Album: Abracadabra
2020.09.21 Lingua Sounda/Victor


URAHARA-JUKU
Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi
Music: Imai Hisashi

You're a dreamer aren't you hey girl?
You're an idol on the asphalt1
Come on now, whatcha selling, hey girl?
Is it really such a sweet-ass kick?2
Yeah it's totally a crazy kick!

Don't get all up on me! Out of my way!
If you're window-shopping, fuck right off!3
Your purity is perfect, that's for sure!
What is it that you want!? Baby girl!?4

Rain-silver shadows on the boulevard5
Here come the howling sirens red lights bleeding through the air6
You should already be on your way home
Forget about today, pretend it never happened

URAHARA-JUKU Oh! Baby!
You're an idol soaking in the rain7
What are you hitting on now? Baby!?8
Is it really such a sweet-ass kick?
Yeah it's totally a crazy kick!

I'm not getting in your way! Buy or die!?9
Do you wanna die in Paradise!?10
My purity is maybe rotten now!
What is it that you want!? What do you want!?

Rain-silver shadows on the boulevard
Here come the howling sirens red lights bleeding through the air
Tonight go home to bed and sleep tight
Just go enjoy your dreaming, dream a dream within a dream


Don't get all up on me! Out of my way!
If you're window-shopping, fuck right off!
Your purity is perfect, that's for sure!
What is it that you want!? Baby girl!?
I'm not getting in your way! Buy or die!?
Do you wanna die in Paradise!?
My purity is maybe rotten now!
What is it that you want!? What do you want!?

Rain-silver shadows on the boulevard
Here come the howling sirens red lights bleeding through the air
You should already be on your way home
Forget about today, pretend it never happened
Tonight go home to bed and sleep tight
Just go enjoy your dreaming, dream a dream within a dream


Note on the title: Harajuku is a neighborhood in central Tokyo that has been famous since the 1970's as a hotbed of fashion and youth culture. In the 80's, Harajuku was associated with the rockabilly, punk rock and gothic subcultures. Starting at the end of the 80's with the Band Boom (Buck-Tick's generation), the neighborhood became heavily associated with the visual kei movement, and was home not only to many visual kei oriented clothing and record stores, but also to hordes of visual kei cosplayers, who would congregate on Sundays on the Meiji-Jingu bridge, next to Harajuku station, to spend the day preening and posing for passersby. Until the mid-2000s, Omotesando, Harajuku's main thoroughfare, was closed to automobile traffic on Sundays, creating a "hodosha tengoku" ("pedestrian paradise") where bands could busk and fashionable youth could strut their stuff. The heyday of the pedestrian paradise gave rise to a wildly creative street fashion culture that was immortalized in the street snap fashion magazine Fruits, and subsequently released internationally by Phaidon Press as a two-volume compilation, bringing the wildness of Harajuku fashion to the larger world. 

However, in the mid-2000s, the government began to take a harder line on Harajuku's party atmosphere, abolishing the pedestrian paradise, and ticketing bands and street performers. Meanwhile, the success of Gwen Stefani's embarrassingly racist song "Harajuku Girls" made the Meiji Jingu bridge and its cosplayers into a massive international tourist attraction, which killed off the entire subculture within a mere two years or so (it didn't help that the visual kei movement was also on the wane). Once a haven for indie artists and designers, Harajuku became increasingly gentrified with mainstream fashion chains, even as it was inundated with foreign tourists. Though now a pale shadow of its former glory, Harajuku still maintains a few pockets of its edgy creative spirit, and it's still the birthplace of many a street idol, though these days they've moved out of the magazines and onto Instagram. Harajuku's history makes it hallowed ground in the rock music world much like London's Camden Town, especially for members of Buck-Tick's generation.

Ura-Harajuku, or "backstreet Harajuku," is the area of Harajuku bounded by Meiji Street on the west, Omotesando on the south, and Aoyama Avenue on the east. This warren of tangled back-alleys is still home to some of the more unusual and niche clothing shops, salons, galleries, cafes, etc. that can't afford rent on the main drag, and even now makes for a fun afternoon of exploration. Though this area of Harajuku is usually styled as "Ura-Harajuku," Sakurai deliberately styled the title of this song "Urahara-Juku," in order to create a word play. "Urahara" means "contrary" or "reverse," while "juku" means "cram school." So "Urahara-juku" could also mean a school of how to be contrary, or a school of punk. 

However, I think there's more to it than that - in this song, Sakurai is writing about the rotten side of a consumer culture that feeds off young people, especially young women. Sakurai said of this song in an interview with the Japanese online music magazine Barks, "To kids, [Harajuku] seems like a poppy, glamorous place, but I want to tell them that it's dangerous to blindly idolize places like that. This song came out of the rush of anger I felt when I heard a news report of a girl who was abducted and held hostage. Young girls sell all kinds of things... even their bodies, but I wanted to write a story where I say, 'but be careful.' I also want to tell them to defend themselves, defend their own bodies."  Japanese culture still places enormous pressure on girls to be sweet, cute, and yielding - never violent, not even in self-defense. A girl using violence to defend herself is very much "contrary" to society, even in a place like Harajuku.

