Waltzing Matilda is probably Australia’s most famous song and it’s certainly a tune that remains powerfully iconic of Down Under, but has not had the impact in Japan of other Aussie tunes, like say, Click Go the Shears.
That’s not to say that Matilda hasn’t made it’s mark.
However, like many things Japan, it’s legacy lies not quite in the way you’d expect.
My understanding is that Waltzing Matilda is probably best known in Japan for being the jingle used to open Japanese language shortwave radio broadcasts on Radio Australia, which ended in 1990, so there’s a fair chance that my guess is well out of date.
Three-piece rock band The50kaitenz used the tune and undoubted influence of Waltzing Matilda on their song, Machiruda to Tabi wo, released on their 4th album in 2018. It didn’t chart.
But a much deeper influence was made upon performer Naohiro Tsurube, who used the stage name Odorou Machiruda (a translation of waltzing Matilda) with quite a degree of success in the 2010s before going on hiatus in 2019 (and performing under his real name since, apparently).
One of Odorou Machiruda’s songs is even called Odorou Machiruda, and though it’s not a Japanese version of the song symbolic of Australia, the influence is apparent.
The song is known in English as Click Go the Shears and Peggy Hayama, who sang the Japanese version of the song with lyrics written by Takashi Otowa, would retain a lifelong connection with Australia because of it.
Ironically, her version of the song was originally a B-side to a 1962 release, but became a hit after NHK picked it up for Minna no Uta. It became a roaring success after being re-released as an A-side in 1963, and resurfaced in 2022 when broadcast to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the program being on air.
Hayama had a series of hits in the 1950s and 1960s, many being Japanese language covers of English songs, perhaps most notably being the Japanese version of Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music and Que, Sera, Sera, the lyrics in the latter also penned by Otowa.
Hayama made considerable contributions to the fine arts, receiving honors from the Ministry of Education and an Order of the Rising Sun medal. She died aged 83 in Tokyo in 2017. Her legacy lives on with a touch of Australia.
Alright, I hadn’t known this before, but when I arrived in Japan in the mid-1980s, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I stayed in Bunkyo-ku, not far from Gokokuji Temple.
Unbeknown to me at the time, and not until today, in fact, right around the same time, Australia’s biggest band, and then one of the hottest acts globally, INXS, had also filmed the music video for their hit, I Send a Message, at the same temple.
I’d come to Japan with few expectations, but among the images I had were those from a couple of INXS videos from around the time.
I had no idea that it had been so close. Gokokuji was the first temple I ever visited in Japan.
To this day I remember two things from the visit….sponsorship signs from Hitachi (at the time, Japan was still in the midst of the bubble era and appeared poised to become the world’s largest economy); and the Japanese crows.
The size and fierce countenance of the birds took me back, especially as I had found Australian crows to be quaint.
I’ve grown to love crows now, but I can still remember that seeing my first Japanese crow gave me a bit of a shock.
The other INXS video from the era, incidentally was for Original Sin, for which there were two versions made, actually.
One of these featured dekotora, which were still then a comparatively common sight on Japanese roads.
These videos were shot in the Oi Wharf area.
Although I stayed near Gokokuji for about a year, I never really went back after that first visit. I’ve never forgotten it, though (maybe because it also gave its name to the subway station I most frequently used). I remember the huge crowds lining up for miles to go there for Yutaka Ozaki‘s funeral a couple of years later, and a kyoiku mama who murdered a little girl who made her daughter look bad at a kindergarten in the area in the late 1990s.
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, probably the most-loved Australian children’s TV program in history, has turned 50 years old. The first episodes screened in Australia in February 1968 and the show remains popular to this day, though only three series comprising 91 episodes were made. The show premiered outside of Australia. Its run in Japan had effectively ended before Skippy showed in Australia, mainly because the series was made in color, which did not arrive in Australia until 1975. Skippy told the story of a grey kangaroo and her best friend, a young boy named Sonny Hammond, played by Garry Pankhurst in his only role of significance in an acting career that had finished by his teens. Pankhurst grew up to work in the hospitality business and eventually ended up exporting kangaroo meat for consumption in Asian countries. Sonny’s father, Matt, was the head ranger at the (fictional) Waratah National Park, as depicted by Ed Devereaux. Other cast regulars included Sonny’s brother, Mark, portrayed by Ken James, the park pilot, Jerry King, played by Tony Bonner, and park receptionist, Clancy, performed by Liza Goddard. Skippy was the marsupial equivalent to the likes of Lassie, Flipper and Rin Tin Tin, to name a few animal sleuths, solving all sorts of problems and achieving all manner of feats worthy of a superhero.
In addition to the TV series, in 1969 there was also the release of a feature-length film called Skippy and the Intruders. See the movie here.
Skippy’s iconic theme also proved to be a winner for transplanted Pom, Eric Jupp, who wrote and performed it. On the back of the successful son, Jupp released a series of Skippy-themed singles, including the main theme.
Skippy remained an integral part of the Australian TV landscape long after its original run. In 1992, an updated version of the show ran, called The Adventures of Skippy. In this show, Andrew Clarke played a grown Sonny Hammond, himself now a park ranger, but who retained strong ties to Skippy. Even this series had a Japanese angle, as you can find out by watching the show below.
And, just as a bonus, here’s the French version of the show’s opening titles. Skippy – générique en français
Rock legend Malcolm Young, co-founder of Australia’s biggest ever band AC/DC, has died. He was 64. オーストラリア最大ロックバンドであるAC/DCの伝説的な共同創立者のマルコム・ヤング氏が死去した。64歳だった。 Young formed AC/DC in 1973 with his younger brother, Angus, who remains the only original member of the band still playing. 1973年にヤング氏は弟であり現在バンドの唯一オリジナルメンバーとして現役のアンガスと共にAC/DCを結成した。 Young played rhythm guitar for AC/DC until he left the band in 2014 to receive treatment for dementia. 2014年に認知症の治療を受けるためバンドを退会するまでヤング氏がAC/DCのリズム・ギターを担当した。 He had overcome lung cancer, heart problems and alcoholism. 肺癌、心臓病やアルコール依存症を克服していた。 Young was described as the driving force behind AC/DC, which has sold about 200 million albums, making it among the best-selling artists of all time. 売れた音楽家の一つとしてAC/DCが約2億枚もアルバムを売上げ、ヤング氏のバンドの原動力と言われた。 AC/DC toured Japan early in the Brian Johnson era, visiting in 1981 and again the following year. However, the band didn’t tour again until 2001. Acca Dacca last played Japan in 2010, Malcolm Young’s final tour with the band. AC/DCはブライアン・ジョンソン氏時代初期頃に来日がした。1981年、そして翌年82年にも来日ツアーが行ったものの次にツアーしたのは2001年となった。最後に来日したのはマルコム氏のバンド最後のツアーでもあった2010年だった。 The Youngs’ elder brother, George, died last month. He had produced the early AC/DC albums and been a member of The Easybeats, one of Australia’s first rock bands to achieve global success. ヤング兄弟の兄であったジョージ氏も先月死去した。同氏はAC/DC初期頃のアルバムをプロデューサーだったし、それ以前に最初に世界の舞台で成功したオーストラリアのバンドの一つであったジ・イージービーツのメンバーでもあった。 1981 Japan Tour