Asian News 4/12

Re-Releasing The Best

The biggest-selling Japanese single of all time was re-released in early March, and although it hasn’t sold quite as well as the original release, it is still causing a sensation.

"Oyoge Taiyaki-ku" (Swim, Taiyaki!) was a novelty tune originally released in December 1975.

The song was featured on a popular children’s television show and was continually in the Top 50 on the Japanese charts for the next six months, selling a record 4.5 million copies.

Though the melody is catchy, the song itself is rather dark and perverse. In fact, it was written as a kind of satire for salarymen, the ubiquitous gray-suited "corporate warriors" of Japan’s miraculous 1960-70s economic recovery.

Taiyaki are sweet-bean-filled cakes made in the shape of fish. In the song, a taiyaki escapes from a bakery after arguing with the baker and "returns" to the sea.

Happy that he is free, he eventually is harassed by sharks and in the end is caught by a fisherman and eaten alive. The moral of the story, especially for worker drones, is that you can’t escape your fate.

The song’s revival coincides with the Showa Boom, a nostalgia for Postwar popular culture, but the song mainly seems to be finding new fans among young people who were born after its initial popularity.

Calls for a re-release prompted the record company Pony Canyon to reissue the song with a DVD version. The company has said it wants to apply for a spot in the Guinness Book as either the biggest-selling song about food or the biggest-selling children’s song.


Ricky Takes It To Cambodia

Ricky Martin arrived in Cambodia March 26 to promote his worldwide fight against human trafficking. The Ricky Martin Foundation described the visit as a "fact-finding mission" with the Latin pop star doing the fact-finding firsthand.

Martin met with Cambodia’s Interior Minister Sar Kheng and dropped in on various projects being run by non-governmental organizations fighting child trafficking and sexual exploitation.

At a shelter in the northwestern city of Siem Reap, where the famous Angkor Wat temples are located, Martin listened to a 14-year-old rape victim who wrote a song describing the plight of trafficking victims.

He also held the 3-month-old daughter of a 22-year-old woman who had been sold by her father to a brothel and who is now HIV poisitive.

Martin called the young people at the shelter "my heroes … a gift of my life" and promised them he would step up his efforts to fight child trafficking.

Martin first learned of Cambodia’s trafficking problems in February at a UN conference in Vienna. While the country is considered by the U.S. State Dept. to be a "source, destination and transit country for men, women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation and labor," Martin praised Cambodians for what he called real efforts to combat the problem.

The Ricky Martin Foundation does most of its work in Latin America.


X Japan Reunites

Ten years after the suicide of their charismatic guitarist, Hide, X Japan played three reunion shows at the Tokyo Dome in early April.

The concerts, which sold out in a matter or minutes, were so successful that the remaining four members have decided to see if they can spread their music worldwide.

The band announced at an April 3 press conference that they would play Madison Square Garden September 13. The band is already slated to perform in Paris on July 5.

The group’s drummer and de facto leader Yoshiki said that a world tour has always been X Japan’s ultimate dream, but Hide’s death in 1998 put an end to that dream – until now.

Though Hide was obviously not present in body at the Tokyo Dome shows, he was "brought back to life" during the sets by means of an advanced hologram screen.

The band said they plan to bring this technology with them on the road, which they hinted would also include additional shows in Europe, Asia, and South America.

Yoshiki, who lives in Los Angeles, has solid connections to that city’s hard rock community. Guitarists Richard Fortus of Guns N’ Roses and Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit made guest appearances at the Tokyo Dome shows.


Candies Still Sweet

The first female "idol" group in Japan was the Candies, who ruled the charts as well as the hearts of teenage boys in the 1970s. The trio famously bowed out of show business on April 4, 1978, with a farewell concert at which they said they "just wanted to go back to being regular girls."

Some fans have never been able to let them go and a network of Candies fans has remained vital throughout the archipelago in the 30 years since the group’s retirement.

Some of those fans attended the funeral of a friend last year who requested that Candies songs be played and in memory of that friend they organized a "reunion concert" without the actual Candies.

The concert was held April 4, exactly 30 years to the minute (5:17 p.m.) after the farewell concert began.

The show itself was basically a concert film, a specially made compilation of recorded performances of the Candies from their heyday. More than 2,000 people, each of whom paid a whopping $100, packed the new JTB Hall in Tokyo, where they sang along with their idols’ hits and cheered and danced just as if they were really on stage.

The average age of the all-male crowd was estimated to be about 50. Proceeds from the concert will go to a cancer-related charity.

The organizers say they plan to make the concert a regular thing with the hope that one day the three original Candies will oblige them with a personal appearance, if not a song or two. While two of the original members are still involved in show business, mainly as TV talent, the third is a housewife who has not been heard from since the late 1970s.