I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


This was one neighbourhood that I didn't visit back in 2014 and it was one of my favourites while I was living in the Kanto. 

Omotesando was most likely designed with Paris' Champs-Elysees in mind. It just makes for a nice stroll on a sunny autumn day and it's nice to be surrounded by so much luxury although I would never dare walk into a Chanel or other fashionable store.

One of the characteristic features of Omotesando was this group of old apartment buildings that used to line one side of the boulevard called the Dojunkai Aoyama Apartments built in 1926 and 1927. In 2005, they were demolished to make way for the Omotesando Hills shopping complex. However, one small block of the original building has been kept to house some boutiques.

There was an Apple store there as well, and boy, was there ever a lineup. I think iPhone X had just been released.

The side streets are nice to explore, too. And if I'd had a lot more time, I would have been more than happy to explore them. I figured that some of these roads would have revealed some interesting shops and cafes.

Perhaps a bit out of left field for my musical choice here, but when I saw the drama "Tokyo Love Story"(東京ラブストーリー)all those years ago, I swear that some of the scenes between Rika and Kanchi were filmed right on the main drag of Omotesando. And from that point onwards, whenever I walk there, one of the songs from the Toshifumi Hinata(日向敏文)soundtrack plays in my head.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

CHAI -- N.E.O.

Good ol' Tower Records in Shibuya. If there is one place that I always visit in the Teen Mecca, it is Tower. I did my usual detailed reconnaissance of the various floors although I really didn't stay too long on the 2nd floor with the books and magazines. I used to buy all sorts of entertainment magazines when they were up on the 7th but since getting back to Toronto for good, my interest in them basically evaporated.

Still, the other floors laden with the CDs were fair game. The 3rd floor has all of the J-Pop and in the three times that I visited Tower Records this trip, there was this incessant music by a band called CHAI blasting through the speakers. And the song was "N.E.O." which seemed to possess all sorts of things: aidoru, punk rock, DEVO among others.

And yet, looking at the official music video above, I think it's fairly clear that the members of CHAI (Mana, Kana, Yuuki and Yuna) are a fair bit older than the usual teenyboppers. According to their J-Wiki entry and their website, the band started out in late 2016 but their first album, "Pink", was only released in late October this year. CHAI delves into pop, rock and funk and describes itself as "NEO Kawaii".

"N.E.O." is one of the tracks on "Pink" and the music was relentless at Tower almost to the point where I actually thought about purchasing the album. However I held off....for now.

Return to Shibuya

Following a somewhat uneventful visit to Shimo Kitazawa on the 6th, I quickly made a beeline over to Shibuya. Unsurprisingly, the Teen Mecca was still as lively as ever even on a Monday. And the area continues to evolve with new buildings going up all the time. I am wondering whether it may turn out looking more like Coruscant by the time of my next visit.

Still, good ol' Hachiko was there keeping watch for his master in front of Shibuya Station. Wouldn't it be something if Richard Gere actually showed up?

Of course, there was the cuteness factor with that local bus.

And Shibuya 109 kept its eye over the pedestrians like an eternal sentinel. Speaking of fashion, one of the things I saw fairly often during my walks throughout the Big Sushi was women wearing these bizarre combinations of bathroom slippers/sandals. I would later find out that they are officially called fur sandals and were a big thing in 2016 although the impression is that they are making the slow fade-out.

Whimsy was also on full display as those real-life Super Mario carts were revving up to cross one of the world's busiest intersections.

My anime buddy had given me the heads up before I left Toronto but the popular anime "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?"(ご注文はうさぎですか?)was being given the motion picture treatment on the 11th. Therefore, the marketing campaign was in full swing in a lot of areas, including the show window of a department store in Shibuya.

So, here is "Daydream Cafe", the original opening theme.

Junko Yagami -- Summer In Summer ~ Omoide wa Suhada ni Yaite(サマー イン サマー 〜想い出は素肌に焼いて〜)

Although we're obviously no longer in summer, this is the time when folks either reminisce or look forward to the season since it's getting markedly colder here and in Japan.

So, let us at least have a musical traipse through the hot season once more with this sultry number by Junko Yagami(八神純子)titled "Summer in Summer". The Japanese part of the title "Omoide wa Suhada ni Yaite" comes off to me as "Let The Memories Burn On Your Bare Skin" which sounds remotely gross.

Still, Yagami has that amazing way with her melodies as she weaves through this slow funk, and through the late Keisuke Yamakawa's(山川啓介)lyrics, she creates this scene of summer beach seduction and loving with tons of sun, suntan oil and skin. "Summer in Summer" was actually her 13th single from March 1982, the seemingly perfect time to get folks keyed into summer traveling and sure enough, the song was used for a JAL Okinawa campaign.

No idea how it did on the charts and though I checked, "Summer in Summer" didn't seem to get onto an original album back then although it is on one of Yagami's BEST compilations that I purchased long ago.

Masayoshi Tsuruoka & Tokyo Romantica -- Wakaretekimashita(別れてきました)

Saw NHK's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)for the first time in a couple of weeks, and we were surprised to find out that the main vocalist for Mood Kayo group Masayoshi Tsuruoka & Tokyo Romantica(鶴岡雅義と東京ロマンチカ), Masato Sanjo(三條正人), had passed away earlier in October. So the show gave a brief tribute to Sanjo and the group with the two remaining members of Romantica (member Kosho Okuyama(奥山浩章)died in 2015) teaming up with Keisuke Yamauchi(山内恵介)to perform their biggest hit, "Otaru no Hito yo"(小樽のひとよ).

As such, I would like to give my own tribute to Sanjo by putting up another song by Tokyo Romantica, "Wakaretekimashita" (We're Breaking Apart). Released as their 26th single in April 1974, the ballad's theme of romantic loss plays well with Sanjo's mournful delivery, and this would be another ideal song to cry into a mug of beer or glass of shochu at the neighbourhood watering hole.

Aoi Sanmyaku

I was walking back to Shimo Kitazawa Station when I discovered this small old theatre with the feature being the old version of "Aoi Sanmyaku"(青い山脈). It's kinda nice to see these quaint movie houses in an era of massive cineplexes. Since I'm a casual purveyor of old black & white flicks (namely the films that get onto Turner Movie Classics), I can imagine folks in Tokyo coming out to see the ancient Japanese productions from decades past.

Of course, if I'm gonna talk about "Aoi Sanmyaku" the movie, then I have to show "Aoi Sanmyaku" the song.

Lounging in Shimo Kitazawa

On the morning of Monday November 6th, I made it another long day starting with a trip to the bohemian Shimo Kitazawa. The only thing is that it's only trendy and bohemian if there are plenty of people with plenty of shops and restaurants open for business. It wasn't quite that way when I got there.

It was pretty sleepy on the winding side streets surrounding the station. It was still before 11 so the only thing that I could see open was the local Daiso, the 100-yen shop.

Well, actually the Shimo Kitazawa Mister Donut shop was open, too. And there's nothing more irresistible than coffee and donuts in the morning...not that I ever had any ambitions in becoming a cop.

Mister Donut has always served those cake donuts which all Japanese have known about which would explain how Krispy Kreme became hugely popular...for a while, at least...back from 2009. Apparently, no one had ever had a glazed yeast-raised donut before in Japan. Still, it doesn't matter whether the ring is yeast or cake; donuts are all good to me.

It was also nice that the entire 2nd floor was deserted. The view wasn't exactly paradise per se but it was sunny which made for a pleasurable morning snacking experience as I read "Day of the Jackal" for about an hour.

Quite appropriate to put on this song by the late Yutaka Ozaki(尾崎豊).