1) "Idol" is the Japanese term for a manufactured pop star who (these days, at least) is usually marketed primarily for sex appeal rather than talent. Unlike hyper-sexualized Western pop stars, female idols in Japan are usually marketed as girl-next-door types - dressed in school uniforms, pretty but not too pretty, with mediocre levels of talent - designed to appeal to Japan's massive demographic of emotionally immature, lonely men with lots of disposable income but little in the way of time or social skills to spend on romance with actual women in their actual lives. Idols are marketed as fantasy girlfriend objects, with their mediocrity a ploy to make their insecure fans feel like they could actually be close to the girls they adore (true beauty and talent would be seen as too intimidating). The naive schoolgirl aesthetic of the idols is key to their appeal - a self-aware, sexually experienced woman would also be seen as too threatening. Japanese schoolgirls have been sexualized since long before the 2010's idol boom, but the idol boom effectively removed other modes of womanhood from visibility in Japanese popular media, leaving a generation of Japanese girls to grow up with little else but idols for role models on how to be an attractive woman.

Around 2010, at the same time that Harajuku was becoming increasingly corporate and gentrified, the idol industry began to take over and crush the life out of the music industry. Many idols groups keep rosters of dozens of members, and issue dozens of different editions of releases, one featuring each member (or at least the most popular members), in order to lure their fans into buying multiple copies of the same item. Bands, being largely unable to compete with this marketing strategy, suffered accordingly. On the heels of the wild success of AKB48 - once a niche act catering exclusively to anime fans, now a massive herd of corporate cash cows - copycat idol groups took over Japan in what could very nearly be described as a coup d'etat, and now they are everywhere - including Harajuku (though given the heavily teen girl demographic, in Harajuku, it's the male idols who are more popular).

2) This phrase, "socchi no mizu amai ka?" (literally, "is the water over there sweet?") is an adaptation of the line from the Japanese folk song "Hotaru Koi" ("Come, Firefly"), "kocchi no mizu wa amai zo" ("over here the water is sweet.") Sakurai previously riffed off this folk song in the lyrics to "Kuchizuke," in which "the water over there" was a metaphor for death, and "the water over here" was a metaphor for eternal life as a vampire. In popular slang, however, these phrases can be used by men when hitting on girls - "the water over here is sweeter" meaning "I'm a better guy than he is" - which fits with the street harassment theme of this song. However, I think in these lyrics, Sakurai isn't using the phrase to refer to a man - I think he's going more for the way that sleazy men hit on goth, punk, or other sorts of alternative fashion girls - the old "why do you dress up like that?" question, following the "what are you selling" line, as the harasser assumes that the girl is dressed up for him, rather than just for her own kicks. I translated it as "sweet-ass kick" to underscore the tone of sexual harassment and threat.

A similar phrasing of "socchi no mizu amai ka" also appears in the lyrics to "Doubt" by the late Matsumoto Hideto, more commonly known by his stage name, hide. Hide and Sakurai were good friends, and Buck-Tick covered the song "Doubt" for the hide tribute album Tribute Spirits, released after hide's death. The way Sakurai growls this line in "Doubt" is quite similar to the way he growls it in "Urahara-juku," hinting at an oblique tribute to his lost friend. If anyone was an icon of Harajuku in its heyday, it was hide. He deserves a shoutout in this song.

3) This stanza appears to be a back-and-forth between the girl and the man harassing her. The first two lines are the girl, telling the man to get out of her space. The second two lines are spoken by the man. The reference to "purity" echoes the reference to idols earlier in the song. "Purity" is a big part of an idol's marketability - idols typically aren't allowed to date, and in several high-profile cases, idols found to have boyfriends were forced to issue public apologies. Having a boyfriend is considered to ruin an idol as an object of male fantasy (and, hence, money). 

4) "Ojou-san" is an honorific for a girl or young woman, usually from a rich family. In this context, it comes across as very sleazy, especially because the man uses the over-familiar "-chan" instead of the more respectful "-san". The proper neutral form of address to a young woman whose name is not known to the speaker would be "oneesan."

5) About this stanza, Sakurai told Barks, "In the end, the girl shoves the bad guy into Omotesando. And he gets hit by a car... but, I tell her, you just go home. Tell them that I did it, not you (laughs)." The word "shadou" means "traffic lane," but it's surely no accident that Sakurai chose a word that also sounds so much like the English word "shadow," so I preserved the word play in my translation. Omotesando is, in fact, a boulevard.

6) "Nijimu," which I translated here as "bleeding," has the connotation of oozing, or bleeding like watercolors or ink. It's the perfect word to express both the way the red lights blur in the rain, and also imply the bloody accident on the pavement. Sakurai returns to this same word in "Villain" and "Boukyaku," in both cases to express the way the darkness of heart that causes people to hurt others also causes them to hurt themselves.

7) The "soaking wet" image in this line is very definitely a sexual double entendre.

8) The word here, "utteiru," means "hitting," "smacking," "hammering," etc. This must be the moment when the girl shoves the harasser into the street. However, when sung it sounds just like "utteiru" ("selling") from the first stanza. "Hitting on" seemed the perfect translation given the theme of the song, but "utteiru" does not mean "hitting on" as in "picking up girls." That kind of hitting on is "nampa."

The verb "utsu" is also slang for shooting up injectable drugs. In the Abracadabra Live on the Net performance, Sakurai mimed shooting up on this line to underscore the double meaning (which also ties in to the references to "purity" in the other stanzas). Japan's severe anti-drug laws mean that street drug dealers are more or less nonexistent, especially in a district like Harajuku, so it's almost certain that Sakurai doesn't mean literally that the guy is trying to push drugs on the girl. Instead, he seems to be implying that consumer culture and toxic social conditioning are just as damaging and addictive as heroin. There's another implicit pun here, given that Buck-Tick were forced to title their heroin-themed song "Heroine" in order to avoid censorship. In Japanese, the word "heroine" is often used in media and marketing to refer to an ingénue-type character or image. The predatory man in this song is treating the girl as if she is this ingénue, but the girl responds by saying that what he's trying to sell her on isn't pure like he says, and perhaps she isn't so pure as he thinks she is, either.

9) The second chorus seems to be another back-and-forth between the girl and the man, but this time, it appears that the man speaks the first line, and the girl speaks the the remaining three.

10) Omotesando, once the pedestrian paradise, is now a heavily trafficked road seven days a week. By saying "do you want to die in paradise?" the girl seems to be making a joke about the lost pedestrian paradise as she threatens him to get away from her.





URAHARA-JUKU
作詞:櫻井敦司
作曲:今井寿

夢見がちだねHey Girl? アスファルトにはIDOL
何を売っているのHey Girl? そっちの水甘いか?
そっちの水やばいぜ!

邪魔すんなよ! どけよ! 冷やかしは消えな!
純度はイイニ キマッテル! 何が欲しい!? お嬢ちゃん!?

銀色雨降る車道 鳴り響くサイレン赤色灯が滲む
おまえはもう お家にお帰り 今日の事なんて忘れるがいいさ

URAHARA-JUKU Oh! Baby! 雨に濡れたIDOL
何を打っているの? Baby!? そっちの水甘いか?
そっちの水やばいぜ!

邪魔はしないぜ! Buy or Die!? 天国で死ぬかい!?
純度はMaybe腐っている! 何が欲しい!? What Do You Want!?

銀色雨降る車道 鳴り響くサイレン赤色灯が滲む
今夜はベッドで眠りな 夢の中で夢見ればいいさ


邪魔すんなよ! どけよ! 冷やかしは消えな!
純度はイイニ キマッテル! 何が欲しい!? お嬢ちゃん!?
邪魔はしないぜ! Buy or Die!? 天国で死ぬかい!?
純度はMaybe腐っている! 何が欲しい!? What Do You Want!?

銀色雨降る車道 鳴り響くサイレン赤色灯が滲む
おまえはもう お家にお帰り 今日の事なんて忘れるがいいさ
今夜はベッドで眠りな 夢の中で夢見ればいいさ




URAHARA-JUKU
Lyrics: Sakurai Atsushi
Music: Imai Hisashi

Yumemigachi da ne Hey Girl?     Asufaruto ni wa IDOL
Nani wo utteiru no Hey Girl?     Socchi no mizu amai ka?
Socchi no mizu yabai ze!

Jama sunna yo!     Doke yo!     Hiyakashi wa kiena!
Jundo wa ii ni     kimatteru!     Nani ga hoshii!?     Ojou-chan!? 

Gin'iro ame furu shadou     narihibiku sairen sekishokutou ga nijimu
Omae wa mou     ouchi ni okaeri     kyou no koto nante wasureru ga ii sa

URAHARA-JUKU Oh! Baby!     Ame ni nureta IDOL
Nani wo utteiru no?     Baby!?     Socchi no mizu amai ka?
Socchi no mizu yabai ze!

Jama wa shinai ze!     Buy or Die!?     Tengoku de shinu kai!?
Jundo wa Maybe kusatteiru!     Nani ga hoshii!?     What Do You Want!?

Gin'iro ame furu shadou     narihibiku sairen sekishokutou ga nijimu
Konya wa beddo de nemuri na     yume no naka de yume mireba ii sa


Jama sunna yo!     Doke yo!     Hiyakashi wa kiena!
Jundo wa ii ni     kimatteru!     Nani ga hoshii!?     Ojouchan!? 
Jama wa shinai ze!     Buy or Die!?     Tengoku de shinu kai!?
Jundo wa Maybe kusatteiru!     Nani ga hoshii!?     What Do You Want!?

Gin'iro ame furu shadou     narihibiku sairen sekishokutou ga nijimu
Omae wa mou     ouchi ni okaeri     kyou no koto nante wasureru ga ii sa
Konya wa beddo de nemuri na     yume no naka de yume mireba ii sa