Midnight Diner Theme Song Omoide by Tsunekichi Suzuki Translated and Explained

Today I present a translation into English of the opening theme song from Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories (Shinya Shokudo) soundtrack, Omoide, by Tsunekichi Suzuki. I give a background on the songwriter, translate the lyrics, present the song in Japanese and English, and give a commentary on the translation.

But first thing’s first…

Who sings the theme song on Netflix Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories?

The opening song for Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories (深夜食堂 Shinya Shokudo) is the song Omoide 思ひで by Tsunekichi Suzuki. It was first released on his 2006 album ぜいご Zeigo.

Zeigo Tsunekichi Suzuki Album

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 10th grade level student in Japan



Text Type

Folk Song

Background To Midnight Diner Song Omoide and Tsunekichi Suzuki

In 2015, Japanese singer-songwriter Tsunekichi Suzuki wrote on his blog about how he left his home country at the age of 61 to go on an adventure to China. The trip was one of a handful of international music tours he made in his life, a life which would end just five years later in 2020. 

Tsunekichi’s blog describes how, after a soundcheck for one of his Chinese tour dates he went to have a cigarette on the street and a youth waiting outside asked him “is this where Tsunekichi Suzuki is playing tonight?”

Tsunekichi told him it was. The young person asked “is Tsunekichi Suzuki famous in Japan, like he is in China?”

Tsunekichi just mumbled ineffectually. He didn’t really know what to say.

Later, on his blog, Tsunekichi said “I should have just told the young man straight out, no Tsunekichi Suzuki is not famous in Japan…None of the people waiting outside the gig knew it was me they had come to see. I thought it had been suspicious when people told me I was popular in China”.

Tsunekichi Suzuki and Midnight Diner

But the truth is, he had become kind of big in China, and in Korea, and in several other countries to boot. He had achieved this level of international notoriety because of a TV show called Shinya Shokudo in Japan but you may know the show by it’s Netflix international release name “Midnight Diner”. 

Midnight Diner uses several of his songs in its soundtrack . If you don’t know the show, it’s set in a wood-paneled Tokyo bar, that caters to a midnight to morning clientele of colourful fringe dwellers. 

Midnight Diner Soundtrack

The show opens with a long sequence of the bright downtown lights of Tokyo, sans street noise. The footage is strikingly off-set to Tsunekichi’s gentle acoustic Irish Folk influenced song “Omoide” or Remembrance. 

This was the proverbial 2nd wind for the singer. A significant time had passed since Tsunekichi had first experienced a fairly short, but intense, few weeks in the national spotlight in 1989. His band, Cement Mixers, had appeared on the TV show “Ikasu Bando Tengoku”. They sounded like this:

Tsunekichi Suzuki & Cement Mixers on Ikaten (いかすバンド天国)

The TV show’s title Ikasu Bando Tengoku いかすバンド天国 translates as “Cool Band Heaven”, and it was kind of like bandstand meets battle of the bands meets eurovision, but read right to left, Japanese style. 

This show was a phenomenon in Japan and coincided with what came to be known as the バンドブーム “Band Boom”, where young groups playing guitars wrested prominence for a time from the studio manufactured “idols” that dominated the charts of the second biggest music market in the world. 

The Ikasu Bando Tengoku show even got it’s own shortened nickname いかてん“Ikaten”, which had particular out of left field resonance with the word “Ikaten” also meaning “Deep fried Tempura Squid”. Many of the bands grew out of the 歩行者天国Hokosha Tengoku “pedestrian paradice” scene of Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district where 100s of bands would perform on the street on the weekends. This scene had its own nickname too, the “Hoten”. The two “tens” Ikaten and Hoten became inexorably entwined. Now all the record indie execs had to do to scout their next big thing was to take a trip down to the swinging parklands of Tokyo and literally pick a band off the street.

The whole thing didn’t last though, because the good residents of Harajuku didn’t take so well to their neighbourhood becoming a default outdoor live band arena where the music and wacky fashion raged 24/7. The Ikaten program was taken off the air at the end of 1990 and the bands were largely turfed out of the streets of Harajuku. In 1991, the bubble of the Japanese economic post war miracle came to an end and ushered in what is now known as the 失われた10年 “Ushinawareta 10 nen”, or the lost decade.

You can watch a 2007 television program looking back at the Ikaten program here:

Post-Ikaten Tsunekichi 

It seems Tsunekichi’s hopes of superstardom were also lost somewhere along with those ten years, after his band released one album on a major label, to some critical acclaim, and promptly broke up. He formed another band つれれこ社中Tsurereko Shachu, which managed to release one album later that decade, in 1997. Tsunekichi wasn’t to reappear greatly in the public consciousness again until his 2006 solo album ぜいご Zeigo, which was lauded by one of the songwriters I’ve translated here in the past 高田渡 Wataru Takada. The album was ultimately picked up to form the raw materials of the soundtrack to the Midnight Diner tv show many have now watched on Netflix around the world.

Omoide’s 18th Century Irish Folk Origins

One of the strange circularities of this story is that the song Omoide, featured in the opening scenes, is itself based on an 18th century folk song from another island people half way across the world. It is essentially a re-working of the catchily, and perhaps pastorally racily, titled  Irish folk song “A pretty girl milking her cow”. Judy Garland made the song world famous by singing it in the 1940 movie “Little Nellie”.

A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow Lyrics

The English version is attributed to Thomas Moore (1779–1852)

It was on a fine summer’s morning

The birds sweetly tune on each bough

And as I walked out for my pleasure

I saw a maid milking a cow

Her voice was so enchanting, melodious

Left me quite unable to go

My heart, it was loaded with sorrow

For the pretty maid milking her cow

Then to her I made my advances

“Good morrow most beautiful maid

Your beauty my heart so entrances”

“Pray sir do not banter,” she said

“I’m not such a rare precious jewel

That I should enamour you so

I am but a poor little milk girl,”

Says the pretty maid milking her cow

The Indies afford no such jewel

So bright, so transparently clear

I do not add things to my funeral

Consent but to know me my dear

Oh, had I the Lamp of Aladdin

Or the wealth that gold mines can bestow

I’d rather be poor in a cottage

With the pretty girl milking her cow.

An interesting aside about this song for Australians is that this song was apparently sung by Jack Jones,  teenage son of Anne Jones the publican of the Glenrowan Inn (Victoria, Australia) while it was under siege by the famous Ned Kelly Gang bushrangers.

Tsunekichi’s reworking of the Irish tune

Tsunekichi gives the song about girls milking cows a much more ethereal feel, and an ephemeral theme. Here it becomes a Japanese musing on the impermanent nature of things, as the song’s protagonist muses on such questions as what becomes of a breath once it is exhaled, and if you pierce through the sky and the clouds, do you find another sky and clouds waiting there beyond?

I’ll let you ponder those questions as you listen to these Japanese and English versions of the song Omoide, or “Remembrance”.

Omoide Lyrics and Translation

kimiga ha i ta shiroi i kiga
ima yuku ri kazo notte
sorani ukabu kumo no nakani
sugo shi zuttsu kiete yuku

tōku takai sorono naka de
tewo no ba su shiroi kumo
kimiga ha i ta ikio sute
pok karito ukan deru

zutto mukashino kotono yō da ne
kawa mono u e o kumo ga naga re ru
teri kae su hizashi o sa ke te
noki shita ni memoru i nu
思い出もあの 空の中に
omo i de mo a no sora no nakani

sugo shi zuttsu kiete yuku
ko no sorano mukō-gawa ni wa
mō hitotsu no aoi sora
daremo i na i sorano nakate
pok karito ukanbu kumo
zutto mukashino kotono yō da ne
kawa mono u e o kumo ga naga re ru



kimiga ha i ta shiroi i kiga
ima yuku ri kazo notte
sorani u ka bu kumo no nakani
sugo shi zuttsu kiete yuku
sugo shi zuttsu kiete yuku

See your pale breath floating over there

As it slowly drifts off in the air

See it billow into the clouds in the sky

And vanish before your eyes

See the white clouds reaching out there hands

In the sky so far above the land

Breathing in the air you breathed out

Rolling on, Rolling On, Rolling On

And do you remember

The clouds streaming by ‘bove the river?

And didn’t they look just like this?

Or maybe my mind plays tricks

And do you remember the glaring sun

And the dog sleeping there ‘neath the eaves

And all of these memories

Fade into the sky as they leave

On the other side of the sky

There’s another sky there so blue

There’s not a single soul or a sound

But there’s a rolling, rolling cloud

And do you remember

The clouds streaming by ‘bove the river?

And didn’t they look just like this?

Or maybe my mind plays tricks

See your pale breath floating over there

As it slowly drifts off in the air

See it billow into the clouds in the sky

And vanish before your eyes

And vanish before your eyes

What is Midnight Diner Shinya Shokudo?

Shinya Shokudo is originally a Manga. It has appeared in the Big Comic Original in serialized form since 2006. It was later turned into serialised and movie screen adaptations.

Where Can I Read Shinya Shokudo in English?

Many editions of the comic have been translated here on the Internet Archive.

Where can you buy shinya Shokudo Comics?

Shinya Shokudo are available in the original Japanese from Amazon Japan here.

Where Can You Watch Midnight Diner Shinya Shokudo?

You can watch Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories on Netflix, or you can buy it out right on Bluray here:

Are there Midnight Diner Cook Books?

There’s not an official Midnight Diner Cook Book available at the moment, but there are several books that feature similar recipes:

Or if you can read Japanese you could try these:

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).


Translating Kiyoshiro Imawano’s Slow Ballad

Kiyoshiro Imawano, King of Japanese Rock

Many musicians have been appointed as rulers of a given musical domain. Sinatra was the chairman, Elvis was the King, Bowie was the Duke, Springteen the boss, and there have been many more fathers and godfathers than there have been mothers and godmothers similarly anointed to go around.

Well, other countries have their own musical monarchs too. Japan may be lorded over by an Emperor, but realm of rhythm is ruled by a King of Rock. His name is Kiyoshiro Imawano and he inhabits are persona somewhere between Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Van Morrison.


Today I’ve translated his song “Slow Ballad”, which was released as the 6th single for Kiyoshiro’s band RC Succession.

Japanese Language Difficulty

5/12 Could be easily understood by 5th grade level student in Japan



Text Type

Songs In Translation

About RC Succession's "Slow Ballad"

The song is a meta-power ballad about a young man hearing a slow song on the radio while he’s sleeping in the car with his girlfriend. Slow Ballad has a soul feel that would not sound out of place sung by, say, Otis Redding, replete with horns provided by American group Tower Of Power, who happened to be touring in Japan around the time the song was recorded. But the song is made by Kiyoshiro’s passionately, impained, rasp of a vocal that is on the edge, often over the edge, of losing control. 

Nicholson Baker once wrote that to write a poem all you have to do is describe the most significant moment of your day. Slow Ballad is right on cue. Kiyoshiro’s moment is of two people on a frigid night, in a municipal car park, in a sedan, wrapped in a blanket sleeping while the tunes play. The strength of the song is in the fact that it never tries to break out of the instant. And yet, you still get the sense that the moment is part of some larger inexorable, and most probably darker, pulse of time. 

Released six years after the band’s first single, Slow Ballad appeared at a time when few people were buying the band’s music or coming to shows. And it would not be until the release of their 9th single another four years later that the band would see large-scale success. Kiyoshiro himself would ultimately go on to eclipse the band and have cross-over mainstream success another two years later after collaborating with Ryuichi Sakomoto on the track Ikenai Rouge Magic.



But the song Slow Ballad has lodged itself in the popular consciousness of Japan, as a record of the humbler and leaner days of the man who would go on to become rock royalty. From the municipal ground car park, kiyoshiro would claim his own country’s mantle of the King of Rock, and take his own throne at the table of the international council of dionysian lords of song.



ほんとさ 確かに聞いたんだ

Last night I slept in a car
Hand in hand with a girl neath the stars
In the carpark at the municipal ground
With a warm warm blanket wrapped around us

And the radio played a balad so slow
As the night dew shimmered on the wind screen window
And I didn’t have a single bad feeling no no

And I tell you I heard her talk in her sleep
But what she said is a secret I’m gonna take with me
And the radio played a balad so slow
As the night dew shimmered on the wind screen window
And I didn’t have a single bad feeling no no
And the two of us dreamed a dream
So alike, that just one it may well have been


Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).


Record Collecting Japanese Vinyl

Japan is a collector’s dream. Whether its toys, comics, or video games, there are stores filled with everything you want. What’s more, CD’s never really went out of fashion in Japan so there’s still large music stores such as Shibuya’s Tower Records which has seven levels divided by genres and themes.

I spoke with two record collectors about their hobby and what makes Japanese records and CD’s stand out from the rest.

I first spoke with Dave from djshadowreconstructed.com , a collector from the UK whose passion is DJ Shadow. So how did Dave get hooked?

“I guess I’ve always been a bit of a collector. I started to buy a lot of CD’s and things in my teenage years, and then my actual DJ Shadow collection probably [wasn’t started] until 2006…What started it was, I was getting more and more into Shadow and I was looking to try and track down every track its physical form, whether it be on vinyl or CD. So that started me on the road to buying multiple versions of things like a different copy of Endtroducing for example for the In / Flux bonus track.”

The bonus track appeared on the Japanese edition of DJ Shadow’s debut album Endtroducing from 1996, and at the time it was one of the few places to hear it on CD. This helped make the Japanese edition of the album highly sought after by collectors.

I next spoke to Brian from Australia who also goes by the name AstroBboy. With a nickname like that it will come as no surprise that Brian collects Hip Hop and Astro Boy merchandise. Or at least he did, because as he told me he no longer collects. So what happened?

“When it comes to records, I guess it started when I was 15 or 16. I was really into the Beastie Boys and a second hand CD/record store near my school had a copy of She’s On It. That single wasn’t released on Licensed To Ill so I needed that song to complete my collection at the time. So when I purchased this single it was just for that one song, and I was pretty happy…but then after collecting 500 Beastie Boys records it got a bit out of control. [Later] I was moving a lot and as you can imagine records weigh a lot. It was also getting to a point where it was more about collecting than the music, so I sold off the collection.”

What Is Special About Japanese Releases On Vinyl

While CDs and records are pressed all over the world, Japanese pressings are sought after by collectors for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there may be different artwork or bonus tracks, but an added curiosity is the obi strip. The obi is a piece of paper which is wrapped around one side of a CD or record packaging and they often contain information on them such as price, translated titles, and advertisements for other releases. The obi is uncommon outside of Japan leading to people sometimes throwing them away, which means collectors will often pay more for an item with an obi than without. Especially if they’re a completist.

Japanese Record With Obi Strip

Japanese Exclusive Songs and Albums

Part of the fun of collecting is finding interesting items, and Japan is full of them. While the unique artwork and obi strips can be cool, for me the main attraction is the bonus tracks, and Brian told me about one I had never heard.

In 2005 Beastie Boys released a compilation titled Solid Gold Hits which featured a remix of their song Right Right Now Now exclusive to Japan. The remix is titled RRNN: Straight Outta Shibuya and features a rap in Japanese by Takagi Kan. Kan is part of the Major Force group who released several Hip Hop records in Japan during the 1980’s and 1990’s. We previously wrote about his song Last Orgy, and how his TV show with Hiroshi Fujiwara inspired BAPE’s Nigo.

But Straight Outta Shibuya wasn’t the first time Takagi Kan collaborated with the Beastie Boys, as he actually contributed Japanese linear notes to some Japanese editions of Beastie Boys albums, including Licensed To Ill in 1986. Straight Outta Shibuya was later collected on a special digital deluxe edition of Beastie Boys To The 5 Boroughs album meaning more people have the opportunity to hear it now.

While “exclusive to Japan” may have once meant you were unlikely to find something outside of Japan at all, these days thanks to the internet and websites such as eBay or Discogs, you can get just about anything delivered to your door. So what exclusive items should I look out for? Dave gave some suggestions for a potential collector:

“There’s a few Mo’ Wax compilations which feature DJ Shadow, like Build & Destroy, Mo’ Groove, Ape Shall Never Kill Ape box set. Mostly the [interesting DJ Shadow] Japan stuff is promotional variations with unique artwork or track listings.”

I also asked Brian about Beastie Boys items and he told me about some “cute” 3” mini CDs. While CDs are generally 5”, in the 1980’s and 1990’s some bands released songs on 3” CDs, including the Beastie Boys’ Japan exclusive Get It Together single. Then in 2005 the band played with size again when they released a copy of their Licensed To Ill album on CD, but in a 12” packaging, replicating a vinyl release. Again, this was exclusive to Japan.

Keeping Track Of Your Collection

It’s hard to imagine ever keeping track of so many unique releases, and both Dave and Brian have found different ways to solve this by using the internet. 

Brian helps run Beastiemania, a fan website dedicated to everything Beastie Boys. But the collection on Beastiemania doesn’t all belong to Brian, and it’s instead been put together by a huge list of fans from all over the world, making it the most complete and detailed Beastie Boys discography online.

Meanwhile, Dave runs an Instagram page @thedjshadowcollection, which he uses to share his collection with the world. Through his page Dave shares regular posts with updates of new or interesting items, some of which are extremely rare. This has led to him meeting other collectors from around the world, and Dave is currently collaborating with some other fans on a new DJ Shadow fan site, DJ Shadow Reconstructed.

With so many people collecting now you would almost expect there to be nothing of interest left in stores. But when I was recently in Japan, I was struck by how well stocked their record stores are. It seemed I could find anything if I was willing to spend enough time digging through crates. 

Why Do People Like Japanese Vinyl

While I was impressed by all of the stock in Japanese record stores, I was even more impressed by how the CDs and records were all in such amazing condition, and often looked brand new. As a final question, I asked Dave and Brian about why they thought this was, but neither were too certain. While this aspect of collecting must remain a mystery, they both did agree that even if you’re buying something online from Japan it will always arrive with utmost care.

It seems that the reason people like Japanese records comes down to the following:

-Exclusive artwork

-Bonus tracks

-Obi Strip and Inserts (Lyrics Sheets, Linear Notes, Poster)

-Second hand items that look brand new

-Items which are posted to you undamaged

So, while you may not be able to visit Japan right now, it is perhaps the perfect time to start saving for your next trip so you can experience firsthand Japan’s exclusive records and CDs, and fill up the gaps in your collections. Even if you collect something other than Beastie Boys or DJ Shadow, Japan will surely have what you need tucked into a crate somewhere for a few hundred yen.

Where To Buy Japanese Vinyl Records

While there’s record stores all over Japan, here’s some of our favourites.

Tower Records Tokyo

The Shibuya store is a massive 7 floors, and the Shinjuku store has a great vinyl only floor filled with almost anything you could want. These stores are great if you want to find some new CD’s or records, but beware of the price!

Their website gives you an idea of their stock, and provides services to ship worldwide. http://tower.jp

Disc Union Tokyo & Osaka

These stores are spread all over Tokyo. Their main Shinjuku store is 8 floors, while they also have smaller stores dedicted to Jazz, Metal, and Soul. Disc Union are the best place to find second hand records and CDs, and some even sell cassette tapes. There website has a handy map of all their stores, and there’s even an English version. https://diskunion.net/st/shop/

Marking Records Matsumoto

A beautiful store, Marking sell new records, CDs, cassette tapes, and zines. Their focus is on Alternative music so take a look at their website to get an idea of what to expect. https://shop.markingrecords.com/ 


Time Bomb Osaka

Recommended by AstroBBoy, a great collection of second hand records across various genres. They also ship overseas if you buy online. https://timebomb.co.jp/en

Jet Set Kyoto

This store sells every genre of music, as well as books, magazines, and DVDs. They have a selection of new and used records to browse, and you can also buy online with international shipping.


Yahoo Auctions

This is the #1 place to buy random stuff from Japan if you’re overseas. It’s similar to eBay so there’s magazines, merchandise, and book alongside CDs and records, and a lot of Japan Exclusive items are available here. It can be complicated to use if you’re not in Japan, but you can use a service like Buyee to buy things on your behalf. https://auctions.yahoo.co.jp


Similar to Yahoo Auctions, Mercari is filled with exclusive Japan Only items like records and magazines. Just like Yahoo Auctions, they use Buyee to allow international purchases. 



James Gaunt is an Australian writer who published his book Making Psyence Fiction in 2020. James previously lived in Tokyo, Japan but has recently returned to Melbourne, Australia. He maintains a keen interest in Japanese music, and publishes regularly on Medium http://medium.com/@jimmyjrg

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Transgender Women Accepted Into Japanese Women’s Universities

We’ve translated some Japanese media and social media about recent moves for the Women’s Universities in Japan to welcome transgender women as students.

There are a group of Women’s Universities in Japan that have recently come out to say that they will soon start accepting transgender women. This is, of course, a major change in the country and has been covered in several major news outlets and provoked a lot of discussion, of a more or less civil nature, across social media.

Today we’ve translated some excerpts from Asahi News, The Huffington Post Japan, and a selection of tweets from twitter to get an overview of the coverage.

We present the selections in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in Japanese and English for those that are interested to get down in the weeds of the language a bit more

Japanese Reading Difficulty

11/12 Could be read by 10th grade level student in Japan


Gender, Transgender, Education in Japan

Text Type

Newspapers & Social Media Posts

トランス女性OK、深化する女子大 課題はハラスメント














Trans women allowed, Women’s Universities Deepen, Harassment Challenge Remains


From this Spring, two public universities, Ochanomizu Women’s University (Tokyo) and Nara Women’s University, have begun accepting transgender students whose sex at time of birth was male but who identify their gender as female.

It is not clear whether any transgender students have yet been admitted.

From next Spring, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University will also begin admitting transgender students.

As women’s universities that accept transgender women increase, so do the voices calling for safeguards for students.

“It’s the Women’s Universities that provide all women wishing to learn a safe place. That does not apply only to women who are listed as such on the official Family Register. This is an extension of the mission of Women’s Universities.”

So spoke Ochanomizu University Vice Head of School Toru Miura in April.

The university announced that they would accept transgender students in July 2018. Since drafting guidelines in April 2019, preparations have been proceeding.

Prior to the changes, voices expressed their unease at how they should interact with the students 

Questions have been raised about how “people that identify as female” should be validated under the new system.

At Ochanomizu, prospective students are asked to submit an application document prior to sitting the entrance exam and, where necessary, are asked to have an interview to confirm status of their gender identity in relation to exams and student life.

There is no necessity for a medical certificate from a doctor to be produced. “Gender identity changes. We now presume that it is versatile.”

室伏学長(お茶の水女子大学) は会見の冒頭で次のように述べた。










As a national university corporate body, this decision was based on our mission of providing a place to all women who have a sincere desire and dream to learn.

We see this decision as part of a movement to create a women’s university and society that embraces diversity

We dream of a society where “diverse women” can participate in a variety of fields and where each person can achieve their own expression of their own unique human abilities, unrestrained by rigid concepts of gender. 

Though we have come a long way in comparison to societies of the distant past, there are still many barriers to women’s fruitful participation in the workforce.

We believe that we must change the status quo by fostering women’s sense of self worth and resolve to contribute to society, so that they can take their place in society to lead happy lives free from discrimination and prejudice.

We believe that it is the freely functioning women’s university that is able to free women from the conceptions of women’s traditional roles and from unconscious bias.

Our university aims to develop all women, regardless of age or nationality, by guaranteeing each and every individual’s dignity and rights, and pushing forward their learning to create people with the ability to freely express their innate abilities.

In this respect, we consider that it naturally flows that women who identify as female, who hold sincere desires to study at a women’s university, should be welcomed and that this should happen as a matter of course within a society that embraces diversity.

Some Twitter Comments



















I find the Trans-haters, who, without being in any way the ones that are personally affected by the admitting of transexual women (which is to say, students), and say things like “It’s the end of Women’s Universities”, just give me the creeps. I find the idea of studying with them a lot more scary than studying with transexual women.



