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Songs About Japan and Tokyo

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published July 25th 2021
Celebrating Japan through music
With the Olympic Games in full swing, the world's eyes have turned to the nation of Japan and its capital city, Tokyo. Interestingly, despite being one of the most populous cities in the world and Japan being a technological leader, very little is known about the country apart from certain websites and cartoons and manga and anime that are best left not talked about. However, Tokyo looks like a stunning city.
japan, music, rock, pop
Tokyo (Image by xegxef from Pixabay)


So, I thought I'd turn to the world of music to inform myself. And… I learnt nothing. Not a thing. However, I did find some singularly awesome music. Now, I have already done songs about winning, not winning and competing. So, these are not songs about sport. These are about aspects of the nation.

In that vein, here are some songs about Japan and Tokyo. Same rules as always – I need to like the song, one song per artist, one version of each song – and the words Japan or Tokyo have to appear in the title (or derivatives thereof). Let's head to the home of Kurosawa (and Gojira)!


'Love In Tokyo' by The Honeycombs (1965)

Known for one song ('Have I The Right'), this single is a nice bit of post-Beatles rock-pop from the 1960s. It is a simple song, but one that gets the head moving. The instrumentation is also interesting. Decent track.


'My Woman From Tokyo' by Deep Purple (1973)

This is actually one of my very favourite Deep Purple songs, with a guitar riff that is so simple and yet so effective, and the band just sounds as tight as they ever would. And those reverse loops in the bridge are just really odd and yet so good. One of the great classic rocks songs from one of the great classic rock bands.


'Life In Tokyo' by Japan (1979)

I was debating whether to just include a song by Japan because of the name value alone, but on their Greatest Hits album I own is this little forgotten gem. The backing music is very of its time (which is why I maybe like it), and Japan, as always, delivers with the vocals.


'Turning Japanese' by The Vapors (1980)

I'll bet most reading this were waiting for this one. The classic one-hit wonder from the early 80s, and subject to so many rumours about what it is "really" about (which, apparently, are wrong – it's about being away from a loved one and being obsessed with photos, going on a cultural stereotype that Japanese tourists take a lot of photographs). But ignore all that for what is a wonderful song.


'Crystal Japan' by David Bowie (1980)

From Bowie's acclaimed Scary Monsters And Super Creeps album, this deep cut is an instrumental that is really soothing and calming. Just some wonderful music from one of the greatest musical artists of our time.


'Japanese Boy' by Aneka (1981)

1980s pop, and I am not sure if the voice is racist or genuine. I tried to research it, and it seems that Aneka was actually Japanese, but, again, it is hard to really ascertain with a one hit pop wonder. Was this even a hit? Doesn't matter. There is something about it that brings a smile to my face, so here it is.


'Big In Japan' by Alphaville (1984)

From that bombastic opening to the lyrics that are a pretty accurate depiction of how things go for a number of bands (no more hits in their own country, and yet huge in Japan). Alphaville, of course, were the people who gave the world 'Forever Young' and, yes, they were big in Japan.


'Tokyo Kid' by Jean Michel Jarre (1988)

An instrumental, using the synthesisers JMJ is renowned for, coming from the under-rated album Revolutions, this is a track featuring the trumpet stylings of Jun Miyake. A laid-back and soothing piece, the whole album is really worth catching.


'Somewhere Near Japan' by The Beach Boys (1989)

Okay, this is not the greatest Beach Boys song, coming long after their 1960s heyday from one of the only two albums of their pre-1990 catalogue not re-issued, but the vocal harmonies are still there and the instrumentation does not overwhelm the voices (a problem in some of these later Beach Boys recordings). Still, a pleasant enough song.


'Japanese Sunshadows' by Rick Wakeman (1991)

Wakeman going into neo-classical territory, but the whole album – Aspirant Sunshadows – is like that. Another beautiful piece of music from a musician who is often overlooked, I think, unfairly.


'Tokyo Girl' by Ace of Base (1998)

Ace Of Base was one of those Europop acts that dominated the charts at the end of the eighties and through the nineties. Yes, we like to think grunge changed things, but pop music is an unstoppable force. This is one of their lesser charting tracks, and yet is one of their better ones, especially lyrically.


'Tokyo Rain' by White Widdow (2010)

Don't let the 1980s poodle rock stylings fool you, this Australian band was formed in about 2008 and their nostalgic sound is perfect. You could play this and people would think it was an 80s band they missed. They are a really good band – great musicianship and decent singing – and this song is amazing.


And there we are – 12 songs about Japan and Tokyo. Some interesting musical styles, to be sure, but also some really good tracks here. Japan has been an inspiration for many artists over the years, and the world of music is just one of those realms.

So, another soundtrack while you're watching the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on the television, celebrating the country.

Hope you enjoyed it!

via GIPHY



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Why? Everyone's talking about Japan so let's sing about it
Where: Everywhere
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