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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

ALSO OUT THERE

'70s fish snack tune 'Taiyaki-kun' leaps again up the sales chart


Staff writer

There are plenty of fish in the sea, but not one quite like Taiyaki-kun.

News photo
The CD jacket for the reissued version of "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" ("Swim! Taiyaki") IMAGE COURTESY OF PONY CANYON, INC.

The reissued version of Japan's best-selling record of all time, "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" ("Swim! Taiyaki"), has reached No. 22 on Oricon Inc.'s top-50 hit chart, and more than 30,000 copies have been sold since the new version debuted this month.

It's the first time the fish snack tune has made the top 50 since June 1976.

"I've learned that people in their 30s and 40s are buying the record," said Nobutaro Sato, a director at Pony Canyon Inc., which produced the CD. "There is a melancholic factor to the song that definitely attracts them."

"Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" originally aired as a song accompanying animation on the children's TV program "Hirake! Ponkikki." It spent 11 weeks on the Japanese charts after its release in December 1975 and has sold more than 4.5 million copies since, a monumental feat unsurpassed to this day.

Taiyaki are waffle snacks filled with red bean paste that are baked on a fish-shaped waffle iron. The popular snack, based on sea bream, which are considered good omens, was first introduced in 1909 by Naniwa-ya, a sweets shop in Azabu, Tokyo. They sell for about ¥100 each.

"Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" depicts a taiyaki that escapes from the batter and returns to the ocean after an argument with the chef. Although the red bean paste in his tummy is heavy, Taiyaki-kun is elated at being able to swim again in the wild and is greeted by pink coral.

In the second set of lyrics, Taiyaki-kun is harassed by sharks but eventually adjusts to his new environment, taking refuge in a shipwreck. But at the end of the song, he is caught by a fisherman and eaten alive.

The song, written by Hiroo Takada and sung by Masato Shimon, was first described as a satire for salarymen when it was released 33 years ago.

While the song is far from cheerful, its catchy melody struck a chord with children, and parents as well.

"Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" gained phenomenal status, topping the 3.2 million sales record then held by "Onna no Michi" ("The Way of a Woman"), the melodramatic hit released in 1972 by Shiro Miya and the Pinkara Trio.

"Dango San-Kyodai," the 1999 children's song that tells the tale of three dumpling brothers, ranks fourth on the all-time list with 2.9 million CDs shipped.

Although the song's revival has benefited from the Showa Era boom, it is also generating a fresh, new fan base from stuffed Taiyaki-kun dolls produced last year for game arcade prizes.

After receiving calls for the record's reissue, Pony Canyon decided to apply for a spot in Guinness World Records.

"We thought of applying for a best-selling children's song, or as the best-selling song about food. But it was recognized simply as the best-selling single by a Japanese act," Sato explained.

"Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" was shipped with a bonus DVD and other content on March 5 as it rolled toward its latest world record.

"We keep breaking the world record with every copy that's sold. Our ultimate goal is to reach the 5 million mark," Sato said.



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