I find that the ones who say that allowing transexual women into women’s universities is a breach of women’s rights are generally those of the intellectual class with no connection with the university whatsoever.



I think that the use of the word “cost” when talking about matters that affect people’s very being is just not on.

When it was reported last year about Ochanomizu University,  I wrote that it is necessary to extend the provision of toilet amenities and I took criticism over the cost that this would entail.

That is not a “cost”. It is a necessity.


To the people who say that it won’t do to have trans women at Ochanomizu because there are men that will make themselves out to be transgender to get access.

If you heard that there was a country where they said “There are people making themselves out to be Japanese citizens that are coming to our country and committing crimes, so we will ban entry to all Japanese Citizens”, would you just say, “yes, that’s fair enough” and accept it.

I would not.

It’s a similar thing.

Language Learning Program Reviews

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Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).


Imjin River by the Folk Crusaders In Japanese and English

Japanese Reading Difficulty

4/12 Could be read and understood by 4th grade level student in Japan


Partitioning of Korea

Text Type

Songs In Translation


イムジン河水清く とうとうと流る
水鳥自由にむらがり 飛び交うよ
我が祖国南の地 想いははるか
イムジン河水清く とうとうと流る

北の大地から 南の空へ
飛び行く鳥よ 自由の使者よ
誰が祖国を二つに 分けてしまったの
誰が祖国を 分けてしまったの


イムジン河空遠く 虹よかかっておくれ
河よ 想いを伝えておくれ
ふるさとをいつまでも 忘れはしない
イムジン河水清く とうとうと流る

The imjin river flows so clear

It flows so strong, it flows so deep oh yes my dear

And the water fowl form flocks and fly

To and fro to and fro

My heart lies in the south

My hope lays at rivers mouth

And the imjin river flows so clear

It flows so strong it flows so deep oh yes my dear


From the northern continental planes

The birds they fly in flocks they fly in waves

And Like messengers from freedoms shore

make their way make their way

Who was it that cut our land in two

Gave half to me and half to you

And do they even know just what they’ve done

And do they watch the same great imjin river run


Down the imjin river way off far

Theres a rainbow forming in the air

Oh Imjin river tell my love

Look above look above

And tell them that I still know the road

That leads back to my home

Cause the imjin river flows so clear


It flows so strong it flows so deep oh yes my dear

Today for we’re looking at a song called イムジン河 Imjin River.

Imjin River runs between North and South Korea, through the ironically named demilitarised zone, where two armies eyeball eachother off across one of the most heavily armed borders on earth. The song about the river was original called Rimjingang and was composed in Korea in 1957 by Ko Jonghan to a poem by Pak Se-yong song. Rimjingang is banned in North Korea, as it uses the Imjin River as a symbol of freedom, flowing with the river north to south. 

The song found its way to Japan in the 1960s, with the Korean diaspora, where it was heard by a young writer in Kyoto names Takeshi Matsuyama. With the help of his Korean friends, Matsuyama translated some of the original lyrics and added two verses of his own. Late 60s Japan was heavily influenced by the folk music movement that was happening in America. A large number of folk acts, mixing Japanese and western folk elements were born, including a group called the Folk Crusaders in Kyoto. The group has some similarities with folk groups such as Peter, Paul and Mary. 

Matsuyama taught his version of the Korean song to group member Kazuhiko Kato. Both thought it was a long-standing Korean “traditional” song, rather than a fairly recently composed song with definite authors. The group arranged it into something quite new and attempted to launch it as their follow up song to the break out, and extremely odd, novelty single 帰ってきたよっぱらい Kaete Kaete Kita Yopparai.

Nagsa Oshima later made a somewhat experimental film of the same name, which you can see here.

Unfortunately, Imjin River was deemed too political by the Japanese government and was effectively banned in that country too.

The song, however, remains popular both in its original Korean form, and its modified Japanese form. It is a powerful statement of the pain felt by the partitioned people of the Koreas. The Japanese version also functions as a symbolic gesture by Japanese youths of the 1960s trying to break down the barriers that were often, and continue to be, placed around Korean communities in that country. Here is the Japanese version of the Folk Crusaders singing Imujin-Gawa.


Check out some more Japanese songs in translation here.

This song was translated as part of the Songs in Translation segment on RRR radio program Vital Bits.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).


Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

Japanese Reading Difficulty

11/12 Could be read by 11th grade level student in Japan


Hana Kimura, Terrace House, Reality TV, Wrestling, Suicide, Online Abuse

Text Type

Translation of Weekly Magazine Shukan Bunshun

Today we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Original Article from Shukan Bunshun



English Translation

As outlined in the Weekly Bunshun magazine, Kyoko (43), the mother of Hana Kimura who took her own life at the age of 22, lodged a request with the Broadcast Ethics and Program Improvement authority on the 15th of July to examine whether human rights infringements had occurred in Fuji Television’s Terrace House broadcasts.

The cause of the suicide is the “Costume incident” that aired on the 31st of March on the 38th episode of the Netflix program. In the episode, Hana is seen to strike the hat off one of her housemates, leading Hana Kimura’s social media accounts to be flooded with abusive comments. Paying no heed to the desperate mental state that led to Kimura’s failed suicide attempt  on the day of the broadcast, Fuji Television released 3 videos on youtube on the 14th of May featuring unreleased footage continuing the “costume incident” theme and then put to air a larger program on the 23rd of May. Five days later, Kimura took her own life.

In coverage by the Shukan Bunshun magazine, Kyoko Kimura stated that production staff had instructed Hana to “go ahead and give him a slap”. This statement is backed up by numerous messages in the Line app on Hana’s phone. Further, the house mate Kai Kobayashi who had his hat struck off has made clear that he received an apology from Hana saying “I never wanted to hit your hat off. I was made to do it by production staff.” and that “fake” scenes had become the norm on the show.

Behind the unreasonable demands that Hana and other participants continuously bowed to was the Letter of Consent cum contract that they had entered into. In the 28 items of the contract were a parade of statements that included (the participant must) “obey performance instructions”, “must not give up during production”, “must not communicate with weekly photographic magazines”, and “must inform production staff of all social media account information”. In the event of contract violation and broadcast cancellations participants were required to make recompense of the production costs of broadcast episodes.

According to one lawyer well acquainted with matters of Power Harassment and defamation, Oshiro Satoru

While creating an appearance of housemates freely going about their lives unscripted, we can say there was a compelling structure of domination controlling participants by holding the possibility of a large scale compensation claim over them, amounting to a modern “contract of slavery”. The terms set out relating to performance from the production staff stole the participants right to self determination as set out in clause 13 of the Constitution. In being presented as a violent villain, Kimura’s true character was entwined with a false image in the eyes of the viewer, leading to a social media explosion. In this way, we can say that the broadcast was in violation of Kimura’s personal rights. The BPO should consider not just the ethical implications of whether or not there was false staging, but also whether there was a violation of human rights.


In a statement on the third of July, Fuji television’s president said “we have not used any compulsion”, “ We have made no instructions to make people change their emotional expression”, “we shot and broadcast in full consultation with Hana”. He further said that the company was conducting an internal investigation, and the results would, in consideration of the feelings of family members,  be released to the public.

Holding suspicions regarding the veracity of these explanations, Kyoko Kimura lodged a statement with the BPO Committee on Broadcast Human Rights on the 15th of July, and told the Shukan Bunshun,”What we have understood from the statements of Hana and her fellow performers is that Fuji Television did not treat Hana as a human being. The Fuji camp is trying to make it out as if the production team and Hana were on a level footing. This is the logic of bullying and power-based harassment. In order for this tragedy to never ever repeat, I want Fuji to properly face up to the death of Hana.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).


New Japanese Indie Music Platform Minna Kikeru

Japanese Reading Difficulty

10/12 Could be read by 10th grade level student in Japan


Japanese Indie Music
Japanese alternative Music

Text Type

Band Bios

Japan’s New Indie Label Music Platform “Minna Kikeru” みんなきける


It’s not all bad news in Covid 19, 2020. 

Take the new indie, alternative Japanese music platform that has come on line, called “Minna Kikeru”. It’s got around 100 releases there to stream and download by artists that, up until about a month ago, you would have been hard vinyl-pressed to find anywhere else. 


The platform was initiated by one of my all time favourite artists in Japan, Tenniscoats (which we’ve written about here), and the Majikick label they run. In the interests of full disclosure, this is also the label that puts out the music I make in Japan, so I have a connection.

It’s not a one man band though. There are releases from labels including kuchikuchi, Tomoaki Saito Records, Alien Transistor, haptic perception (via nagoya), Sweet Dream Press, Pong-Kong Records, kurumi kadoya (via nagoya), Mrs.triangle, Basic Function, Is College Collective.

The innocent directness of the name, Minna Kikeru meaning “Everyone can listen”, breezily sums up the platform. It’s for people to get access to all this music they never would have found before, but sorely deserves to be.

I’ve been doing some translations for them so I’ll read you a couple of things I’ve done in Japanese and English.

Here’s the blurb they wrote about the site in Japanese and English.

Minna Kikeru Overview

Minna Kikeru は、majikick recordsと篠原敏蔵、モトの協力により、2020年にスタートします。




Minna Kikeru was started by majikick and Toshizo Shinohara in collaboration with Moto in 2020.

Planning for the site had been happening for some time and it seemed almost fatalistic that the Covid-19 crisis would come and speed up the need for its completion.

The aim of the site is to provide access to Japanese independent music, which has been relatively hard to find, and to help a range of artists and independent labels create a sustainable future.

It is our hope that people enjoy the site and find some positive inspiration from what they find!



After starting PukaPuka Brians, somewhere around 1996-97, Saya started singing with Ueno and together they created the band Tenniscoats. In a room of their University, they set up an 8 track real-to-real machine and a mixer where they would record, overdubbing to the point of making the tape stretch. 

They created a pop that combined equal parts freshness and careful consideration. Satoru Ono (E.Gtr), Hisatoshi (Drums) and a selection of friends joined in to realise the album.The album sat unreleased for some time, with Saya not feeling confident enough to go ahead, until So Hisatoshi gave them a gentle nudge with a “stop your worrying, you’ve just got to put this out”.

Yuko Ikema

SSW, 池間由布子のセルフリリースによる、2015年リリースの2ndアルバムです。majikickハウスの4トラックカセットMTRで録音されました。素朴て温かい由布子の人柄のように、その歌声も初めて会うのにどこか懐かしく、不思議さがあります。糸を紡ぐように導かれる「拝啓、朝」に始まる曲たちは瑞々しく、身近でいて美しい。植野隆司とさやが参加。

Singer song writer, Yuko Ikema released her 2nd album in 2015. This album was recorded with using a 4-track cassette MTR at majikick house. Just like Yuko’s personality, which is simple and warm, her singing voice is nostalgic and mysterious for the first time. The songs that begin with “Dear Morning”, guided by spinning threads, are fresh, familiar, and beautiful. Takashi Ueno and Saya joined in.

My Pal Foot Foot





Kei Takeshita (Gtr, Chorus) and Yuko Konno (Vocal, Grr) are the main members.

The band’s first recording took place amongst the fields in springtime at the Gloptin Studio, on Majikick equipment. Yuko’s straight ahead singing style and Kei’s unadorned songs & guitar have all the charm you would need, just as they are. This record features eternal vivacious, sunny pop.


Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).


Nigo & James Lavelle 1997 Japan Interview Translated

Japanese Reading Difficulty

7/12 Could be read by 7th grade level student in Japan


Japanese Street Culture, Japanese Hip Hope

Text Type

Magazine Article

You may know the Japanese clothing designer and DJ Nigo from his work with his clothing brand BAPE or his associations with artists such as Kanye West or Pharrell Williams. You may also know James Lavelle from his work as a musician and label owner working with the likes of DJ shadow, Mike D and Thom Yorke.

We’ve written about the general history of Bape, Major Force label, Tiny Punks/Panx here. Today we’ve translated an interview that Nigo and James did in a Japanese magazine in 1997.

SCENE 1:ウェンディーズ前。
NIGOとジェームス・ラヴェル。 かたや東京でいちばん刺激的なウェア・ブランド、 ベイジング・エイプの。かたやロンドンでいちばん 完激的なレーベル、モ・ワックスの。2人は若きジ ニネラルである。そんな2人が同じテーブルについ て話し始める―いったい何を? 経営をめぐる社対談? そうではない。これから始まるのは、2 人のルーツをめぐる対話。この8月から本格的に日 本国内でのディストリビューションを開始したモ・ ワックスからユニークな企画盤がリリースされるの知っているだろうか。『APE V.S. MO’WAX』。 NGOとジェームス・ラヴェルが各自モ・ワックスの 音源からチョイスした計20曲が、“NIGO’S DISC” “JAMES’S DISC” という形にまとめられた2枚のコンピレーションCDだ。まったく違うジャンル のプロフェッショナル同士の、思わぬ形での共演。
こうした作業を可能にしたのは、やはり2人の間に 共通する何かがあるからに違いない。それはいった い何なのか?
エイプの立ち上げとモ・ワックスの立ち上げっ ていうのは、ほぼ同時期ですか? . NIGO「いや、多分ね、ジェームスのほうが1年以上 早い。僕は原宿にノーウェアを開いたのが93年の4 月。で、ベイジング・エイプっていうブランドを始 めたのが93年の9月」
ジェームス「いや、僕は92年のクリスマスにモ・ワ ックスを作った。今年の12月で丸5年」
NIGO「うん、知ってましたよ。初めて会ったのは4 年くらい前? なんかちょっと意見が食い違うんで すけど(笑)」
NIGO「覚えてない(笑)」 ジェームス「それはね、ほんとにパッと一瞬だけし か顔を合わせなかったせいだよ」
NIGO「僕が覚えてるのは東京で。いきなり彼が僕 の携帯を鳴らして、で、会おうと。すぐ近くのウェ ンディーズの前で待ち合わせして(笑)」
ジェームス「うん、そう(笑)。日本に行ったら絶対 にNIGOの服が買いたかったから」

ジェームスさんは、どうしてNIGOさんのこと を知ってたんですか?
ジェームス「ロンドンで服のディストリビューショ ンをやってる友達がエイプのTシャツを見せてくれ たんだよ。そしたらそこに“LAST ORGY”って書 いてある。『おい!! “LAST ORGY” って言ったらタイニーパンクスのレコードの名前じゃないか! 何だこれは!?』って。もう絶対に欲しいと思った。 とにかく僕はメジャーフォースのレコード全部持っ ていたから」
僕らは興味の対象が似ている。だから とにかくNIGOと何か作りたかったんだ。

SCENE 2: メジャーフォース!
キーワードはメジャーフォース。88年、東京で高 木完と藤原ヒロシのタイニーパンクス、中西俊夫、 工藤昌之、屋敷豪太の5人によって設立され、12イ ンチを中心としたリリース、さらに海外のヒップホ ッパーとの交流など独自の活動を展開したレーベル。 ちなみに「LAST ORGY」とはレーベル第1弾作品 としてリリースされたタイニーパンクスのシングル。 雑誌『宝島』で同じく「LAST ORGY」という連載 を持っていたタイニーパンクスであるが、前述のジ ェームスの発言は、このシングルのことを指してい ると、以上が概略。メジャーフォース”。その存 在が2人をつなげる直接のきっかけになったのだ。
ーNIGOさんはもちろんメジャーフォースのレコ ードは当たり前に買ってたんですよね。
NIGO「もちろん。高2、高3とかそのくらいかな。 隔週ペースで東京に来たりして買ってましたね」
でも、ロンドンにいるジェームスさんはどうや ってメジャーフォースのことを知ったんですか?
ジェームス「僕は学校をやめて15歳ぐらいからレコ ード・ショップで働いてたんだけど、当時ロンドン で人気のあったローニン・レーベルに友達がいたん だよ。で、ある時ローニンのスタッフがDJツアー で日本に行って、たくさんレコードを買って帰って きたんだ。それが友達経由で僕のところに回ってき た中に、何枚か入ってたんだよね、メジャーフォー スのレコードが。それがファースト・コンタクト。 もう、すぐに魅了されたよ!! どれも驚くほど素晴 らしかった。もともと僕はカラテとかカンフーをや ってたせいもあって……」
ジェームス「小さい頃からやってたんだけど(笑)、 とてもアジアの文化に興味があったからね。そうい ったこともあって、なんとかしてメジャーフォース のレコードを手に入れようとしたんだ」
ジェームス「僕は16歳から“オネスト・ジョンズ” っていうレコード・ショップで働いてたんだけど、 そこは当時ロンドンでいちばんいい店で、よく日本 人のバイヤーがレアなファンクとかソウルを買い付 けにきてたんだ。そういう連中をつかまえては“メ ジャーフォースのレコードとトレードしよう!”っ て言ってた。とにかく片っ端から言ってた」
それが意外な出会いへとつながっていくのだから 面白い。
ジェームス「ある日、店に入ってきた2人の日本人 にタイクーントッシュ(中西俊夫)の12インチ を探してるんだ”って言ったんだ。そしたら片方の 男がさ、“オレがタイクーン・トッシュだ”って言っ たんだよ(笑)。トッシュとクドー(工藤昌之)だっ たんだ。もう信じられなかったね! 慌ててレコー ドをくれって頼んだら“あいにく持ってないんだ” って言われちゃったんだけど。でもそれが縁で、 日本に行った時にファイル・レコードの人を紹介し てもらったりした。いつもレコードくれ!”って 言ってたから嫌がられてたみたいだけど(笑)」
現在はメジャーフォース・ウェストとしてロンド ンを拠点に活動する中西俊夫と工藤昌之とのいささかできすぎた出会いが、ジェームスと東京とを結び 付け、やがてはNIGOとの出会いにまでつながって いく。まさにルーツとしてのメジャーフォース”。 直接的な出会いのきっかけとしても、感覚的な部分 でも、2人にとってその存在は大きい。では2人が 選ぶメジャーフォースのベスト・トラックは?
NIGO「うーん、なんだろ。『LAST ORGY』かな」 ジェームス「RETURN OF THE ORIGINAL ART FORM』。すべてのレコードの中でベストの1 枚だよ。それに当時イギリスのアンダーグラウン ド・シーンでこの曲は爆発的にヒットしたんだ」
ジェームス「僕らは興味の対象が似ているし、 NIGOにはこのCDを作ることで“キミもモ・ワック スの一員だ”って言いたかった。NIGOが僕をエイプ の一員とみなしてくれるように」 NIGO「僕ら、けっこう似てるかなって気はしますね」
どちらも今では再発CDで容易に聴くことができ る。ぜひトライしてみてほしい。

どちらも今では再発CDで容易に聴くことができ る。ぜひトライしてみてほしい。
SCENE 3: アンド・ナウ。

そして現在。東京とロンドン、ウェアと音楽。立 っている場所は違えども同じルーツを持つNIGOと ジェームス・ラヴェルの初めての共同プロジェクト が、冒頭で触れた『APE V.S. MO’WAXだ。ここ から見える2人の関係性とは……。
――そもそもこのCDを作ろうっていう話は、どっ ちが言いだしたんですか? NIGO「ジェームスのほうからですね。基本的に、僕 はこれはやらなくてもいいことなんですよ(笑)」 ジェームス「僕はとにかくNIGOと何かがやりたか った。今までにないやつを。このCDはお互いが得 意分野をいかして、その要素をすべて盛り込んだ、 ある意味マッドなプロジェクトだね」
ジェームス「今回NIGOと1曲共作してるんだけど、 そういうことも含めて今までにないコンピレーショ ンになっていると思う」
NIGO「まぁ一応(笑)。ロンドンに行って2日間で 録って。本当はもうちょっといたかったんだけど」
NIGO「いや、なんかね、服を作るのと似てますよ。 昔、チャックDが“サンプリング・スポーツ”って 言葉使ってたじゃないですか。完ちゃんもよく言っ てたし。うん、そういうノリで。服も似てる」
小難しい“引用”ではなく、フィジカルなサン プリング・スポーツ”。ジャンルを越えてNIGOとジ ェームスが共鳴しあうクリエイティビティのスタイ ルを、これほど端的に言い当てる言葉もない。
ジェームス「僕らは興味の対象が似ているし、 NIGOにはこのCDを作ることで“キミもモ・ワック スの一員だ”って言いたかった。NIGOが僕をエイプ の一員とみなしてくれるように」 NIGO「僕ら、けっこう似てるかなって気はしますね」

Scene 1 At the front of Wendy’s
Nigo and James Lavelle.
One is the most cutting edge clothing brand in Tokyo, Bathing Ape. The other is the most impactful label in London, Mo wax. Each is a Young General. Two people of such stature sit at one table and start to talk. What on earth do they talk about? Do they talk matters of company management? No. What ensues is a discussion of their mutual roots. Let me start by asking, are you aware of the unique record, organised by Mo wax, that is scheduled for major distribution domestically in Japan from August, “Ape V.S. Mo’Wax”? It is a two disc compilation CD, in the form of “Nigo’s Disk” and “James’ Disk”, of their own selections from the Mo’Wax catalogue. It represents an unexpected collaboration between two professionals from completely different fields.
Surely, it can only be a collaboration made possible by some kind of shared common ground between the two. So what is it that they have in common?
Were Ape and Mo Mo’Wax launched around the same time?
Nigo: Well, I think so. James was about a year earlier. I had Nowhere in Shinjuku in April of 1993. Then I launched the Bathing Ape brand in September ‘93.
James: I made Mo’Wax Christmas 92. In December this year it will have been just on five years.
Have you known each other from around that time?
Nigo: Yes, we have. I think we met around four years ago? I think we might have a difference of opinion on that though (LOL).
James: We first met in London.
Nigo: I don’t remember.
James: That’s because we only really crossed paths for a moment.
Nigo: I remember Tokyo. Out of the blue, I get a call from him saying “let’s meet up”. We met up at a Wendys nearby.
James: True. I’d been thinking when I went to Japan I definitely wanted to buy some of Nigo’s clothes.
Nigo: Well, actually I gave you the clothes.
How did you hear about Nigo James?
James: A friend who does clothing distribution in London showed me an Ape T-Shirt. It had “Last Orgy” written on it and I was like “Hey, that’s a Tiny Punks record! What is this?”
I thought, “I have to have this”. After all, I owned all the Major Force records.
The keyword here is Major Force. Major Force is a label begun by five people; Kan Takagi and Hiroshi Fujiwara from Tiny Punks, Toshio Nakaishi, Masayuki Kudo, Gouta Yashiki. Focusing on 12 inch releases, the label was in contact with hip hoppers from overseas whilst carrying on their own original practice. We should add that “Last Orgy” was the name of the first release from the label by the group Tiny Punks. Tiny Punks also had a column of the same name in the Magazine Takarajima but James is referring to the single release in the above. Major Force. That is the force that binds the two together.

Of course you were buying Major Force records also Nigo?

Of course. It would have been around 2nd and 3rd year of high school I think. I was coming to Tokyo every couple of weeks to buy them.

But how did you hear about Major Force in London James?

James: I quit High School around 15 and started working in a record shop. I had a friend who was part of Ronin Label, which was popular at the time. Then one of the Ronin people went to Japan on a DJ tour and came back with a whole lot of records they had bought. They came around to me via a friend. That was my first contact. It had an instant impact. All of them were shockingly good. I also had a background in Karate and Kung Fu.
James: I had been doing that since I was a kid, because I was really interested in Asian culture. So I really wanted to get my hands on the Major Force records.

James: From the age of 16 I worked in a record shop called Honest Jon’s, which was the best shop in London at the time. Japanese people often came to buy rare funk and soul records. I would pounce on those people and say “do me a trade for some Major Force records”.

That was fun because it would lead to getting to know some unexpected people.

