TsuShiMaMiRe:  A Japanese Band and Its Point of Contact with My Novel



The following entry incorporates, and adds on to, two Facebook posts made in June, 2016.

Yeah, I bet you can guess who these are!

TSU SHI MA MI RE.   Tsushimamire is a Japanese all-girl band, formed in 1999, featuring Mari Kono (guitar, lead vocals), Yayoi Tsushima (bass, background vocals), and Mizue Masuda (drums, background vocals).  This is a fascinating and creative group, which does a variety of things.  Number one, it employs the (by-now well-known) 'gag' of presenting a group of pretty, polite Asian girls in a musical setting, who then smash the stereotype to bits with thrashing, hard punk/rock sounds.  The viewer is ambushed not only by the sweet faces, but also by the soft voices and sometimes disarming lulls, which conceal the heavy punch that the group is capable of delivering.  Number two ambush-component is the lyrics, which are intelligent, offbeat to engagingly weird, and filled with irony, sharp jabs of social criticism worked in deeply beneath the surface texture, and true outbursts of the 'different mind.'  There are also, at times, Rilke-like plunges into the personal world of longing, filled with deep-feeling reflections and private but powerful reactions to life and collisions with the self. The wonderful thing about the group's originality is that even as the girls get older and approach the danger zone in a merciless, youth-oriented industry -- threatened with becoming musical versions of the 'shokuba no hana' ('office flowers', or ingratiating Japanese 'Office Ladies' meant to get married and retire by the age of 30) -- they can pull out the secret weapon of their brains and their unvanquished attitude to attain longevity.  They have something to say, and as long as they hold on firmly to their unorthodox minds, and retain their will to swim against the current whenever it challenges their Destiny, they will remain relevant for as long as they like.  

As the writer of "The March of the Eccentrics" novel, which champions the beauty of the true individual -- and as the creator of the character of 'Yuki Onomatsu', a brilliant Japanese nonconformist who loves this kind of music, and is one of the stars of that novel -- I can only take my hat off to this group!  Yuki would have loved them, and learned all of their lyrics by heart! 

In this number, "Speedy Wonder", the lyrics Mari performs spread like spilled ink over the entire map of love and life; her rapid-fire delivery at some points allows her to cram in even more substance without upsetting the music's kick (and, in fact, the velocity of her words is like another instrument stepping on the gas pedal).   The song touches on: the 'speed' of love, with the possibility of love's transience, and the options of leaving it once it's faded, or continuing to occupy the cooled-down habit.  What do you do once it is gone, do you live in its shell or move on?  Did you ever really know what it was, or just drive through at full speed and say, 'that's it.'  And is there really such a thing as true love, or just an erotic thrill that's like a monster you search for and want to be eaten by?  "I strum a guitar today, maybe tomorrow, too.  Please tell me something that's important, besides playing my guitar skillfully."  Thanks to Yuko Dokawa for translating the lyrics into English for me, and for providing me with a handle for taking this on! 


Band members in a publicity dress-up.

In a second Facebook entry, I posted this, re: another song by Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re:

HUNGRY AND EMPTY.  Another video performance by Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re (see June 20, 2016 post for my first related entry).  I really love the song and the video.  Somehow it reminds me of the silent picture, 'A Trip to the Moon' by Georges Melies (1902), combining an antique, somewhat stark and otherworldly black-and-white backdrop in which flying plates seem like planets, and the girls themselves seem like astronomical phenomena as they play their instruments, with small flashes of color (such as green world-like orbs of cabbage) passing by:  little dots of life standing out in (and at the same time dwarfed by) the engulfing void. 

The video focuses on food... the cabbages, a giant pig, one of the girls sitting on a cake, another sitting, suspended, on a fried shrimp in the emptiness; and the girls stuffing their faces full of food, and numbly chewing.  But here, the food is just a metaphor.  It's really a love song.  The girls are "hungry and empty."  What they really want to be filled by is love.  But all the acts of love, all of the 'feeding' of the heart, whether by doomed romance or just sex, is not getting the job done, they are as lonely as the images of them playing their song in the emptiness of space.  Mari says, "I idly played with your heart, and I am afraid of ending up so sad it could kill me...  I chased your heart desperately; (now) I am afraid that it's over before I could tell you how I felt." 

