JFT Staff Mixtape – Vol. 2: Nostalgia

In keeping with this year’s Doors Open Toronto theme “Hidden Histories”, the staff of The Japan Foundation, Toronto have curated a mixtape of nostalgic Japanese music for our visitors to enjoy.

In this second volume, we selected songs that brought back cherished and important memories.
You can read testimonials about our staff’s song selections below. You can listen to the playlist on Spotify. Enjoy!

*You can listen to our first staff mixtape from last year here.

Furusato (故郷) – Saori Yuki, Sachiko Yasuda

Many people will recall fond memories of the Japanese countryside when listening to this well-known children’s folk song. I was born in a suburban mountain area rich in nature, and like many, I feel nostalgic when listening to this song.

—Noriko, Executive Director

Akuma no Ko – Higuchi Ai

RASEN in OKINAWA – Awich, Tsubaki, OZworld, CHICO CARLITO

The song “Akuma no Ko” (meaning Child of Evil) plays as an end credit song in one of my favourite anime series, Attack on Titan (進撃の巨人). The anime itself is about how humanity is threatened in the face of violence and power. This powerful song perfectly encapsulates that message, as its music and lyrics speak of grief and sacrifices. The song feels relevant at a time when humanity seems to be threatened by various forms of violence around the world. It also makes me nostalgic for all the days I spent with my friends in college, unraveling the world of AoT.

—Ayeshwini, Program Officer (Japan Studies & International Dialogue)

Life is Like a Boat – Rie Fu

I was captivated by Rie Fu’s beautiful, soothing voice and felt nostalgic from the very first moment I heard this song in 2004 as an ending theme song to the anime series Bleach. I also loved the lyrics, which are a mix of Japanese and English and gave me a supportive push when I struggled in life. I later found that she had been deeply influenced by Karen Carpenter, whose songs my mother often played at home since I was little. I’ve been always fascinated by how talented artists (whether Rie Fu or impressionist artists) have drawn inspiration from different cultures to create great, original, and magical pieces of work.

—Emi, Library Assistant and Library Marketing & PR Coordinator

Flamingo – Kenshi Yonezu

Dry Flower (ドライフラワー) – Yuuri

again – YUI

The year “Flamingo” came out, it was very popular with my students when I was living in Japan. For every major school event, where we had to wait for any length of time, they would sing this song. Some of them were quite talented, but my favourites were the groups of students who would give it their all and intentionally sound terrible. Listening to it brings back lots of happy and nostalgic emotions.

—Melanie, Administrative Assistant & Volunteer Coordinator

sakura (さくら) – Ketsumeishi

Music – sakanaction

“Sakura” was originally released in 2005 by the Japanese pop/hip-hop group Ketsumeishi. It’s a song about bittersweet relationships and is their best-selling single to date. In Japan, the song symbolizes new beginnings and endings, which makes me emotional when listening to it. “Sakura” was released when I was in university, and since then, it has become my favorite song, one that I relate to very much.

Sakanaction’s “Music” starts with a smooth, synthesizer-based rhythm. I used to listen to this song while studying for certification courses. It was originally released in 2013 as a theme song for Dinner, a TV series about the professionalism of chefs that I used to watch. The song reminds me to work hard and be professional.

—JFT Administrative Officer

Ue Wo Muite Aruko (上を向いて歩こう) – Hiromi

Ashitaka and San – Joe Hisaishi

The jazz cover of “Sukiyaki,” a globally famous song from 1961, remains wonderful with its nostalgic yet fresh arrangement even after 60 years. Hiromi arranged the song for a Japanese TV drama in 2022, creating an impressive nine versions of the song. Be sure to check them out!

“Ashitaka and San” was created in 1997 for the movie Princess Mononoke, the first Studio Ghibli film I watched in a theater. Whenever I hear it, I envision scenes of mountains turning green and it would make me feel nostalgic.

—JFT Staff Member

Ihojin (異邦人) – Saki Kubota

I choose Saki Kubota’s “Ihojin,” meaning “stranger,” which was a popular song in my childhood. I used to sing it without thinking about the meaning of the lyrics, but when I read them carefully as an adult, I found them quite profound. It is one of the most nostalgic songs for me.

—Noriko, Program Officer (Japanese Language Education)

Homework ga Owaranai (ホームワークが終わらな) – Matsuko Mawatari

miss you – m-flo feat. melody & Ryohei Yamamoto

Link – L’Arc-en-Ciel

Listening to “Homework ga Owaranai” brings me back to my childhood when I would have sleepovers with my cousins and stay up late watching Yu Yu Hakusho on rented laser discs. The title was very fitting for us back then—“Homework Never Ends”—and all we wanted to do was play. The Yu Yu Hakusho anime was also very special to me. Not only did it feature other groovy, disco-inspired songs from Matsuko Mawatari, but it was also healing as I was still dealing with my grandfather’s passing. Its portrayal of the afterlife and grief was formative for me.

—Phil, Program Officer (Film & Audiovisual)

Senkō Shōjo (閃光少女) – Tokyo Jihen

Tentai Kansoku (天体観測) BUMP OF CHICKEN

During my school years, many high school bands covered J-Rock bands at small live houses in Tokyo. I often went to shows of my friends’ bands, and they introduced me to the world of rock music. These two songs were my karaoke favourites, not only because I loved the music, but also because I resonated with their lyrics, which reflected my teenage struggles with living the present moment while grappling with regrets from the past and uncertainties about the future.

—Risa, Librarian

Rouge No Dengon (ルージュの伝言) – Yumi Arai

A Town with an Ocean View (海の見える町) – Joe Hisaishi

These songs are from Kiki’s Delivery Service, which is one of my favorite Studio Ghibli films. They bring back childhood memories of playing with a broom and wanting to be a witch. Growing up when the film played on TV, I would tell my parents, “I’m going to leave when I turn 13!”, (the main character, Kiki, leaves home on her 13th birthday to train to be a witch). While I thought it was funny, I think Kiki’s story also made me braver and more independent.

—Sayaka, Administrative Assistant

Space Battleship Yamato (宇宙戦艦ヤマト) – Hiroshi Miyagawa, Isao Sasaki, Brass Band Heroes

The 1974 anime series Space Battleship Yamato was one of the few things my late younger brother Shigeru and I shared a passion for. This sci-fi series preceded my departure to Canada in 1982.

—Toshi, Program Officer (Visual & Performing Arts)