James: One day, a couple of Japanese people came to the shop saying they were looking for a 12 inch of Tycoon Tosh. Then one of them says, “I’m Tycoon Tosh”. That was Tosh and Kudo. I couldn’t believe it. I hurriedly asked if he had any records and he said “Unfortunately, i don’t have any with me”. But through that connection, When I went to japan I was able to get an introduction to File Records. Because I was always asking them for records, I think I got on their nerves though.

Having almost too easily hooked up with Nakanishi Toshio and Kudo who were now based in London, James connected with Tokyo, eventually leading to his meeting Nigo. He had found himself at the very origins of Major Force. Major Force presented the direct opportunity for the two to meet, and an important middle ground of a shared sensibility. So what Major Force track does each choose as their favourite?

Nigo: Hmmm, I wonder. Maybe Last Orgy.
James: Return of the Original Art Form. That is my favorite record of them all. That track was already a smash hit in the London Underground Scene at the time.
Both are easy to find on CD reissue now. We urge you to give them a try.

Scene 3: And Now
And Now. Tokyo and London, clothing and music. Standing in different locations, but having shared roots, Nigo and James Lavelle embark on their first project together – the “Ape V.S. Mo’Wax. What can we see about the two people’s relationship from here?” that we touched on at the start of this article

So who was the one to say “let’s make a CD” in the first place?
Nigo: That was James. Fundamentally, for me this is something we don’t need to do (LOL).
James: I just wanted to do something with Nigo. Something that hadn’t been done before. This CD is a combination of our strengths, a blend of all of those elements. In a way, it’s quite a mad project.

“Mad” (LOL)
James: I’m working on a track with Nigo at the moment, so including things like that, this is a compilation like that nothing that has gone before.
Nigo, you’re playing the drums right?
Nigo: Well, I guess so. I went to London and we recorded in two days. Really, I wanted to go for longer.
I’m guessing making is interesting in that it is different from making clothes?
Nigo: Actually I would say that it’s quite similar to making clothes. In the past Chuck D has talked about “Sampling Sport” right? Kan often said the same thing. So, I guess it’s like that. Clothes are similar.
Not a difficult quotation, but a physical “Sampling sport”. Transcending genre, there is no better phrase to unequivocally use about Nigo and James’ symbiotic creative style.
James: Our interests are similar and with this CD I wanted to say to Nigo “you’re one of the Mo’ Wax family too. And I want Nigo to see me as one of the Ape family too.
Nigo: I feel like we are really pretty similar.
From shared roots, the pair’s relationship continues.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).


In 1995 there were still new Last Orgy 2 t-shirts produced, as well as a new Last Orgy song.


Record on Amazon

In the 1990’s James Lavelle had started the Mo’ Wax record label in England and collaborated with the Japanese label Major Force, eventually re-releasing most of their catalogue to a wider audience. Through his friendship with Major Force, Lavelle soon met Nigo and the pair became friends, with Lavelle soon inviting Nigo to record in the Mo’ Wax studios in London. This collaboration would eventuate in Nigo’s debut album Ape Sounds, a mix of hip hop and rock similar to Lavelle’s own UNKLE project. Nigo also collaborated with Lavelle on the Planet of The Apes inspired song Ape Shall Never Kill Ape, which featured members of Major Force, UNKLE, Nigo, and UK turntablists The Scratch Perverts all on one song.

During this period Lavelle also released a song called Last Orgy 3, which featured Takagi Kan rapping much like on the original Tiny Panx song which had released almost ten years previously in 1988. Last Orgy 3 first appeared in 1997 on a mix CD by Nigo and James Lavelle titled A Bathing Ape Vs Mo’Wax, and was later released on CD and Vinyl with several remixes in 1998.

Last Orgy 4…and beyond.

The final Last Orgy so far, Last Orgy Four was a t-shirt collection released around 2000, and is the only Last Orgy to have been released without an associated magazine column, tv series, or song sharing its title. Around this time Nigo and Jonio were contributing a column titled 4lom to Smart magazine, which was similar to Last Orgy and had begun in 1996 and continued in to the 2000’s, while Nigo also contributed his General’s Seminar columns to Relax magazine for several years in the early 2000’s.

Image: Last Orgy shoe

Alongside the 2009 re-release of the Last Orgy jacket was a Last Orgy shoe which released in 2010. The shoes were a collaboration with Nigo’s BAPE company and featured their Bapesta shoe design. Since then there has been little news of further Last Orgy lines, but the brands close ties to BAPE may be one of the reasons for the draught, as in 2013 Nigo left BAPE and is now working with the Japanese brand Uniqlo. 

But what of the original Last Orgy creators, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Takagi Kan? Both of the original Tiny Panx have continued to work in their respective fields, with Fujiwara regarded as an important part of the Japanese fashion world, with his career recounted in two large English language books from publisher Rizzoli.

Meanwhile Kan continues to release music with Major Force, and in 2020 he has been putting on live performances via his Instagram page while the world has been locked down during the Corona Virus pandemic.

Further Reading:

Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style by Marx, W. David 
Hiroshi Fujiwara: Fragment by Sarah Lerfel and Ino Hidefum

Japan’s Most Famous Anti-War Folk Song? Wataru Takada’s Jieitai Ni Hairo

Japanese Reading Difficulty

6/12 Could be read by 6th grade level student in Japan


War, Japanese folk music, Japanese anti-war songs

Text Type

Song Lyrics

First let me give you a short background to the song. 

In the late 1960s Western countries weren’t the only ones protesting. There was strong resistance to the Vietnam War in Japan also. A lot of American folk musicians travelled to Japan including Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte. Japan experienced its own golden age of American folk influenced music, with its own distinct flavour. Dylan’s music was huge, but he didn’t get to the country until 1978, when he played the famous budokan hall with a capacity of 10,000 people and sold it out for a record breaking (for foreign artists) eight nights.

One of the central native folk musicians was Wataru Takada. I first heard Wataru when I went to see him play live in Kyoto in 2004, shortly before his death in 2005. He left a big impression, not least by falling asleep half way through his set – which was not uncommon in his later years. Although he was only 56 when he passed away, he looked like a man who’s life had not left him much fuel in the tank.


Born in gifu, mother died at 8, father took him to Tokyo without a plan, they lived in a series of unstable situations, including charity housing. His father died by the time he was in middle school.

He was introduced to American folk music in the mid 60s  and was soon so devoted to the music that he had his English teacher write a letter to Pete Seeger saying he wanted to learn from him. A reply from Pete came a couple of months later giving him some word of general encouragement:


Dear Wataru Takada: 


Thank youfor your long letters ー I’m sorry that my answer must be so brief. 


1) You can learn most from me by my writings in Sing Out magazine, and other Oak Publicaitions ー song book, etc, and from my recordings. 

2) But you can learn more from you own neighbors and friends and from your own successes and failures in your activities. 

3) When you learn English, I would be glad to hear from you again.

4)  Meanwhile, learn to make such good music that people will ask to hear you again and again.


Best of luck


PS – I’m sorry that I cannot write in Japanese.

When Pete toured to Japan a year later, he gave the young Wataru Takada a front row ticket to his show.

In 1968 he took part in the Kansai Folk Camp in Kyoto, and he moved there the next year to be part of what had become the main folk movement in Japan. He became a central part of the scene along with figures such as Tomoya Takaishi and Nobuyasu Okabayashi. He later returned to Tokyo and again became a major force in the folk scene that would come to be known as Kichijyoji-ha Folk 吉祥寺派フォーク.


Origins of the song


The song 自衛隊に入ろう Jieitai Ni Hairo is based on a song written by Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger:


I want to go to Andorra, Andorra, Andorra,
I want to go to Andorra, it’s a place I adore,
They spent four dollars and ninety cents
On armaments and their defense,
Did you ever hear of such confidence?
Andorra, hip hurrah!


Here’s the song as sung by Pete Seeger.

Malvina Reynolds is probably most well known for this her song Little House. Check out this documentary about this amazing woman and songwriter here.

