For many decades now, international artists have often felt the need to put pen to paper and write some lyrics about their Japanese experience, particularly visiting Tokyo. Most of the songs are far from being their greatest work but for Japanophiles they can offer an interesting insight into a culture which used to be a mystery to many people in the western world. Without further ado, here is the Tokyo Fox top ten……songs about Japan from the 1990s…
10. Tokyo Eye – Sonic Youth (1994) – It may have Tokyo in the title but Osaka and Kansai actually get referenced more in this song which features towards the rear end of the 1994 album ‘Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star’. The vocals don’t really do it for me but the ferocious guitar sound around the half-way point is a highlight.
9. All The Way From Tokyo – Elliott Murphy (1990) – At just 86 seconds this tune does feel like something of an unfinished one, or maybe it’s just a bit of filler for his album ‘12‘ (1990). The full lyrics are “All the way from Tokyo, Little Honda go go go, JVC what you done to me, Sony Sony”. The song is better than it sounds just from those words!
8. Saturday Night in Tokyo – Ian McDonald (1999) – The former King Crimson and Foreigner member has also released a couple of solo albums, and the first one ‘Drivers Eyes‘ (1999) featured this fairly upbeat track about looking for a girl in a rain-soaked neon Tokyo on a Saturday night.
7. Big In Japan – Tom Waits (1999) – Waits’ ironic lyrics are very simple and basic. He may not have everything but he’s big in Japan which is an expression commonly used in an ironic way to refer to artists that struggle in Europe and the USA but are successful in Japan.
6. Yuko And Hiro – Blur (1995) – The closing track on the bands fourth album was this one about a Japanese couple who meet at work, and get together but their hours are so long that they have very little time to themselves. It’s a reflection of the Japanese working culture. Another Japan-related track appeared at the end of a 1994 Japan-only b-sides album by way of some Japanese Blur fans singing ‘Bank Holiday‘ from the classic ‘Parklife‘ album.
5. Tokyo Girl – Ace Of Base (1998) – Famed for a string of big hits such as ‘All That She Wants‘, ‘Sign‘ and ‘Beautiful Life‘, the Swedish pop group also sang about someone fascinated with an ideal Japanese girl on ‘Flowers‘ (retitled as ‘Cruel Summer‘ for release in Japan and North America) which was their third album release.
4. Smokin’ Japanese Babe – The Future Sound Of London (1994) – Not just chosen for the title but because I actually was quite the fan of this band in the first half of the 90s. This was a song on the 1994 album ‘ISDN‘ which refers to relatively new technology of that time which allowed them to do live broadcasts to radio stations all over the world.
3. My Army of Lovers – Army Of Lovers (1990) – This song has a magical, dreamy feeling with its gentle composition. The combination of sensual vocals and euro-pop groove makes this a strong and innovative track by the Swedish dance trio. The most Japan-related lyrics refer to a a cherry moon night of fun and dancing in the rising sun.
2. Across The Sea – Weezer (1996) – One of Weezer’s best songs was written in the wake of receiving a fan letter from a girl in Japan. Singer and songwriter Rivers Cuomo was asked several questions about his everyday life and some of them actually appear in the song.
1. Japan – Vertical Horizons (1995) – A beautiful song from the American alternative rock band has the lyric “Lord why am I in Japan” which is still a question I ask myself after all these years!! The vocals on this tune are awesome and I can even forgive the most basic of Japanese words used at the end of the song. It was the ninth track on their second album ‘Running On Ice‘
That’s the ten songs I’ve chosen but are there any others which you think should be included? Let me know about them in the comments below or just tell me what your favourites (90’s only for now please!) are.
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10……Songs About Japan From The 1980s’
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10……Songs About Japan From The 1960s and 1970s’
Click here to read ‘TF Top 10……Music Videos Filmed In Japan’
Click here to read ‘Turning Japanese – Songs About Japan’