In the early 60s, Japanese songs featuring Katakana (script used to represent words imported from other languages) were not that popular. Amidst this background, Hashimoto Jun wrote the lyrics for a song based on the image he saw across the harbour from a park in Yokohama. The song talks of a woman’s rapture to be with her lover while looking at the lights of Yokohama city.
The song, titled ‘Bluelight Yokohama’, was composed by Kyōhei Tsutsumi was released as a single on Christmas Day of 1968. It was sung by the Japanese singer (who later turned an actress) Ayumi Ishida.
The song has an addictive melody (even for us Indians) and once you hear the song, you can’t help but sing it in your mind again.
It became an instant hit not only in Japan, but also in South Korea. The latter was surprising, considering that the South Korean military government banned the playing of Japanese music up until the end of the 1970s. Even more surprising, Park Chung-hee, South Korea’s military dictator at that time, is reported to have taken a cassette recording of the song back with him from a visit to Japan and sang it at a dinner party.
In 2008, the song was voted the best song to represent Yokohama as part of the port city’s 150th anniversary.
The song has even been covered (in English) by American singer/actor Tony Martin.
Listen to the song on Saavn: https://www.saavn.com/song/
The song’s title has even inspired a police procedural novel by Nicolás Obregón in 2017!
The most interesting inspiration credited to the song is actually a computer mouse! Made by Century Corporation, it was called ‘Bluelight Yokohamouse’ and had a blue colour LED!
The Indian connection to the song comes from none other than R.D.Burman! Pancham used the original to create a Hindi song 4 years after it hit the charts in Japan and around the world, in 1972, for the film Apna Desh.
Now, Apna Desh was a remake of the Telugu film Kathanayakudu (1969) starring N.T.Rama Rao and Jayalalithaa, and was also remade in Tamil, starring M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa. The script had a scene where the lead (Jayalalithaa in Telugu and Tamil, and Mumtaz in Hindi) had to seduce a comedian character (Om Prakash in Hindi) for a mission. While the tunes used for this situation in Telugu and Tamil are very different, Pancham used ‘Bluelight Yokohama’ to create his song, ‘Aaja O Mere Raja’!
It’s rather blatant, using the original Japanese song almost as-is all across the mukhda.