From the pit of this revelation, she 'can see the moon is dancing' , it reminds her of the beautiful things now beyond her reach that she lost, and of the day when it looked like things might work.  Now, emptiness floods into the place where she is, taking over.  She's hungry and empty.  "I can't be satisfied with meaningless days any longer."  The moon is still shining, she sees it from her heartache.  She can't forget the day they looked at it together (the day her love still had hope).  Now she's the only one standing here, looking; she's hungry and empty.  The music is perfect for the song, somewhat subdued with a steady reined-in beat that embraces the mood; and then Mari's plaintive vocals which rise up with her longing and memories, delivered in a way that stands out but which, at the same time, is also soaked with fragility... 

My novel character, Yuki Onomtasu, would have gone crazy for these two songs, rolling around on rice paper as she sang the lyrics to the first (her inversion of an ancient ninja stealth-technique); probably crying and eating shrimp as she listened to the second.  The most important point is, the music would have propelled her past all obstacles - the more it resonated with her problems, frustrations and sorrows, the more it would have lifted her up, because (1) it's always great to know you're not alone (someone else thinks like you and has the same bruises); and (2) to get the leverage to fly upwards, you have to go down into the depths of honesty.  Avoidance kills growth.  And though it's true that honesty sometimes CAN crush the spirit (too heavy), when honesty is energized with music it comes with its own built-in escape mechanism.  You can experience the misery at the same time that you are launched out of it.  In my novel, when Yuki is not quoting famous haiku poems or composing them on the spot, herself, she is busy singing along to alternative rock/pop tunes blaring out of her headphones.  She most likes those which have eccentric lyrics -  the kind that shock 'normal people.'

And who is this Yuki, who would have loved Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re if they had inhabited her alternative 1980s Universe?

Artist Katalina Gutierrez's wonderful rendition of Yuki.  I could stare at this portrait for hours; it is a masterpiece!

For those who have yet to read my book (several billion of you!):  In an alternate Universe, Yuki Onomatsu started the lifestyle movement known as ganguro, and combined a love of modern 'antisocial' or 'weird' music, characterized by unconventionally honest themes ('politeness-walls knocked down so healing truths can enter'), with a surprising affinity for traditional Japanese culture, especially poetry, Nature, and the warrior-spirit.  In THE MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS novel, Yuki is a beautiful wild teenager who falls in love with Freddy, the star diplomat and political-shaper of the Eccentrics movement which aims to save the world.  Her love of Freddy endangers Freddy's bond with Ellen, who is the daughter of mad scientist Julius Herman Abu, whose extraordinary technology is the only hope of those who treasure freedom and seek a means of defending themselves from the tyrants of the world. But Yuki is more than just a threat to the stability of the Freddy-Ellen relationship on which the fate of the world hinges.  She is also a brilliant shaper of culture, and heroine of justice in her own right.  Her role in energizing Japan to support the Eccentrics' movement is fundamental to the Eccentrics' success, just as her unorthodoxy is a powerful asset to all those who are different in the world, and need a protector.  Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re:  can you please send your songs back to her in a time machine, Yuki wants to hear them!

Ishi-jo, ancient Japanese warrior woman and inspiration of the 'iron flower.'  Yuki could use the sword and the bow, as well as robots and gravity weapons!


A special thanks to TsuShiMaMiRe for the music they give us, which doesn't come out of nothing; it comes out of their flesh-and-blood lives, with all the ups-and-downs and suffering and happiness and searching necessary to produce it...  Thanks, also, to NYC-based translator Yuko Dokawa, whose translations from Japanese to English made these songs comprehensible to me (any mistakes in interpretation are mine).... Not to leave out Katalina Gutierrez, the artist who made the wonderful illustrations for my novel.  (While she continues to draw, paint and illustrate, at this time she is particularly engaged with videography.)

TsuShiMaMiRe is on Facebook, and also has a web site:  They also have lots of material up on YouTube. 

Yuko Dokawa's professional site is:

Katalina Gutierrez's web site is:

And now, to leave off with one final photo of TsuShiMaMiRe!  A fitting end to our article! 

The band in action... careful!  Warning to all spectators:  Mari (right) might ask you to eat her brains, and jump on top of you while playing her guitar!

Back to Top

Blog Launch Page