This large number of participants is not surprising, as there has been a significant amount of expansion of the AKB Family in recent years.

Sakura with the other HKT48 members who have turned twenty this year.  Oh I can remember when this group was only knee high to a June bug.

I will try to post more COA day photos/links from the AKB groups as they become available. Also, you can see more of the lovely Miss Miyawaki on her Twitter page linked here.

Look at those sleeves — at first I thought Sakura’s kimono was a tie-dye.

My friends over at 48 Talk also mention the event in their podcast yesterday. I highly recommend their video blog for AKB fans!

*Starlight:  You probably figured out that Sakura-tan is NOT REALLY my daughter …

Read any good books this summer? Special birthday wishes to Miss Yuki Kashiwagi of AKB/NGT48.

Of course I keep up with my summer reading! I am so happy that my favorite AKB48 member has made this useful reference manual to help me at my office. Even though I am very dedicated to work, and cannot blog very often these days, I am not too busy to wish my oshi a HAPPY 26TH BIRTHDAY! Please enjoy one of my favorite Yukirin moments from her solo tour last year.

(Denny sighs, swoons) … she’s my favorite niece … but I am pretty sure that she will announce her graduation from AKB this year. Alas, it is probably time for the dear young lady to move on. Yukirin may be near the end of her AKB48 career, but I am sure she will continue as a solo singer, actress and media personality.

I want to pay tribute to Yukirin History here. This is an old AKB sketch where Yuki played an old kendo master –as a man!  Note the Kashiwagi beard and mustache. There is a funny moment at about time 3:00 where her “assistant” is supposed to strike her on the head. Their timing was actually off, because Yuki really does get hit hard on the head. Ha. Watch her reaction.

Oh, Yuki, you are a real trouper!

Starlight: Yuki Kashiwagi – born July 15, 1991

See more of Miss Yuki Kashiwagi on my Pinterest board linked here.

Growing up with Tsuri Bit: A thousand days of happiness.

Thanks for the photo, girls. Please make it out to “Uncle Denny” and write: “Thank you for all your kind advice and aged wisdom!”

A teenage girl can do a lot of growing up in 1000 days. They can make the journey from awkward teen to sophisticated young woman. About three years ago (a thousand days ago?), I discovered the Japanese Idol group Tsuri Bit. The name loosely translates as “fishing lure”. No, not “bait” mind you! (Denny looks at reader sternly.) The first music video of theirs I watched was “Odoroyo Fish” (踊ろよ、フィッシュ “Odoroyo Fisshu” or “Let’s Dance Fish” ) This fun song was a hit for Japanese singer Tatsurō Yamashita in 1987. The Tsuri Bit girls update it – and “idol” it up. They capture the spirit of the song.  They retain the original’s warmth, charm and FUN! They make it their own. Lyrics are linked here. Please SING with me!

I always wanted to be an Ichthyologist!

This might be one of the the cutest Idol videos I have ever seen — certainly the girls could not be any cuter. I used to play this one on my iphone in the grocery store. You should have seen me there in Produce, through the Dairy and Seafood isles — headphones on — movin’ and grovin’.. Imagine me spinning my cart around almost like I was dancing with it! I was trying to just  hum quietly to myself, but I probably let out a few audible sounds  … Odoroyo FISH! … O-do-ro-yo BAY-BEE … Ha. The other shoppers would think I was crazy if anyone would notice. The song starts about 59 seconds into this YT linked video from 2014. Enjoy in 1080 HD.

From there you can find links to many of their videos. KISSPOINT Records has recovered from that “Ban in America” thing. Here is an idol group you can enjoy. Tsuri Bit’s shtick is that they are the “Fishing Idols”. They have made several songs and videos about going fishing. In fact, Tsuri Bit has meet-and-greet events with fans that are FISHING TRIPS! If AKB48 are “the idols you can meet” then Tsuri Bit are “the idols you can go fishing with“!

“Scales of Clouds and Orion”

I can relate a lot to this next music video, even though I was not liking the actual song all that much at first. Sometimes with music videos I like the song but not the video, or vice versa. The Tsuri Bit girls must have been thinking about me in this next video from 2015. This early 2015 MV is about a sad “Salaryman” who is stuck in a dead-end job that he hates — just like me! He is berated by bosses — just like me!  He is not respected by coworkers or clients — just like me!.  He is behind on the technology and frustrated, he’s slow and fat and … just … like … uh … heh … heh ….. oh. (Denny slumps) Dang, this guy even LOOKS like me.

He might have to work for A-holes, but Tsuri Bit believe in him.

The good news that the Tsuri Bit girls are there wearing cute cheerleader outfits.  (I wonder though if they are there only in his imagination.) The girls remind him of all things that are good in this world. The things worth fighting for!  They cheer him up, he gets motivated, goes back to his job, applies that fat ass to work … and he succeeds! All it took was the cuteness and encouragement of his favorite idols. Tsuri Bit are so wholesome and good, it is like they have magical girl powers. The song itself?  Well, it had to grow on me — but look how much the girls have grown.

This next one is my FAVORITE Tsuri Bit music video. I LOVE this power-pop song.  Here they are in late 2015, perfecting their idol moves on the beach.

Several months later, the girls are on a beach vacation again. This next MV reminds me of the Beatles’ movie “Help” where the fab four all live together in the same house. There is an amusing part near the start of this video where the girls are sorting through their beachwear. They are trying to gauge which swimsuit top belongs to whom.  Since the last video, it looks like Mizuki (the 19 year old) grew some BOOBIES! Somebody needs a bigger suit. The sweet little fish-scientists have a lot of fun singing, dancing and just idol-ing on the beach.

I know what you are thinking: “Denny, you are a dirty old man.”

To that I say “OH YEAH … well is that YOUR NOSE, or are you eating a TOMATO?” Then I would start throwing punches.  Uh .. Ok … er ..  maybe I should take the high road and try to explain. The Japanese Idol culture/subculture is a very difficult concept for outsiders to grock.

Idol culture offends many (stupid, American) women because Japanese Idols start out so young — and that their audience includes many middle-aged businessmen. Despite what the hags think, the middle aged fans are NOT perverts. Look, an idol show is pure entertainment. Just like that Salaryman in the video above —  Japanese men have to work many long hours for relatively pay. Being a fan, and/or going to an idol show is pure escapism. It is fun to support and cheer for your favorite idols.

That is how wota feel about their Idols. When idoling is done correctly, it becomes pure happiness. Happiness which transcends age, ethnicity and gender.  They remind us that there really can be something pure in this harsh universe … like at my work.

Older male fans are cheering the girls on, not lusting after them — Jesus.  Look, if all someone wanted to do was “look at young girls” then there would be a lot of other ways to do that.  Dirty old men, are not buying singing-and-dancing DVDs. Wota LOVE our idols because they bring HAPPINESS with their presence. There may be some perverts among the fans, but they are not the norm. Just like the pundits on the CHH news channel who are always saying that “not ALL Syrian refugees are psychotic terrorists and rapists.” Well … and … OK, maybe that’s not a very good example.

I once had an Internet feud with an anti-AKB hag. She said on her blog that wota are bad people. What was surprising was that she followed various homoerotic Korean boy-bands! So it is OK for a bitter, dried-up, middle-aged hag to follow boy idols, but a middle-aged man cannot follow idol groups? Talk about your hag privilege.

Next video — here the girls are in Shibuya — growing up, and heading out on their own. They look very sophisticated and mature in the outfits they wear here.  The music is upbeat, jazzy and sophisticated. Their concerns are that of an adult, but they can still go for a good ice cream sundae.

(Denny’s reverie:) So … it looks like my girls grew up and turned out all right. Soon they will be off to college and living on their own.  I will worry about them, but I really shouldn’t worry about them. They are fine young women now. Pure of heart and of high moral character. If aliens visited Earth and asked me to show them the best part of humanity, I would lead then to that karaoke party with Tsuri Bit. Pretty idols and ice cream.

If you want to learn more about this idol group, the official Tsuri Bit website (in Japanese) is linked hereA great fan site IN ENGLISH is linked here. The site has a lot of useful statistical information about the girls — including which species of fish they would most want to catch. 

Starlight: A thousand days of happy.  Traveling at the speed of light, Tsuri Bit’s earliest broadcasts should now be nearing the Centauri system.

Imagine the alien boys living on a planetoid which orbits Beta Centauri. They are monitoring signals from space … and then receive this devastating cuteness:

Here is how I imagine the conversation.

Alien Boy 1: “Beezit — wabba wabba zoop beena beena!”

Alien Boy 2 “Shazzbat!!! wabba wabba zoop beena beena — hoo HOO!”

Ohio coffee playlist with Moritaka Chisato

When I met her in that Ohio coffee shop, I kept telling myself “Denny, don’t stare  … don’t stare at her legs… don’t stare at her legs you idiot …”

Ohio!  Ha … “Ohio” that is how you say “good morning” in Japanese!

