Old Japanese Song (Tokyo Bushi)

I came across this music video while watching enka videos on YouTube.

So, it's cute but what's really interesting is that the song, titled Tokyo Bushi, is the melody from Marching Through Georgia, a Confederacy song. [Correction, it's a Union song.] The song's been modified to make it sound more Japanese, but it's an American song.

The song published in 1919 is about Tokyo. The video is pretty literal, so it made the difficult-to-comprehend lyrics a lot clearer. (Well, difficult for me to comprehend, because my Japanese is pretty poor.) It describes and mocks Tokyo culture. It's a political song, and it was an old "enka" song. Enka originally started as political songs.

Enka changed, losing its politics, but retained the hybridized Western sound. It lost popularity for a few decades, but has recently made a comeback with "alternative" rock/pop artists, and has gained a global fanbase on the internet.

I think the intent of enka is to make it "Japanese", but even this song has a lot of English words in it, and the funny chorus is "parikoto panana furai furai furai." I guess that means a "Paris coat", then "banana", then "furai furai furai" which is probaly "fly fly fly".

A different version linked below also has a section that seems to criticize or mock westernization that was the vogue in Tokyo. It's missing from the cartoon version.

The cartoon's title is "Taishou Yakyuu Musume" or Taisho-era Baseball Daughter. I have no idea what it's about, but presumably, it takes place in the Taisho era, which is why she's running around 1920s Tokyo on electric streetcars. There's also some kind of timeline that's she's walking over (the Star Wars letters).

Live version. Recording with video of 1930s Japan. A simple version. Yet another version that has a totally rocking feel.

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Pigeons and KSCI dramas

The part where she gets swarmed by pigeons was particuarly funny.

Here's the Japanese song that's currently semi-stuck in my head: It's not a very interesting video if you don't understand Japanese (me), in which case the translation is nice:

Yep, real tear-jerker. It's probably more touching if you watched Jin, the manga-inspired tv series that recently aired on broadcast channel 18.2, KSCI in Los Angeles.

Speaking of KSCI and Japanese programmming, weekends on KSCI have been pretty interesting for me, recently. I only caught about half of the Jin episodes when it aired, and probably only about half of two other shows that are currently running. Saturday nights at 9pm, they have a show called Ryomaden, which, like several recent NHK Taiga dramas, takes place in the era between the arrival of Admiral Perry's Black Ships and the beginning of the New Meiji era, with the disposal of the Shogun and return of the emperor. Sunday nights at 9pm has "Summer for Bureaucrats." Both are subtitled, but "Summer for Bureaucrats" is particularly hard to follow as a subtitle rader, because you not only have the dialog, but the names and positions of various people and locational information also being flashed up as "subtitles." I can't read fast enough to get everything.

By the title, "Summer for Bureaucrats" probably sounds like it would only be interesting to someone with a Ph.D. in Political Science or Public Administration. (In reality, that may actually be true!). It centers on the role of bureaucrats in MITI, Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, in the post-war "miracle" of Japan's modernization.

What I find interesting about watching these shows is how certain themes, characters, and times in Japan's history often recur or are referenced by characters in other dramas. In the current set of shows, "Summer for Bureaucrats" and Ryomaden, are both exploring the same question from 100 years apart: How will Japan maintain its independence in the face of foreign military/industrial might?

Meanwhile, in the case of Jin, whose song I linked above, that show (classified as "science fiction," although it might be more fantasy) involved a doctor from present-day Japan getting transported back in time to the same time period as that covered by Ryomaden. Sakamoto Ryoma (the central figure in Ryomaden)is even one of the main characters in Jin.

Anyway, just some thoughts semi-related to the song video you posted!

Historical Drama

There are a lot of Japanese historical dramas, and I guess now that it's the 21st century, the 20th is ripe for conversion into television shows. I wish there were shows like that covering periods of American history.

I know we've had them, but generally, the history is so poor, or basically not a part of the story, that it's just a backdrop. Sometimes, you get something good, like Gangs of New York, but usually it's not like that.

Then again, I'm really not watching much TV, and watching the internet instead. Are there any good historical TV shows besides the above?


The fifth version of Tokyo Baisho linked above (the last one) was by a band with the weird name "Soul Flower Mononoke Summit". It sounded the best, so I listened to a few more of their songs, and they really rocked. These were all old, old songs, but were played with a lot of energy.

It's a really good band. I was really late to learning about them - they were already on the Jackass movie soundtrack, so some people already know them. They are a side project of Soul Flower Union, which was formed to revive and study and be influenced by folk music from Japan, Korea, and Okinawa. They are extremely political. In 1995 they were caught in the Kobe quake, and started to play acoustic sets as Soul Flower Mononoke Summit - playing in the community centers of quake recovery housing units.

SFMS played to an different audience than SFU, which was a rock act. SFMS focused on older music, ranging from 1950s hits back to popular songs from the late 1800s, and folk songs, and they played to a more elderly audience. Here's a documentary about them:

Turns out that, while they tried to get back to the roots music, they started really diverging into other interests. This song, Marching Song of Kamata has a klezmer clarinet in it, for example.

They've also got a pretty strong Irish influence, and some jazz as well. They sound a lot like a Japanese version of The Pogues.

Marching Through Georgia is a

Marching Through Georgia is a Union song mocking the rebels.

Thank you for the clarification

I'll research it more.

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