Wataru took the basic chord structure and melody and made a satirical song about joining the self defence force, using the force’s own sales slogans. It’s pretty clear that the song is sarcastic, but apparently he got called up not long after first performing the song by the Japanese self defence force to ask if they could use the song. Clearly, they hadn’t gotten the joke. Later the song was considered for official banning by the Japanese government. It was never officially banned, because they felt it would never be popular anyway, but the song has long been “unofficially” banned by official media for all intents and purposes.

Takada stopped performing the song not long into his career. He has said that performing songs about everyday experience is a more potent form of anti war protest. But the song continues to live on and has been adapted for modern protests such as the anti-nuclear protests in Japan where it the song became “Why don’t you join Tokyo Electricity”:





自衛隊じゃ 人材もとめてます


自衛隊に入ろう 入ろう 入ろう

自衛隊に入れば この世は天国


自衛隊に入って 花と散る



いつでも 自衛隊におこし下さい

槍でも鉄砲でも 何でもありますよ

とにかく 体が資本です


鉄砲や戦車や ひこうきに



手とり 足とり おしえます





悪い ソ連や中国をやっつけましょう


自衛隊じゃ 人材もとめてます

年令 学歴は問いません

祖国のためなら どこまでも


Hello my friends, are there any there amongst you
Who want to join the army, who want to learn to shoot
If there’s any there amongst you who want to make a name
Well the army is recruiting, come and join today

Why don’t you join the army
The army’s where it’s at
For all of you men’s men
The army is your best bet
Why don’t you join the army
And fall with the blossom

If there’s any there amongst you, who want to be a sportsman
Just say yes sir, and I’ll say now you’re really talking
We’ve got the spears, and yes we’ve got the guns
But really it’s your body, that makes the best weapon

If there any there amongst you
Who take an interest in
Guns and tanks and aeroplanes
Well well, well then
The armys always right here waiting
From the top down to the bottom, well teach you everything

To keep the peace, protect the people of Japan
We need the guns and rockets, we need the boys, we need the men
Mr America he needs a helping hand
To get the baddies there in Russia and beat the China Man

The armys on the lookout
For new personal
Age and education
Can both go straight to hell
The only qualifications that you’re going to need
Are a will to fight for fatherland and an appetite for beans

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).


Black Lives Matter In Japan – A Look At The Language

Japanese Reading Difficulty

10/12 Could be read by 10th grade level student in Japan


Black Lives Matter

Text Type

Social Media Posts

Black Lives Matter sparked some serious debate in Japanese media and social media. Here are some of the texts we found, both supportive of the movement and critical of the movement. 


Cocoa Lizzy posted a series of insightful video entries on her Instagram. She highlighted several examples of her own experiences of racism in Japan as a black Japanese person in this post

Here is a translation of an excerpt:



When I was doing a casual job in Japan I had someone say “I don’t want to buy stuff from a black person, you should get rid of her”. 


At a restaurant someone told me “I don’t think you could work here because you’re black and you may scare the customers”.


But really that’s the least of it


Over here there are people who are killed or arrested 


And Japanese people might just think that’s just some fight between black people and white people


But, from a distance, what do you think about the fact that black people are in this position of weakness?

という。考えてくれていますか。Are you thinking about these things?


There are a lot of people who think things have to change that are standing up.



So whether you are black, white, Japanese it doesn’t matter, it’s what you think about the situation.


But if people have a singer that they like and listen to


And that person had been treated as a black person from the moment they had been born


And if that person was putting out an SOS signal, would you act like you had seen nothing or would you acknowledge that they have the same humanity as you.


Wouldn’t  it be great if there were many many more people that stood up to the idea of changing the way you treat people according to the color of their skin?



Across twitter there were a lot of comments. We don’t want to give too much air to people espousing more or less racist views, but it is important to acknowledge the debate that is happening. Here is a selection of some of the posts we saw:




Japanese people have never been racist towards black people.




Has there ever been a black person murdered in Japan?

Has there ever been a black person that has beef refused entry to a shop? Really, we don’t racially vilify do we?


Melissa Luna:



So all the racism we have experienced is just a load of rubbish right?

It is clear just how self centered and non-seeing the people writing these comments are. This is the privilege of the majority.




Japanese people are doing everything they can to go social distance and fight the coronavirus. But I guess Japanse lives aren’t worth anything right?


宇多田ヒカル Tweet



To people who are born and raised in Japan, racism may seem like they have no connection to. What is happening in America may be a historic moment in the future…it least that’s how I hope this may be.





明日は土砂降りになりますようにUmbrella with rain drops

This is Japan. Japanese lives matter!

I hope the rain buckets down on you tomorrow.




Don’t generalise the problem according to your own agenda. This is like how Germany called the need to accommodate refugees a “world problem”.




In these past few days my opinion of black people has really changed. I’m going to do my best to not associate with black people.



I was born and raised in Japan and I’ve never thought for a moment from elementary school onwards that Japan is a country without racism. Around me there were members of the Korean diaspora, and a Korean school. I believe these people have been the subject of ongoing racism. It is us Japanese that have created that environment. There is no place for racism.





川崎大助 | 作家 Yahoo



This problem isn’t “a fire on the far coast”. This may be something that is happening on a far away continent, but “I’m Japanese” isn’t an excuse to ignore the problem. If Japanese people are just one people within a larger human race, then there is no excuse to turn a blind eye.


Ruru Ruriko ピンク 55 Telling Asahi 55



For people who have never had occasion to think about racism, or have never been racially vilified, it is probably difficult to imagine what it must be like to be the subject of racism. But if we keep saying “I don’t understand” or “this is not something I know about” the situation will never change. 

When in doubt, start by lending your ears to those directly affected.


Cocoa Lizzy (Part 2)

We’ll end this look at the language around BLM in Japan with 2nd entry by Cocoa Lizzy

白人の特権とみんなの特権 #BLACLIVESMATTER Understanding own privilege


さて今日はホワイトwhite privilege (白人の優遇)と私達それぞれのprivilageについて話していきます!最近ドールテストの動画をストーリーに上げたりして、みんなも興味を持ってくれました。沢山の人はまだ肌の色だけで、”怖い” ”強そう” ”危なそう”などのステレオタイプ(思い込み、先入観)があると思います。でもそのステレオタイプを政府や世間、警察に持たれた黒人はアメリカでどのような扱いをされているか考えたことはありますか?黒人である私達は、肌の色のせいだけで、政府から悪いイメージをずっと持たれ、今も普通の生活をしたいだけでも他の人種の人と比べられて公平な支援やサポートをしてもらえません。

Today I would like to go ahead and talk about White privilege, and all of our own privilege. Recently I added a Doll Test video to my story, and people were kind enough to show some interest. I believe there are a lot of people who see black skin and, through stereotyping, think “they look scary” or “ they look strong” or “they look dangerous”. But have you ever thought about how black people in America are treated by a government, a society or a police force that hold this stereotype. For a black person such as myself this means I am looked down on by the government just for the color of my skin. Even now, all I want to do is lead a normal life, but I am compared to people from other ethnic backgrounds and am not offered the same backing or support.




Conversely, I am Asian, but I am black so people don’t call me “yellow” or say “Corona” to me. That is one of the ways that I am privileged. Each person, has their own ethnic background, family make up, way of living that, that can’t help but come to influence their social status. There are still many people, and governments, in the world that believe that this is only natural and are willing to attack others as a result. I may even be guilty of doing the same thing without even being aware of it.




If humans are supposed to all have the same human rights, then there shouldn’t be such a thing as drawing comparisons or losing opportunity according to gender,  place of birth, appearance or family background. All of us create this unequal world out of our own place of privilege. But I believe that through gazing into our own privilege, we are able to draw closer to those experiencing hardship and become a force for good.


Some Japanese words around racism:

有色人種 ゆうしょくじんしゅ People of Color

人種差別主義者 じんしゅさべつしゅぎしゃ Racist person

黄色人種 おうしょくじんしゅ asian “yellow” race

特権 とっけん privilege

優遇 ゆうぐう privilege

対岸の火事 たいがんのかじ Fire on the far coast


See also this videothat aired on NHK during this period that was widely criticised, and later withdrawn, because of it charicaturing of African Americans:


Which has been abley translated by Japanse For Morons here:

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).