Ha … please don’t correct me, I know that the phrase is really “Ohayō” お早う or “Ohayōgozaimasu”.  I have become a big fan of Japanese singer Moritaka Chisato these past few months. Every morning I look forward to the perfect combination of 1) my morning mug of coffee 2) my iPhone on which I can watch YourTube videos, and 3) my headphones. It is the best time of the day, sitting there, having a good morning coffee … of course my life is complete shit at work, but at least I am happy for those 25 fleeting minutes. Ahem, I am particularly happy when listening to music videos from this wonderful artist.  All Japanese culture comes to me by starlight, and Moritaka Chisato is a good example. I first learned about her from another blogger’s post (MorningBerryz48). The original post is linked here. Moritanka Chisato had her first hits in the late 1980s and was popular through the 1990s. I guess you could call her stuff “nineties music” — but she recorded a variety of great music in many different genres. She was a little different from many pop/idol singers of the time because she wrote her own music and was an accomplished instrumentalist. Ohio! Lets us get to the videos!

The first song is 気分爽快 translated as “Refreshing Feelings”.  There are several different versions and live performances of the song on YT (check out the “drums” version linked here), but this particular MV is very intriguing. I would have to ask my friend Bob to identify the guitars which the guitarist plays here. Oddly, at one point in the video, he is playing a different one than moments before! Now I have watched this MV like the Zapruder film, detailing each moment. There is a “Mystery Woman” dressed in a green sweater-top. She never turns to face the camera, even during the big wide-shot group dance part. We … never… see… her… face. I was thinking that perhaps she is the Moritaka from the future, or perhaps visiting from another dimension … but then again I’m a nut.

Moritanka Chisato portrays a teacher in this next video “Song of Study” or “Study Song” depending on which order you read it. There are a lot different versions of this MV too, but I think that this one is the most endearing. Musically, it sounds like the mid-eighties. Somewhere between Cindy Lauper and DEVO.

Ms. Chisato plays a teacher. I have taken some notes: The superiority of the Japanese educational system is clearly on display here. Ms. Chisato is clearly better than any boring teacher I ever had. Who wants to listen to some dork lecture about rocks? I prefer Ms. Chisato’s suit. Oh, man in that tight suit, nice hose and pretty shoes — she reminds me of a young Mrs. Sinnoh. I like how at one point she gives a boy the choice between a comic book and a study guide, and he chooses the manga, much to her disappointment. After she teaches for a while she gives him the choice between the workbook and a Nintendo Gameboy, and he chooses the schoolbook! (Notice how much larger Gameboys were in Japan. Those things were HUGE!) I noticed that she gives pretty big tests. They are easy (look close) but they are really BIG tests. You will also notice that the school day goes by very fast with her. The hands on the classroom clock fly around very quickly. I sure would like to be this teacher’s pet : )

“They say that the big band sound is coming back!” (Sorry about that stupid comment. I have had to put up with that one half-my life.)  Now, if you have not exited my post yet, you are in for a treat. The next song is “So Blue”. Despite the big band, dance hall atmosphere, this song rocks out pretty hard.  I might even call it “progressive” rock, as it is so interesting and complex. Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir? Forget that, you will find a much better guitar/drum/strings arrangement from Chisato-san here. (Denny sups coffee.)

This next song is “August Love”. My comic-book reading otaku friends like Matthew and The Otaku Judge should recognize the lovely Moritaka is singing inside one of Superman’s fortresses. Now, this is not his Arctic isolated fortress. Instead Superman keeps Mori-chan forever young in this PACIFIC fortress. (It has a slightly different coloration.) Can you imagine the fun Superman has in that place, listening to Ms. Chisato – trapped in time — kept forever young, singing about August Love – with that facethat hair … and that red lipstick. (Denny gulps.)

Gentemen, hold on to your hearts, because if you have not fallen in love with Moritaka Chisato yet, you will succumb during this next beautiful song — “Watarase Bridge”. She was going for a Beatles “Let It Be” sound and video. Well, screw the Beatles. At least Chisato-san did not have to lie about who was playing the instruments. SHE IS!  Clearly one of her best songs, even my other Jpop hero Hanako Oku loves it. Psst: Watch for the “mystery woman” to walk through right at the end.

If you love Jpop, make sure that you add some Moritaka Chisato to your collection! Her official web links are here:

Official Website: http://www.moritaka-chisato.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/chisatomoritaka
Twitter: http://twitter.com/moritakastaff
Google+: http://plus.google.com/u/0/108720770772129735479/posts
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/moritakachannel

She has a great volume of music and video to explore. She is older now, and not publishing as much as during her hey day in the 1990s. She is married to a nice guy and has two lovely children.

I have also started a Pinterest board for Moritaka Chisato linked hereThanks MB, for introducing me to another great artist, I might otherwise never would have known about.

Starlight: I discovered Moritaka Chisato on November 16, 2016 through MorningBerryz48’s blog. I can’t do justice to MB’s post. She has all this great album cover art, photos, live performances, songs lyrics, etc.

Wha … Why are you still here? go have  a look!

川の流れのように The greatest song of all time?

What is the greatest popular music song of all time?

