Nippon Girls: Japanese Synth-pop, Bubble-gum, and Ballads Mix (1971-1985)

Disco, new wave, punk, power ballads. Japan continued to mimic the musical moods of the West into the ’70s and ’80s, albeit with a larger helping of sugar. Japanese chart pop came heavily candy-coated, melodies almost extreme in their sweetness, back by ultra-corny synth sounds and super-slick productions that require treble adjustment. It’s a genre that has yet to garner interest outside of Japan, and has little of the cool lavished upon J-pop from the ’60s. I can’t think of many Western records that sound as un-hip as say “Sentimental Journey,” and I sometimes find myself dashing for the volume control, worried about my neighbors over-hearing such peculiar selections. But if you’re a sucker for magic melodies and quality pop songwriting, no matter if delivered via a wall of sound or Casio keyboard, I think you’ll be surprised by just how damn catchy synth-driven J-pop can be.

Tsutsumi Kyohei, master songwriter and producer, is behind a good majority of the best pop written in Japan from the ’60s through the early ’90s. I’ve starred all the songs with Tsutsumi Kyohei’s involvement. And have also noted songwriter Eiichi Ohtaki, another songwriting prodigy who had an obsession with Phil Spector and is responsible for Hiroko Yakushimaru’s under-stated beauty, “Tantei Monogatari” (the final note of the chorus floors me every time). Anyone interested in the Spector sound will find a ton of fabulous reproductions from the late ’70s / early ’80s, when Spector’s influence was at its peak. The Japanese market was flooded with the ubiquitous “chk-chk–chk-boom” and lush orchestral arrangements, which you’ll hear on Celia Paul’s “Yume De Aetara” and Seiko Matsuda’s “Issen Ichi Byou Monogatari” (although with a much tinnier sound). My favorite of the bunch is the rhythmically odd, slightly un-conventional yet very pop Tsutsumi Kyohei-penned “Kohaku Telephone” by Kyoko Endou. It’s not immediate, but when it hits you’ll be convinced of Tsutsumi Kyohei’s extraordinary talent. 


1. Sheena & the Rokkets: You May Dream (1979)
2. Hiroko Yakushimaru: Tantei Monogatari (1983) / written by Eiichi Ohtaki
3. Yuya: Muna Sawagi* (1974)
4. Iyo Matsumoto: Sentimental Journey* (1981)


5. Celia Paul: Yume De Aetara (1977)
6. Akina Nakamori: Shojou A (1982)
7. Seiko Matsuda: Issen Ichi Byou Monogatari (1981) / written by Eiichi Ohtaki
8. Candies: Haru Ichiban (1976)


9. Rebecca: Friends (1985)
10. Momoe Yamaguchi: Hito Natsu No Keiken (1974)
11. Pink Lady: UFO (1977)
12. Kyoko Endou: Kohaku Telephone* (1981)


13. Ann Lewis: Roppongi Shinchuu (1984)
14. Rin Rin Ran Ran: Koi No Indian Ningyou* (1974)
15. Mari Iijima: Yume Iro No Spoon* (1983)
16. Miki Hirayama: Manatsu No Dekigoto* (1971)


17. Megumi Osaoka: Watashi No Kare Wa Hidari Kiki* (1973)
18. Hiroko Yakushimaru: Anata Wo Motto Shiritakute* (1985)
19. Hiromi Iwasaki: Romance* (1975)
20. Momoe Yamaguchi: Playback Part 2 (1978)


21. Ann Lewis: Shounan No Otoko Tachi (1978)
22. Seiko Matsuda: Aoi Sangoshou (1980)
23. Hiromi Iwasaki: Fantasy* (1976) 
24. Yuki Saitou: Sotsugyou* (1985)


14 Responses to Nippon Girls: Japanese Synth-pop, Bubble-gum, and Ballads Mix (1971-1985)

  1. Mozenator says:

    This is utterly fantastic! Is there a way to download your marvelous mix??

  2. Matt says:

    I’m having technical difficulties – only #2 and #4 are playing, the rest are silent.

    Other than that, this looks awesome. Having loved the Nippon Girls CD, I always wondered what a follow-up that went into the ’70s and ’80s would sound like.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for letting me know, Matt. It appears to work perfectly on Chrome, but no on Firefox. I’ve sent word to my programmer, so will let you know as soon as it’s fixed. xo-Sheila

    • admin says:

      It took me AGES to fix the glitches, but I’ve finally solved it! The mix is working perfectly now.

  3. kta says:

    Hi, my recent purchase of Nippon Girls CD brought me here.

    This is an interesting list for me. If I could somehow go back in time and tell myself as a Japanese kid that he would someday find good things about Iyo Matsumoto’s “Sentimental Journey”, the kid version of myself and probably some of the friends would be totally shocked. Back in the day I thought she was a terrible singer and that was enough for me to dismiss anything related to her, but here I am 32 years later, remembering the entire melody of the song!

    Are you planning to release this as a physical object (CD/Vinyl)?

    Here are some comments about the spelling of Japanese words:

    Akina Nakamori: Shojou A
    More like “Shoujo A” or “Sho-jo A”, the first “o”-sound lasting longer than the last one.
    If you listen to the last part of the song (“waaaa taaaa shiiii, shooo jo eee eeeeee”), “shooo” lasts for 1.5 beats while only 0.5 beat is used for “jo”.

    Kyoko Endou: Kohaku Telephone* (1981)
    “Kokuhaku” (confession), not “Kohaku” (amber).

    Ann Lewis: Roppongi Shinchuu (1984)
    “Shinjuu” (pronounced as “shin Jew”).

    Megumi Osaoka: Watashi No Kare Wa Hidari Kiki* (1973)

    Thanks for an awesome list!

    • admin says:

      Thanks so much for the corrections and for sharing your Iyo Matsumoto story! I don’t have any plans to release this mix on vinyl or CD, but I am working on another Nippon Girls compilation for Ace.

  4. dachy says:

    Actually I enjoy B-side to Hiroko Yakushimaru: Tantei Monogatari a lot more, an breezy upbeat song.

  5. Carlos says:

    Having read your recent feature on Dust & Grooves (and enjoying it so much) led me to buy the purple vinyl version of the CD I already have!

    So, I was thrilled to know a volume 2 is in the making! Keep us posted on that, as I am currently exploring your incredible site.

  6. psgtr640 says:

    Eiichi Ohtaki died

  7. psgtr640 says:

    Do you know Yume De Aetara English Version?

  8. Aidan says:

    So glad to hear there’s another Nippon girls compilation coming! The first one has got to be one of the best compilations I’ve ever bought! Keep up the good work

    • admin says:

      Wow! What a compliment. MUCH appreciated! I was worried I wouldn’t be able to beat the first Nippon Girls, but this one is sounding pre-tty good so far! Will post more news as it comes. xo-Sheila

  9. Andrew says:

    I read your interview on the Dust & Grooves book, and it’s always fun to hear about other people collecting Japanese music, and having now checked out your blog, I am happy to see some exploration into the 70s and 80s.

    This is an overlooked part of Japanese pop culture for certain, and I’m glad to see people like you raise awareness such as with the “Nippon Girls” compilations. I for a while was doing that with a blog I no longer update, but lately, having gone into record-collecting, have been taking selections of my collection to several anime conventions in Texas for the past couple of years, exhibiting and playing records as a temporary hall DJ. I hope to eventually get around to documenting the collection and make a different website dedicated to pre-1990 Japanese music as a bit of a blog/database thing.

    Great choices you have for this post! Some of my favorite artists are there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *