Welcome to the third installment of the More Than series wherein we would be looking at the artists behind popular/viral songs and take a deeper look at their discography. On this edition, we will be focusing on Jun Togawa, the woman behind the sudden Tiktok hit “Suki Suki Daisuki”.
This episode would be comprised of three parts: her solo works and her time with both YAPOOS and Guernica.
Context: Real name Junko Togawa, the then 19 year old decided to become an active performer in the then “kayokyouku” dominated Japanese music scene as a guest singer for the new wave band HALMENS, appearing as backing vocals in songs “I’m Yayo” and “Motor Humming”. Take those song titles as you will.
In 1984, four years after debuting as backup vocals for HALMENS, she released her first album as a solo artist: Princess Tama. The album comprised of HALMENS covers as well as some new material. This album also cemented Togawa as a “dark theatrical artist” as the songs in Princess Tama contain dark subject matter, not to mention the bizarre, and often gruesome lyrics. Did I also mention that Haruomi Hosono of YMO had a hand in producing this album?
Her second album, The Super Dimension Traveler, was also released the same year this time under the name APOGEE & PERIGEE, two robot mascots for Mild Nikka Whiskey.
Interesting to note here as Togawa isn’t the first person to provide songs for the whiskey brand (Yumi Matsutoya did it first in 1983) but she, Hosono, and Happy End’s Takashi Matsumoto was the one who was able to come up with a frigging backstory about a certain professor named Parsec entrusting two frigging robots to restore a real human society only to be destroyed by a missile.
1985’s Far Eastern Comfort Songs would see a return to a less techno beat than the Apogee and Perigee album had and it would then shift more into enka. Just like Princess Tama, it’s a return to Togawa’s theatrical roots considering that she was a theater kid back in elementary school. The seeds of what would be Suki Suki Daisuki (I Like, I Like, I Love) the album would then be planted with the single…..Osozaki Girl. We’ll get there.
Osozaki Girl peaked at the Oricon singles charts at number 80 (Akina Nakamori’s Solitude was number one). While it didn’t chart as well as her rendition of HALMENS’ Radar Man in ’84 (number 52) and Poesy the same year (number 70), it is one of the most remembered Togawa singles and it would carry the upcoming album to greatness.
Three months after the release of Osozaki Girl, the song that would introduce me to Togawa would be released: a cover of Vera Lynn’s “It Hurts To Say Goodbye” gets released to Japanese record stores everywhere.
Released on February 10th, the aptly titled Sayonara wo Oshiete is what you will call the 1980s version of the song as it beats your head with industrial techno beats that you can only hear on Yellow Magic Orchestra’s 1981 album Technodelic. Combined with the theme of obsessive love and the matching lyrics would sure make this the best Togawa song in the whole lot (well, until we get to YAPOOS but that’s a story for another time).
With that said, Suki Suki Daisuki, the album, was released in November 10th in LP and casette form and in the then three-year old compact disc 25 days later. It consists of 10 tracks that would be included in every YAPOOS concert and/or performance gigs years later. After Suki Suki Daisuki, Togawa would then focus more on the YAPOOS project while releasing some mini-albums left and right during the late ’80s to early ’90s. The last single that was released on her solo artist career is Virgin Blues in 1990.
We’re not done with the whole Togawa story but we’ll have to cut it short here for now. Here are some songs from her career that we can take a look at. I already did Sayonara wo Oshiete so here’s some more:
Punk Mushi no Onna – Regular Mushi no Onna is a great song in itself about, well, an insect woman but the punk version really hits it out of the park with Jun screaming throughout the entire song.
Also this was Canon Rock before Jerry C. came out with his version in 2009.
Radar Man – Jun Togawa’s first single and a HALMENS cover at that. A song that tells about “a girl who can’t fit with the society she is in because she can’t be an automaton”. An interesting fusion of punk rock and industrial techno music, Radar Man a premier example of Japanese doomer music from the 1980s while also being a commentary at Japanese society at the time.
Toyama Shogakko Koka ~ Akagumi no Uta – One of the few songs that I can recommend from her Far Eastern Comfort Songs album. It’s different from any other Togawa song because, as implied by the title, it’s an anthem for Toyama Elementary.
Not sure why Jun wrote this song but it’s a great anthemic ditty especially when it hits the Red Team Song portion wherein everything goes from YMO’s Technodelic to Radetzky’s March in a matter of seconds.
Gessekai Ryokou – The second track from the Mild Nikka Whiskey mascot album. It’s basically told from Perigee’s point of view about what Professor Parsec intends to do to rebuild society.
Just like Suki Suki Daisuki, it’s more of a pop-laden tune but without the industrial techno instrumentals in it. It’s replaced with something akin to YMO’s earlier works.
If you like Suki Suki Daisuki, you’ll like this plus the whole The Super Dimension Traveler album.
Is it worth it to collect her solo works? – Yes if you’re into experimental music plus you’re not that sensitive to dark, gritty, and violent lyrics. I would say that for those who started with Suki Suki Daisuki, stuff like Far Eastern Comfort Songs and Year of the Showa (aka the mini-album with Virgin Blues in it) may not be your cup of tea. If you’re into stuff like Radar Man or Punk Mushi no Onna, her Tokyo Barbarism, Togawa Fiction, and her YAPOOS stuff is for you.
All in all, Jun Togawa, for a lack of a better word, is the sadomasochistic version of David Byrne of Talking Heads. She’s not afraid to go against the trends of the times (not releasing singles before Radar Man or since Virgin Blues or going with a more hardcore techno-rock-pop style compared to contemporaries like Akina or The Blue Hearts).
Next time, we’ll be looking at her take on 1920’s music, aka GUERNICA.