Is it “She Loves You (Yeah,Yeah,Yeah)” by the Beatles? Could it be “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin? Is your choice “YMCA” by the Village People? Well, all of those are valid choices to be sure …

However, please allow me to make a case for “Kawa no Nagare no Yō ni”, which translates from Japanese as “Like the Waters of a River”.

The music was composed by Akrika Mitake with lyrics by Yasushi Akimoto. They composed this ballad for the famous Japanese enka singer Hibari Misora. The song was to be her last single, and she died shortly after it was released in 1989.

From Wikipedia:  “… was voted the greatest song of all time during a national poll in 1997 by NHK, with more than 10 million votes. It is often the song of choice for artists  performing live tributes to Misora.” According to linguistics blogger Larry Kenny “it is learned routinely by high school students in Japan.” and “The song embodies the very essence of enka, if not the very essence of the Japanese people.”  I would be able to agree with that, as it is a very moving song. Mr. Kenny has provided a great English translation, and has written a wonderful article about the song linked here.

Several famous singers have recorded the song. I am including a little YouTube playlist here.

As performed by Hibari Misora:

This recording is by Cantonese singer Teresa Teng.

Here is a version with American “soul” singer Diana Ross and opera singers Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. Dam!

How about this version by Mexican singer Mariachi Vargas?

You can probably find many others through various YuteTube links. If I was not tearing-up so much, I could probably practice the song with this karaoke:

Mr. Kenny also has created this version that [his singer Evan Ross] sings in English. Now the singing is not as “enka” as some others, I will admit, but [they have] created a very respectable, heartwarming rendition.  (Much better than I ever could.)

[Evan Ross] sings his beautiful translation of the lyrics in English. [Mr. Kenny] actually provides two English translations of the song in the article. One is a “literal” translation of the words from Japanese, and then he created another “non-literal”  descriptive version. Wow. Just wow. Mr. Akimoto’s original lyrics are so meaningful, so filled with eternal truths … that they may transcend language barriers and even create new meanings. The following is Mr. Kenny’s non-literal interpretation.

Like a dream, like a dream, passing day after day
down this long, narrow road I’ve been walking
If I turn, looking back I can see far away
the old town that I loved long ago.

Roads that wind and twist in every way,
Bumpy roads that have seen too many days
With no map to guide us, every path we cross in our lives,

Ah, just like the waters of a river, countless bygone days,
one by one how gently, how slowly they go,
Ah, just like the waters of a river, on unendingly,
into the sky painted colors of evening flow.

In our journeys and lives, though they start and they end,
still the road never stops, on forever,
as we reach toward a dream, making memories and friends,
we draw near the people who we love.

As the rain beats down upon our heads
and the mud covers all the road ahead
on we walk because soon a bright new day will come again

Ah, just like the waters of a river, slow and gracefully,
lay this body down, let them take me away,
Ah, just like the waters of a river, like the seasons flow,
as we wait for April sunshine to melt the winter grey.

Ah, just like the waters of a river, slow and gracefully,
lay this body down, let them take me away,
Ah, just like the waters of a river, on eternally
as we hear the rushing current flow out to the bay.

http://www.larrykenny.com/enka/kawa.php

I think the lyrics are especially poignant as Hibari Misora passed on soon after the song was released. The lyrics introduce imagery about the philosophy of life — by analogy — flowing like a river. It is nostalgic in that the singer/listener is looking back over their life, not with regrets but with the appreciation of a life that was lived. I have to wonder if she knew she was near the end of her life when she made those live performances. If she had no regrets, and had nothing but love at the end … well — it shows.

I hope you can find your own fluid meaning there.

Finally, “Kawa no Nagare no Yō ni” was also recorded by my favorite enka singer Iwasa Misaki. There are no [legit] music videos of Misaki-san’s recording on YourTube. There are even a few non-Misaki fakes out there! However, let me share this SoundCloud link to Miss Misaki’s great interpretation of the song.

Are you ready? Sitting down? Clasping the armrests? Tissue box nearby?

Wasamin’s version always turns me into a big, blubbering sack of protoplasm. If you enjoy it even half as much as I do, you can order the CD single from CD-Japan linked here. The song 川の流れのように is the third song (a second B-side?) of her three-track CD-Single of Gomen ne Tokyo. Note: Only the REGULAR edition CD-single has the song!

If you want one, I will buy you a copy!

Why not listen to some Enka music? … What feelings do the lyrics pull out of you, or what pictures from your life can you imagine?  … Try to observe nature as if it were a beautiful sound of a song … think of someone you loved … Think of your favorite memories of places you enjoyed … 

Find again what you love about your life. Enka.

Starlight: It took 28 lightyears for 川の流れのように to reach my world.

PS: What is your favorite all time song? You can list your choice in the comments below. If there is a YouFlube link for your favorite please provide that too.

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