Big In Japan

Oh, come on! I haven’t even played today’s earworm yet!

Happy Siete de Mayo!  What do you mean “so what?”  Isn’t the Sixth of July a big deal?  Oh, to heck with it… we don’t have time to play silly calendar games (particularly if they’re related to horrible Star Wars puns), because it doesn’t matter what the date is on Monday.  That’s the day The Nest reels in the years with another long forgotten hit out of that poorly locked diary of lost records we like to call the Dusty Vinyl Archive!  DJ Scratchy won’t go on a date, but she will gladly give you the time of day… while the Sponkies are counting down the days until summer vacation (Or maybe winter vacation, they’re Aussies after all).  You’ll want to circle this song on your planner…

Nearly forty years ago, a short-lived new wave quartet formed in the UK called The Vapors.  The group released only two albums before calling it quits and moving onto the adult part of their lives.  The first of those two albums, New Clear Days, produced the band’s only big hit in 1980 with a song that was a Top 10 hit in their native Britain as well as much of the rest of the old imperial empire.  However, it barely cracked the Top 40 here in the US at #36, and for those who are even aware the song exists, it’s mainly just considered an odd curiosity of the wild and wonderful 80’s.  Here is The Vapors’ magnum opus “Turning Japanese”…

“Turning Japanese” is not too far removed from being considered a novelty song given its heavy reliance on the Japanese theme in the words, music and video… and viewed through the more politically correct lens of the 21 century, could practically be considered a four minute racist joke.

Much like the Ginsu knife, coincidentally, from the exact same era.

But the reason I chose to feature this song today is because of the other claim to fame “Turning Japanese” seems to have.  There are a number of popular 80’s songs that have been accused implicitly or even explicitly of being about the wonderfully taboo world of masturbation.  Titles like “Shock the Monkey” and “The Stroke” make us giggle like Beavis & Butthead even though the songs are clearly about some topic other than wanking.  Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” and especially Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” are much more obvious odes to self love, even though I believe both artists still deny the risque connection.

Nevermind “She Bop’s” video features a nonstop parade of masturbation cliches.

“Turning Japanese” fits on both counts.  The title is a British euphemism for the act… and if you don’t get the connection, think about the face one makes when getting ready to….. you know…. yeah, that.  And the lyrics refer to a man who is obsessed with the photo of a girlfriend, and if probably doing more than just kissing the picture when there’s no one else around.  Lead singer David Fenton has long denied that he’s referring to that kind of turning Japanese… though he’s also been smart enough to credit the popular alternative meaning with contributing to the song’s chart success.

Just don’t get caught in the act if you want to have a career…

Oh…. I never did explain why this topic came up today, did I.  Though its official observation varies throughout the month, May 7th is widely celebrated as National Masturbation Day!  Remember, nobody does it better than you, so make yourslef some alone time on this special occasion.  And with that, I better end this by inviting you to join me again next Monday for another lost hit that won’t require you to bring along a Kleenex…


About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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36 Responses to Big In Japan

  1. I loved that song ;O))… and turning japanese makes a super quotation… butt I feel a little sorry for the japanese peeps… they had a lot to bear in the 80’s with the vapors, alphaville and the on(s)hit wonder by Aneka….

  2. Piglove says:

    OMP!!! Mom/dad were just listening to that song last night dancing around the house. It was hilarious and I sure wish I had video taped them. Now that would have been priceless for sure! XOXO – Bacon

  3. draliman says:

    I don’t remember the band but I remember the song well. Though I was expecting “Big in Japan” by Alphaville, a good song!

  4. ody N biskit….heerz one we due knot ree call…..will hafta give thiz a listen two later !! 🙂 ♥♥

  5. Thom says:

    This was part of our setlist for quite some time, and somewhat miraculously, one I don’t recall getting too sick of playing…mostly because, I suspect, it was such fun to sing. Unlike, say, “Cocaine” (on those fairly frequent occasions when audiences would drunkenly suggest we play it)…that song was only fun to play if you were the lead guitarist. For everyone else, especially the singer, it was near-lethal boredom. Sing a verse, take a nap during a 5-minute solo, sing another verse, use the bathroom during another 5-minute guitar solo, sing a verse, throw a load of laundry in at the laundromat 4 blocks away during a 7.5 minute guitar solo…by the time the stupid song was done, you could’ve fathered a child AND watched him or her grow up and graduate high school. Seriously…that song had 2 verses and I was so bored and zoned out that 3/4 of the time I’d forget the words. No lie. Meanwhile, a song like “Life During Wartime”, which I believe used every single word in Webster’s Dictionary..I never seemed to forget those lyrics. That was a song where you couldn’t let your guard down.

    I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

  6. Merbear74 says:

    I have never she bopped myself on a Monday…

  7. Wow. There really IS a holiday for everything. Who’d have thunk it? I never heard the expression “Turning Japanese” referring to masturbation, but why not? Master Bates ran an elite motel back in the day, didn’t he?

    • I’ve never heard it outside of the context of this song, but it’s supposedly an old British euphemism, and not a particularly common one at that. Masturbation may have almost as many different slang terms for it as marijuana does, though….

  8. Trisha says:

    I remember this song but I didn’t know “Turning Japanese” referred to masturbation. Actually, I remember being rather perplexed by the song, wondering why the guy thought looking at a picture was going to make him turn Japanese. Now it makes a bit more sense. 😀 I didn’t know there was a National Masturbation Day either. The Nest is so educational! I also just accidentally (and regrettably) learned there is a National Naked Gardening Day by stumbling on someone’s selfie for it. 🤮

    • There’s actually a less popular alternate theory that the singer is “turning Japanese” because he’s so obsessed with taking photos of his girlfriend, referring to the old stereotype of that day regarding Japanese tourists taking pictures of EVERYTHING. Even if the band didn’t mean for it to sound like a wank song, there’s enough masturbation innuendo there for me to say it HAD to be a consideration when they wrote it…

      As for your naked gardener……. I’m guessing that wasn’t a green thumb they were showing off…..

  9. I never did really like that song’s rather “manic” pace, but perhaps that’s because I didn’t “get” the referral! Duh. Now it makes sense……sort of.


  10. Not sure I can comment in between my popping up and down to that beat which is what this ear worm always makes me do! I am dubious of the ‘hidden’ meaning but then again I believed in Santa until I was a teen and obviously a little naive. 😇

  11. It was always funny at the roller skate club when a mom would want her child to do their routine to one of these songs. Oh goodness, bless her heart.

  12. crimsonowl63 says:

    I know this song. I used to hear it on the radio. I think the only lyrics I knew were the chorus. I must not have listened to the other parts.
    Since this came out in 80 I was either at the tail end of junior year or beginning of senior year so I was like 17. A NICE girl still. I had no clue what that song was about. I mean the Who weren’t exactly shy about saying what “it” was about in Pictures of Lily 🤣
    I am almost old. I still had no idea. My husband told me the masturbation thing when I was in my 40s. So sad.

  13. chattykerry says:

    I had no idea that was the meaning of ‘turning Japanese’ – the things you learn on reliable websites…😁

  14. I always liked that song, but I had no idea it meant THAT! I think you just spoiled it for me!🐿

  15. That’s a euphemism that I hadn’t heard of before. I guess it takes all sorts, right?

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