News

Feeling of social stagnation brings a resurgence of popular song in Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun (MCT)

OSAKA, Japan - A Japanese hit single from the mid-1970s has become popular once again, 30 years after its original release.

"Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" (Swim! Taiyaki-kun) sold more than 4.5 million copies first time round and is still Japan's biggest-selling single. A re-released version of the song on CD has sold about 50,000 copies since March.

Taiyaki is a fish-shaped pancake stuffed with a sweet bean paste.

For the generations that grew up with the smash hit in the latter part of the Showa era (1926-1989, named after the Japanese Emperor Showa, more familiar to the West by his personal name, Hirohito), the song offers a feeling of nostalgia, while for young people who have grown up in the subsequent Heisei era (named after the current emperor, Hirohito's son, Akihito), much of the attraction lies in products featuring the song's Taiyaki-kun character.

Observers say the lyrics of the song, which conveyed the frustrations of office workers a generation ago, are now resonating with the contemporary public due to a prevailing sense of stagnation in a society marked by widening disparities.

The song, which was first broadcast on a children's TV program, was sung by Masato Shimon and released in December 1975.

The song starts by expressing how Taiyaki-kun and other taiyaki pancakes are fed up with being relentlessly cooked up on a hot plate day after day. In the song, Taiyaki-kun escapes to the sea, but ends up being caught and eaten by an angler.

The song has become popular once again as part of an increased nostalgia and interest in the Showa era sparked by "Always: Sunset on Third Street," a movie set in Tokyo in the mid-Showa era.

At the end of last year, a toy manufacturer started making stuffed toys modeled on the Taiyaki-kun character as prizes for an arcade game machine in which people manipulate a mechanical claw to pick up prizes. The toy has proved popular among young people, and about 300,000 had been won by the end of March.

Record company Pony Canyon Inc. has released a CD of the song along with a DVD containing an animated film based on the song. The CD peaked at No. 19 on Oricon's chart of the biggest-selling songs and has remained in the top 100 for 10 consecutive weeks. The firm has kept receiving orders for the CD since its release.

"Middle-aged people can enjoy the song and the associated goods together with their children or grandchildren," a company spokesman said.

A 55-year-old company employee said the song had reminded him of the time he started working at the company.

"During tough times, the song helped me to relax," he said. "The character jumped into the sea, but failed in the end. But the lyrics taught me the importance of patience."

"Nowadays, just like at the time of the first release, company employees feel frustrated about working at their companies, and can relate to Taiyaki-kun in the song," economic critic Akira Esaka said. "In this age of insecurity, it's like we're all groping around in the dark. That's why many people are encouraged or reassured by something from the past."

Tatsuo Inamasu, a professor of sociology at Hosei University, said: "In the mid-1970s, when the song became a huge hit, people were more upbeat and had hopes for the future. But people in contemporary society are despairing, and that might be why they are moved by the song."

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.