The Tacosan – Japanese Funk

Nothing like a little crazy (read: absolutely nuts) Japanese Funk.

“Nice Middle!”
(By the way, ナイスミドル ‘naisu midoru’ refers to, nice, middle age.) So try to be cool when you’re middle aged, and you can have a “nice middle” too.

You can buy The TACOSAN’s Sayonara Seikatsu album on Hear Japan if you like what you hear.


The fourth track on the Sayonara Seikatsu (goodbye life) album is a remix by Fantastic Plastic Machine, a name many club goers in Japan will know. Good stuff!

– Harvey

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

Pizzicato Five – It’s a Beautiful Day

I listened to Pizzicato Five CDs over, and over again while sitting at home in Iowa back in the mid 90s. I just put some on now, which gave me the idea to check YouTube to see what I could see. This was my first time seeing this video!


This particular song is on their Happy End of You album pictured above.

Back in the mid 90s I was taking Japanese in high school while also working a part time job at the local big blue and yellow media warehouse/store. I still remember the first day I came across a Pizzicato Five CD while stocking the shelves. At the time (I still am?) I was desperate to find anything Japanese to learn Japanese from so I took a long hard look. I was already into Anime, but I didn’t really have any Japanese music other than Anime soundtracks. So I tried one Pizzicato Five album, and I was hooked. I think I own like 7 or 8 Pizzicato Five albums now.

Old school. Upbeat. Quirky. Gotta love em.

The lead singer Nomiya Maki is still active in Japan and has a blog as well. I actually saw Nomiya Maki perform once live in Kyoto – I think in 2006, maybe 2007. It wasn’t Pizzicato Five at the time, she was with a new band, I forget the name… It was really cool actually seeing her. It made me feel like my “Japan journey” had come full circle.

Here’s some Baby Portable Rock for ya down below.

Fun stuff!

– Harvey

Soutaisei Riron

It seems I’m on a music kick lately.

I’d like to introduce you to HearJapan artist of the month, Soutaisei Riron (相対性理論). The band name translates into, “theory of relativity”. Read the HearJapan link for more information about the band than you’ll probably ever need.

Soutaisei Riron has that typical whispery female vocal sound so common in J-pop, but there’s something about them that feels different. Most of their lyrics seem to be about the kinds of things that an especially conscious and sensitive high school girl in Japan would think about. A lot of the comments on YouTube describe the vocalist and the lyrics as being “setsunai” (切ない), which is a kind of sad and wistful emotion. 切ない is one of those words that I’m glad never shows up in my translation work – very Japanese.

Good stuff. What do you think?

– Harvey

Japanese Music Giveaway at HearJapan is having a limited time music giveaway in anticipation of Japan Nite 2009 which happens this March. Japan Nite is a music event where musicians from Japan come to the United States to perform. This will be the 13th annual Japan Nite.

I must admit, I’m hearing about Japan Nite for the first time. In my defense, I was in Japan for the past six years, and before that I was living in the corn belt. You’ll see on the tour schedule that places like Iowa and Indiana are not going to be seeing any action. For those of you reading from the corn belt, don’t worry, just download these free tracks and crank up your speakers! It’s the next best thing.

You can get the free music sampler at HearJapan (in case you haven’t clicked already). The tracks include a band I really enjoy, OMODAKA. The free music is only available until until March 29, so don’t procrastinate too long.

By the way, if have never heard anything from OMODAKA, here are some choice tracks to get you hooked.

I love this stuff. If you’re not into these videos, don’t worry, the other bands are nothing like OMODAKA… which means I’m sure there will be something you enjoy.

Asakusa Jinta are pretty intense as well.

Oh man. I need to get tickets.

– Harvey

Free Music on HearJapan – Versailles -Philharmonic Quintet-

The Japanese visual-kei aristocratic metal band Versilles has changed their name to “Versailles -Philharmonic Quintet-” due to some issues in the U.S. As part of the celebration, they have made their first single entitled “Prince” under the new band name available on HearJapan for FREE.

If you’re into this sort of thing, go over and check it out. And if you’re not into it, check it out anyway, because it’s free and you might like it! Background information on the band is available on HearJapan as well.

Oh, and um… All of the band members are men.

Even the pretty one on the right… Only in Japan…

– Harvey