One of the most popular articles on Tokyo Fox over the years has been a feature called ‘Turning Japanese – Songs About Japan’ which was written in 2008 (and constantly updated since!) about international artists often feeling the need to put pen to paper and write some lyrics about their Japanese experiences. Many of these have often just been album tracks or b-sides but some have been released as singles but it seems that very few of them made their promotional videos in Japan. However, other artists have filled that void by shooting their videos in the land of the rising sun despite their songs not having anything too Japanese in their names or lyrics.
Here, in no particular order, is the Tokyo Fox top 10 (well 12 to be exact!) music videos filmed in Japan and sadly there’s no space for Avril Lavigne’s recent (s)hit ‘Hello Kitty‘!!
1. Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness (1992): One can only assume that the line “under neon loneliness” refers to the famous neon lights of Tokyo city and so it was felt that the video should also be set in and around Tokyo. The decision to film in Japan was a last minute one so without permits to film in the streets the band and an entirely Japanese crew (with the aid of an interpreter) directed the video guerrilla-style, whereby they had to stay one step ahead of the local police force as they filmed in Shibuya and Yokohama. Click here for more details on the exact locations. Watch it here.
2. Beastie Boys – Intergalactic (1998): I remember this one for the bright Japanese construction worker koji (uniforms) which the band wore in Shinjuku and Shibuya stations. It is a parody of Japanese kaiju (monster) films and revolves around a giant robot causing destruction by fighting a giant octopus-headed creature in a Tokyo. It was made in late June 1998 and won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Hip-Hop video. Watch it here.
3. The Killers – Read My Mind (2007): Japanese TV character Gachapin; a green, bucktoothed dinosaur, featured in the video interacting with the band as they went around the streets of Shinjuku and Asakusabashi where, at the latter, they rode some unusual bicycles. Click here for more details on the exact locations. Watch it here.
4. Muse – Panic Station (2013): The original video irked many YouTube users as it featured the rising sun flag in the intro which was originally used as the war flag of the Imperial Japanese Army until the end of WW II and is considered offensive by some who associate it with Japanese militarism. However, after an apology from the band it was later replaced with the Japanese flag. Whilst in Tokyo in January 2013 during their ’2nd Law’ tour they filmed on the streets of Shibuya and at Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district. Click here for more details on the exact locations. Watch it here.
5. Madonna – Jump (2006): Shot in Tokyo during her Confessions Tour stopover this 4th single from the ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor‘ (2005) album see Madonna in a platinum blonde bob wig and a black leather garment singing the song in front of a number of neon signs. The video also featured dancers who performed the physical discipline parkour. It really is difficult to make out where the parkour scenes were shot but it seems like some of the video at least was filmed in Shinjuku. Watch it here.
6. The Police – So Lonely (1980): Originally released in 1978 this wasn’t a hit until it was re-released and Sting and co must have been some of the first international artists to film their video in Tokyo. Street scenes from Hong Kong also featured and they were all edited together. Mita station on the Toei Mita and Asakusa lines was used as the band were seen walking up and down the train as well as on the platform. Watch it here.
7. DJ Fresh – The Feeling (2012): The music video theme seems to be all about youth and fulfilment and the feeling of ecstasy whilst these young people ride around the streets of Shinjuku, Harajuku and Ueno on relatively futuristic mopeds. Click here for more details on the locations. Watch it here.
8. Kaiser Chiefs – Man On Mars (2011): The video consists mostly of the Kaisers trip to Japan including footage of fans singing karaoke and some brief clips of their performance at the Fuji Rock Festival in 2011. This is all inter-dispersed with footage following Atsushi Takata, a Japanese fan of the band, around Tokyo and then on his way to and from the festival via bus. Click here for mored details on the exact locations. Watch it here.
9. Black Eyed Peas – Just Can’t Get Enough (2011): Filmed just a week before the 2011 Tohoku earthquake on March 11th this video was shot guerrilla-style as seems to be the norm when it comes to filming in the capital city due to the strict restrictions and regulations. Maybe this is why we so often see Tokyo portrayed on screen from hotel room windows and in the back of cars like Fergie and will.i.am respectively. Taboo sings his verse while walking Shibuya. It also includes the city’s rail network and nightlife. Watch it here.
10. Elastica – Car Song (1995): Shinjuku features yet again as this popular mid-90’s English indie band made a video which is supposedly a futuristic thriller combining elements of ‘Blade Runner‘ and Japanese monster films. The song is about having sex in a car and sees the band driving around the neon-lit streets of Tokyo whilst also doing some crazy plastic gun play in the narrow alleys of Golden Gai. Some scenes were also shot in the concourse of Shinjuku-sanchome station. Watch it here.
Bonus: Shampoo – Delicious (1994): Popular in the mid-90’s for a couple of big hits, this British female duo were the band that actually brought the term ‘big in Japan’ to my ears for the first time. This was filmed on the streets of Shibuya, particularly Center-Gai street, and also in the back of a limo being driven around neon-lit Tokyo. Watch it here.
Japan Bonus Track: Clean Bandit Ft Jess Glynne – Rather Be (2014): Sod’s law that as soon as I posted this entry on the net someone told me of this rather good tune which became number one in the UK. The video features Japanese actress Haruka Abe appearing as a fan of the band going about her daily life as a chef whilst having hallucinations of band members appearing unexpectedly throughout. The video was made by the electronic group themselves in just under a week including guerrilla-style dancing in the train with the extras. Locations used include Tsukiji fish market, a yakitori bar and Shinjuku station. Watch it here.
Honorary Mentions: (courtesy of the comments section below! Thanks very much to all those who have informed me of these videos. Much appreciated)
Phil Collins – Take Me Home (1986). Watch it here
Europe – Let The Good Times Rock (1989). Watch it here
N-Trance Ft Rod Stewart – Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? (1997). Watch it here
Oasis – Acquiesce (2006). Watch it here
Katy Perry – Simple (2007). Watch it here
Kanye West – Stronger (2009). Watch it here
Lazee Ft Neverstore – Hold On (2009). Watch it here
Backstreet Boys – Bigger (2009). Watch it here
Tiesto and Sneaky Sound System – I Will Be Here (2009). Watch it here
Calvin Harris Ft Ne-Yo – Let’s Go (2012). Watch it here
Sub Focus Ft Kele – Turn It Around (2013). Watch it here
Will.i.am Ft Justin Bieber – #thatPOWER (2013). Watch it here
R5 – (I Can’t) Forget About You (2014). Watch it here
Carly Rae Jepsen – Run Away With Me (2015). Watch it here
Honne & Izzy Bizu – Someone That Loves You (2016). Watch it here
Clean Bandit Ft Demi Lovato – Solo (Japan Edition). Watch it here
If you know any more music video’s filmed in Japan then please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them. Thanks.