JUDY AND MARY – CHRISTMAS (1994)

lyrics by YUKI | music by YOSHIHITO ONDA

Merry Christmas Eve! This is the first of a few Japanese Christmas songs I’ll be translating to help celebrate the day, mostly ‘cause I’ve never heard much attention paid to them by Americans (Westerners in general?). Christmas in Japan is obviously a different thing than it is in the US, but I’m still a fan of it. It manages to feel nice wherever you are, even if I got strong-armed into spending last Christmas in Akihabara.

Translation and notes under the cut:

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THE BLUE HEARTS – WHEN THE BOMBS DROP [BAKUDAN GA OKKOCHIRU TOKI] (1987)

lyrics and music by MASATOSHI MASHIMA

A song of the Blue Hearts’ seminal self-titled first album, it has a welcome political bent to it. I don’t have much to say other than I’ve been humming it a lot this week.

Translation and notes under the cut:

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SPITZ – ROBINSON (1995)

lyrics and music by KUSANO MASAMUNE

Spitz are legends in the J-Rock scene, forming in the late 80s as a bunch of art students in Tokyo. They’ve enjoyed immense commercial success since then, mostly due to the fact that they’ve been making pretty good jangly pop without fail. This song, specifically, is one of their biggest hits, and the top comment on the YouTube video is someone remembering how they got the CD stuck in their car door at three years old.

Translation and notes under the cut:

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FLIPPER’S GUITAR – SLIDE (1990)

lyrics and music by THE DOUBLE KNOCKOUT CORPORATION

Haven’t had much time to translate recently because of finals, but I was able to find some time to throw this one together after putting it off for a while – I wanna try and get in a holiday-y mood and translate some Japanese Christmas songs, so I figured why not start with one of my favorite Japanese bands in general, Flipper’s Guitar? I mean, it sounds the part, what with those jingling bells.

Translation and notes under the cut:

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WINK – LONELY TROPICAL FISH (1989) [SAMISHII NETTAIGYO]

lyrics by NEKO OIKAWA | music by OZEKI MASAYA

Not Wink’s first #1 Oricon single, but one of their more enduring songs, if only by virtue of the fact that it was their first original #1. Their other #1 singles before this were both covers of foreign songs – Kylie Minogue’s “Turn It Into Love” and Moulin Rouge’s “Boys Don’t Cry.” It helped to launch the duo to superstardom, where they comfortably occupied for a few years before being mercilessly executed by eurobeat. It also holds the distinction of probably being the only #1 hit to make a metaphor out of tropical fish.

Translation and notes under the cut:

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LES RALLIZES DENUDES – THE MORNING LIGHT [ASA NO HIKARI] (1970)

lyrics by TAKASHI MIZUTANI | music by MAKOTO KUBOTA

Part of the material that would eventually come to comprise the Mizutani album, it’s easy to see why it was scrapped. It doesn’t capture the sound of Les Rallizes Denudes in the slightest, instead opting for an acoustic, stripped-down sound. I’m glad it’s still managed to find the light of day, though – all the recordings are special in their own ways, but this one stands out as particularly beautiful, if only because of how concise it is.

Translation and notes are under the cut:

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MIHARU KOSHI – RABBIT, RUN [HASHIRE USAGI] (1985)

lyrics by SHIGESATO ITOI | music by HARUOMI HOSONO

What begins on her earlier Tutu and Parallelisme albums continues here, as Koshi moves further and further away from her New Music past and continues her journey on the road of operatic synth-pop. Fun things to consider: the first Japanese translation of John Updike’s classic novel Rabbit, Run was published the year before this song was released, and employed the same title as the song, with no difference in spelling. Turns out that this is actually a cover of a song from 1981, so disregard that. Maybe it was titled after the novel? Still.

Translation and notes under the cut:

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FREDERIC – INVISIBLE MAN [TOUMEI NINGEN] (2015)

lyrics and music by KOJI MIHARA

I initially translated this when Frederic were still indie and not on a major label, I’d been following them since around the time of “Oddloop,” and I was really into what they were doing. To be completely frank, though, I haven’t been super into anything they’ve done since going major really – I feel like their music has become more generic anime OP songs. It feels like they don’t have quite as much to say about society anymore. They still do know how to make good party songs, though!

Translation and notes under the cut:

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THE JUICY FRUITS – LOVE IS A BENCH SEAT [KOI WA BENCH SEAT] (1980)

lyrics by HARUO CHIKADA | music by YUJI OKIYAMA

The first in a three-part saga detailing a woman’s frustration with the fact that the guy she’s seeing doesn’t have a bench seat in his car. If you need a reminder of what that is: you know how most modern cars have two separate seats in the front? A bench seat is like in old cars, when there’s just a large seat with no divider that sits two. More than a lot of other Juicy Fruits songs, “Love is a Bench Seat” has a sort of harder edge to it in terms of the guitar and rhythm section – this edge is counteracted by the spoken-word bits, but it’s still an interesting mix.

Translation and notes are under the cut:

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JUN TOGAWA AND YAPOOS – AN ARMY OF BUGS [KONCHUGUN] (1984)

lyrics by KENZO SAEKI | music by KOJI UENO

Originally taken from Halmens’ self-titled, Togawa and co., not yet Yapoos as a cohesive unit, covered this song live during the early 80s. It’s not quite as good as the original, but Togawa’s screeching, squealing vocals do the song a real justice, I think. Also it’s right up her alley what with the bug metaphors.

Worth noting she can’t hit the notes the lead singer does on the Halmens version, though.

Translation and notes are under the cut:

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