Shopping Boogie by Kasagi Shizuko

I want to introduce you to Shizuko Kasagi (1914 – 1985) and this great song called Kaimono Bugi (買い物ブギ, “Shopping Boogie”), recorded in 1950, way back during the post-war American Occupation of Japan.

Shizuko Kasagi was known as the “Queen of Boogie” 「ブギの女王」 in postwar Japan. She was born in Kanagawa but moved to Osaka with her family not long after she was born, which is the reason that she could speak Kansai dialect.

The song story goes something like this. The singer in the video has suddenly become super busy having to shop for all kinds of food items. She says she is so busy that it’s as if Obon and New Years (two major holidays in Japan) have come all at once. Everyone asking her to buy stuff… not even caring about how much trouble they are causing her. It turns out her shopping trip isn’t as successful as she would like, and the chorus line goes わてほんまによういわんわ (wate honmani you iwanwa) which is like, “Geez, I really can’t say anything about this (messed up situation).”

The lyrics in Japanese for the song are available around the web. Search Google for 買い物ブギ 歌詞 and you’ll find a bunch.

Some of the lyrics out there cut off the last segment featuring the lady who is blind and cannot read the shopping list, and others modify the segement just before that featuring the old man who is deaf. The reason for this editing is because the original lyrics use out-dated terms for “deaf” and “blind” which are now considered to be discriminatory in Japan. From my quick search… this set of lyrics is pretty good. It does cut off the last segment though. Maybe I’ll clean it up and translate some of these for a future post, and maybe roll it all into a Kansai-ben lesson. Would that be nice?

I was reading the Japanese Wikipedia page about 買い物ブギ (“Shopping Boogie”) for some background info, and actually the discriminatory language section is pretty significant. I’ll interpret a bit of it here for you.

The lyrics say, 「私つんぼで聞こえまへん。」(watashi tsunbo de kikoemahen / I am deaf, so I cannot hear you) at the scene with the elderly deaf salesman, and 「めくらのおばはん。」(mekura no obahan / blind old lady) at the scene with the lady who cannot see well enough to read the shopping list. The terms “tsunbo” and “mekura” are now considered to be offensive and inappropriate in Japan. “Tsunbo” draws a stronger reaction than “mekura” it seems, relatively speaking.

In modern renditions of “Shopping Boogie” these segments are cut out completely, or the lyrics modified to be more “politically correct”. Most of the cover versions of the song completely cut out the scene with the lady with bad eyesight, and the “tsunbo” lyrics are changed to 「私は耳が不自由で聞こえまへん。」 (watashi wa mimi ga fujyuu de kikoemahen.) “mimi ga fujyuu” is the PC expression for “deaf”, which literally means, “ears are not completely free. (As in, someone cannot use their ears freely.) Similarly, you can say 「足が不自由」to refer to someone who requires assistance walking or uses a wheelchair.

So… do you love this song as much as I do? I’m seriously hooked.

I guess I like it because it’s all in the Kansai dialect (kansai-ben), which immediately makes it awesome (in my opinion anyway), and it’s a story about an extremely tough shopping day… Fun! Also, Shizuko Kasagi is adorable. Other songs by Shizuko Kasagi include, Tokyo Boogie Woogie (東京ブギウギ) which was a huge hit in 1947, and later she also did Osaka Boogie Woogie (大阪ブギウギ) and this Kaimono Boogie.

If you have seen Akira Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel(酔いどれ天使, yoidore tenshi) you have actually already seen Kasagi Shizuko performing. She appears in this clip where the main character, a slick, yet sick, yakuza played by Toshiro Mifune is dancing in a bar when he should be resting up to take care of his illness. (GREAT movie by the way.)

Here is a more recent artist named Umekichi Hiyama (檜山うめ吉) doing Kaimono Boogie, still great, but not as fun as the original in my opinion! (biased.) Umekichi also covered another Kasagi song called Hey Hey Boogie (ヘイヘイ・ブギ) in 1994. You can hear Hey Hey Boogie on YouTube as well.

A little history, a little culture, a little language. Good stuff!

– Harvey

P.S. Learn more Kansai-ben here.

[UPDATE] If you’re interested in Kansai-ben, check our Kansai-ben iPhone Application! Japanese 101: Kansai Dialect