This post is going to contain some Japanese characters. If they don’t display correctly for you, don’t worry too much, I’ll be putting Latin readings of the characters after each set of them. Although, you might want to look into enabling Asian characters in your browser and Operating System.
I’ll also refer to Japanese people by their given names (not the traditional Japanese order) for ease of reading by those not used to reading about Japanese people
Previously when I’ve written about music suggestions, I’ve recommended bands based on their entire body of work or based on an interesting take on a genre. Today, however, I’m going to recommend some music based on a single track.
In the beginning, Zard where a 4 person pop/rock band comprised of: Izumi Sakai, Fumihito Machida, Hiroyasu Hoshi, Kosuke Michikura, and Kimitaka Ikezawa. Their first single, “Goodbye My Loneliness” was quite successful reaching number 9 in the Oricon charts.
Although Izumi stayed constant the other members of the band came and went over the years. Izumi being a professional model, she became the centre piece for the band’s music videos which often had a dark or moody feel to them.
Makenaide – 負けないで
In the early 90’s Japan was hit by an economic crisis: the Nikkei 225 had dropped in value by one third by the end of the 1980’s. This was preceded by a period of high land value and low interest rates, which lead to more lending and spending. The Bank of Japan saw this as unsustainable, so they raised the interest rates quite sharply. This lead to the economic bubble bursting which lead to the stock market crashing, thus the sharp drop in value of the Nikkei 225.
The Diet attempted to save the banks by funnelling money into them, but this gave rose to so called “Zombie Banks”. Zombie Banks were losing money at the same rate that they were making it. Pretty soon big businesses became affected by the crash; many corporations instigated large layoffs to their workers, joined with other corporations, or both.
Side note: if you are interested in learning about this period of time, the Japanese call it 失われた10年 (Ushinawareta Jūnen – “The Lost Decade”). There is a very interesting Wikipedia article about it here: [LINK]
On January 25th,1993 Zard released 負けないで (Makenaide – “Don’t Lose”), an exceptionally inspiring song. It spoke of not giving up on one’s goals. Here is a translation of part of the chorus:
Don’t give up, keep running,
To the end, just a little more
This was precisely the message that the Japanese people needed and, almost as if to prove it, the Japanese bought 1.8 million copies of the single, hitting number 1 on the Oricon charts. It even became the unofficial anthem of the Lost Decade.
I’ll embed a YouTube video of the song here so that you can hear it for yourself.
Izumi had said, during an interview with Music Station that 負けないで was:
A song to encourage men taking examinations
But many Japanese people have said that it helped them to deal with a multitude of things from bullying to drug abuse, and cheating spouses to crippling debt. Such was the power of this song.
Yureru Omoi – 揺れる想い
Zard’s next single, 揺れる想い (Yureru Omoi – “Shifting Feelings”) was equally as successful. Zard then released their next album, also titled 揺れる想い which sold 2 million copies. In 1993, no one outsold Zard in Japan. Such was the power of the message of 負けないで. It has become Zard’s biggest hit; one that is still requested on radio shows to this day.
In June 2006 Izumi was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Treatment was swift and appeared to work. However, later that year the cancer was found to have spread to her lungs. She began seeking treatment at Keigo university hospital in April 2007.
There are charming stories of Izumi singing 負けないで as a way to boost the morale of her fellow patients when they would lose hope.
In the early hours the 26th of May, 2007, Izumi was found by an emergency exit at the bottom of a stair case. She was unconscious and rushed to the emergency room. She never regained consciousness and died the next day, due to complications brought on by her head injuries.
The police investigation concluded that Izumi had gone for a midnight stroll around the hospital, tripped on the rather slippery stairs, and lost consciousness when she hit the bottom of the stair case. Because of the rather unusual nature of the accident, the police originally thought that the cause of her death was suicide, but it was concluded that it had been an accident.
Post Izumi’s death
When the news of her death broke, many TV stations put on memorials. Shortly after her wake there was a public memorial; fans were encouraged to attend and leave messages for Izumi in guest books surrounded by flowers. Many prominent Japanese celebrities, sports stars and fellow musicians left messages about how Izumi had changed their lives.
Zard had released 11 studio albums (the earliest released in 1991, and the last released in 2005) and 45 singles at the time of Izumi’s death. Her music had taken her all over the world, and made her very famous. You could say that she had a very, very successful career.
You could say that Zard had an enormous affect on the Japanese people. Which is one of the reasons why 負けないで is one of my favourite songs (and by extension 揺れる想い is one of my favourite albums) and why you should listen to it.
While you’re here, I’d recommend taking a look at an old post I wrote on June 5th, 2011 about this very song (and one that sounds just like it).
Until next time, be safe,
Sources for this post: