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Concerning the brilliance of Togawa Jun - click opera
February 2010
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Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 05:27 am
Concerning the brilliance of Togawa Jun

This is an extension to Sunday's entry about Hosono-tinged 80s Japanese pop; in a late comment, Mario Campos said I should have included Jun Togawa, the extraordinary, zany 80s diva who's like Catherine Ringer from Les Rita Mitsouko, Cindy Lauper, Nina Hagen, Hanayo and Bjork all rolled into one.

Mario's right, but it's best to give Togawa an entry all to herself. She's covered so many styles, and worked with so many different collaborators, and touched sublime peaks in each genre. Her voice can range from little-girlish to operatic in a single phrase.

Nicholas D. Kent's annotated discography gives you an idea of the full, dizzying variety of Togawa's work.

Born in 1961, she became an actress and singer in 1979, guesting with a band called Halmens. In 1989 she celebrated her first decade in showbiz with this track, Virgin Blues, an odd tribute to the Showa Era (which ended that year with the death of Hirohito) and to lost virgin innocence:

Togawa's collaborator here was Susumu Hirasawa, who made "a traditional kind of heroic folk music played on electronics", according to Kent. By the way, don't believe the Wikipedia entry which says that this single was her first and came out in the early 80s. It's not true. In the early 80s Togawa was in two different bands, the avant retro-styled Guernica (with Koji Ueno making the music and Keiichi Ohta the words) and Yapoos. Here are Yapoos in their earlier post-punk incarnation:

That's pretty good, but more exciting for me is the debut Guernica album, produced by Haruomi Hosono in 1982. Have a listen to Dawn, the last track on the album (the "video" is blank):

Isn't that just the most ambitiously, crazily great song ever?

Here's another Guernica track in a similar vein:

Their next two albums had, unfortunately, more of an "authentic" retro sound. Hosono's electronics (actually, they were Koji Ueno's) were replaced by orchestral backing, and Togawa channelled Misora Hibari or went operatic, kissing skulls. Rewriting History is a DVD of Guernica's live performances between 1982 and 1989.

Togawa's greatest straight pop song, for me, is 1985's Suki Suki Daisuki, arranged by Yoichiro Yoshikawa:

Just the best pop song ever, really! And yet Togawa never really was massive commercially -- she's better known in Japan for her Washlet Toto toilet commercials and her suicide attempts than her songs. Interviewed at the time of the whacky Washlet commercial, Togawa explained that her strict father hadn't approved of her going into showbiz after university, and demanded that, at the very least, she become famous. Advertising toilets was, she thought, the best way to do that! (Her dad's resistance to showbiz seems to have crumbled; he later ran a cabaret.)

As the 80s turned into the 90s, Yapoos lost focus somewhat. There were shrill James Bond tributes, weird reworkings of Pachelbel's canon in which Togawa transformed into an insect woman, touching tributes to Jean Seberg's Breathless haircut (in Japan it's called a "Cecil Cut"), Gainsbourg covers and faithful reworkings of Brigitte Fontaine. There were albums with songs about sex robots entitled things like "Charlotte Sexaroid's Blues" and "Go! Go! Lolita in Imminent Danger".

These days, Jun Togawa is to be found working with the likes of Jim O'Rourke and Otomo Yoshihide. You're as likely to find her on Zorn's Tzadik as pop labels and chat shows. So far, fortunately, her suicide bids have been unsuccessful (they've left some nasty scars on her neck) -- but her sister Kyoko, also an actress, did manage to kill herself. Which is awful: the world could do with more Togawas.


Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 05:05 am (UTC)

Ah thanks you for this. This warms my heart. Suki Suki Daisuki and Osuzaki Girl (sp) inspired me to do a D.iscover J.apan DJ night (referencing a really bad song, hehe)it went ok... I wouldn't be at all disappointed if half of the mash-up dance parties were replaced with a Jun vibe dance party..
Of this decade, Goodbye 20th century is fantastic album of covers!
I am curious about another of Otomo's many fantastic female collaborators Yuki Saga, but I haven't been able to find much information on her, if anyone has any I would be very appreciative



Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 07:30 am (UTC)
momus is pompous!



Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 08:31 am (UTC)


Crazy and Ambitious - yes
Great - perhaps

Once the mario style bad guy music started i lost faith in your statement that the video was blank. I was waiting for some devil creature to pop up and scare the last ounce of normality out of me. It didn't happen, but it made the listening experience rather tense, and certainly added to it. Official video you think?


Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 09:26 am (UTC)

Will Jun Togawa add vegetable instruments in any future production?

Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 09:55 am (UTC)

Speaking of Susumu Hirasawa, have you seen any of the anime's of Satoshi Kon which Susumu have contributed music to?

The Queen of Overdub Kisses
Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 11:20 am (UTC)

haha. The only thing I immediately picked out of "好き好き大好き!愛してると言わなきゃコロス!" Say you love me or I'll kill you.

I love it. And I came when she switched to her black mage dress sphere in that video.

Edited at 2008-03-26 11:40 am (UTC)

Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 12:38 pm (UTC)

Thanks for that, i had actually not seen much of her videos. Yes, you got me there, my short attention span climaxes in Youtube
Im actually a bigger fan of Yano Akiko, who I cannot stop listening to ever and i agree with sakamoto when he said shes one of the few people in japan in that era whose talent really, really stands out. Jun Togawa's novelty eventually wears off for me, tho i still sing suki suki daisuki or densha de go every time i go to a karaoke (those songs are the most widely available) with japanese people. Its usually a cathartic moment. After that, they know they are either with me or against me
i have a new blog in blogger. its easier to update. here it goes.
its kinda random.


Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)

So beautiful, but i wouldn´t compare it to the terrible Nina Hagen, rather to Mael Brothers, Suki Suki Daisuki ist very sparksesque, not?

Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)
awesome entry

some great stuff to look up.
any idea how to get hold of any of this music?


Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
Re: awesome entry

There is a 3 CD collection coming out on May 8th called "Jun Togawa- Togawa Legend Self Select Best & Rare 1980-2007" There are a lot of sites
online where you can order it. The album "Tamahimesama" was reissued on
March 14 as a limited edition CD, but apparently it's already sold out.

ReplyThread Parent

Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)

For what it's worth:

Virgin Blues is a cover of the title song of the 1974 film Virgin Blues, starring the also rather odd Akiyoshi Kumiko.

The "reworking of Pachelbel's canon", Mushi no onna, is not from the 90s, but from Togawa Jun's 1984 debut album. Her first big hit, if I remember correctly.

I have to dig out my old Guernica tie pin...

Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
I met him once in nyc

The little I've heard of Gainsbourg has always left me cold but I love that cover. And the Palchebel. Suki Suki Daisuki is Lauperish in such a good way. Sounds like her song from The Goonies (not a favorite, but Cindy was a bit underrated imo, overshadowed by Madonna, and making a mistake with the whole Lou Albano direction)

I don't know if it is due to early imprinting, but I have always responded to Chinese faces (Emmy - my countess from Hong Kong!) slightly more than Japanese ones. But insta-crush on Jun. My little cho cho san singing her tale of woe. Take it away cho cho.


the OED is the collective unconscious of English speakers, he'd say; all of our ideas and feelings are to be found there, in the endless recombinations of our words. He was himself rather shy of ideas in poems. "I avert my eyes from them," he joked, "as from the sight of a nude grandparent, not presentable, indeed taboo, until robed in images."


Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
requiem for a cunt

yeah if he meet you he would

ReplyThread Parent

ad reinhardt
Wed, Mar. 26th, 2008 09:38 pm (UTC)

what does the clip art mean

Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 12:24 am (UTC)

ummm... WTF?? I have a message in my inbox from imOmus. Your picture attached. Message reads - "nigger!"


Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 12:27 am (UTC)

Hey if you don't like James Merrill you could have just told me;)

ReplyThread Parent Expand

Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 01:19 am (UTC)

About David Kamp you wrote "I imagine being stuck next to him at some Long Island dinner party (not that I'd get invited to anything remotely like that) and struggling to find any common ground whatsoever."

How about..err...Togawa Jun.

Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 03:34 am (UTC)

She is so amazing everything is so amazing thank you for blogging about her!!