In 2017, a new shopping complex opened in the heart of Tokyo's upscale Ginza district. Ginza Six boasts of 241 stores, including flagship outlets for some of the world's most renowned luxury brands; 24 restaurants; a 480-seater theater showcasing the traditional Japanese drama called noh; a 4,000 square meter rooftop garden; and modern art installations, all enclosed within a building designed by celebrated architect Yoshio Taniguchi.
Of course I haven't been here. I only know about this because, around the time of the launch of the mall, someone posted about a song that was commissioned to mark its launch.
I still had the music blog at the time, so naturally I kind of obsessed about it. It was kind of an easy sell. Around this time I was also obsessing (again) over Sheena Ringo's "A Long and Short Festival", a song that Monocle 24 used to play with regularity. I did some sort of deep dive on her music as part of the blog's primer on Japanese pop, so I kind of understood her appeal. And then this came along. "The Main Street" is a collaboration with Tortoise Matsumoto, the vocalist of Ulfuls, a band I, of course, had never come across. While I'm not into showtunes, I like myself a lush, bloated production, and this fit the bill, even if all I had to watch was a 90-second promotional clip.
That's precisely why I didn't end up writing about it, at least not in an entry all its own. That's the problem with insisting on titling entries after song lyrics, and then writing about songs sung in Japanese. (Also, I didn't know the song title at the time.) I did mention it on a write-up about Wednesday Campanella, and then, as things tend to go, I forgot about it.
I rediscovered the song some time last year. Sheena Ringo, as it turns out, released a full version of the song, still with Tortoise Matsumoto. It's now over three minutes long, and it's not substantially different from the version used in the Ginza Six ad, except perhaps for the change of key at the end. It's not a, well, ad campaign-y upbeat ending, but rather, a drawn-out, grind-to-an-almost-halt denouement. Still a show-stopper, an indication of her move away from her rock roots and towards soul and jazz.
I played that song on YouTube constantly. I tend to do these with songs. The algorithm will cough it up, then I'll play it, then I'll play it again. Then it'll disappear from my recommends, and I'll forget to seek it out, and then it'll be gone, perhaps for a year or two.
"The Main Street" came up again a week ago. This time, though, it hits differently. It's most certainly the past year, the whole cooped-up thing, the whole wanting-to-escape thing. The lyrics - I have the title, I finally have the lyrics! - talk of finding a place where you can recover from a thankless world.
Sure, it may have been about a mall, but it could just be about anything else. You get that more when you listen to songs you don't understand.
"Claud! Were you the one who introduced me to this song?"
"Parang no? Ay. Yes! Maybe? I love this song!"
It was Claud who posted it all those years ago. She's always been more familiar with Japanese pop, which makes sense because she's immersed in it for longer, and even worked there for a spell. (I think. I could be very wrong on this one, as I always am.) Well, she's always been one of those people I've been in awe of because of how accomplished they are. This is why I feel weird when I'm the one explaining some of the intricacies of Korean pop, and also why I felt weird when I realized she has not seen the longer version of the song, one that was released two years ago, and which has come back to my feeds these past few days.
"2017 pa pala 'to!"
"Yup! Kaya nagulat ako that a new video dropped last year."
Of course I got that wrong.
"Buti ka pa, with memories!"
To me, it's just a song. To her, it's a place. But to me, it's a place, too. Not Japan, nor an idealized Japan, but an idea nonetheless. A place, perhaps a time, when we can explore again. But then, it's impossible now with what's going on. But then, it was impossible then, because not everybody can explore. Our few trips abroad, we barely managed. You need to have money for these things, and not everybody is born with it, alas.
I have daydreamed of going to Tokyo. (Shalla's gone one step further and plotted a trip to the city, by herself, which would have coincided with the week community quarantine was imposed on Manila. She could've gotten stuck in Japan, and that doesn't seem like a bad thing, come to think of it.) I don't think I'll make Ginza Six part of the itinerary, however. Sure, it's a mall designed by a renowned architect, and that is interesting, but it's ultimately a mall populated with luxury stores. It reminds me of someone from high school who went to the then newly-opened Podium and described it as "puro presyong ginto". It'll make me feel weird things and, eventually, uncomfortable, perhaps empty.
In recent months Ginza Six has seen some of its tenants close up shop. The whole place catered to foreign tourists, and, well, there are no foreign tourists. But you can fire up the ad campaign. Maybe you can fire up the teaser of sorts to what should have been the 2020 Summer Olympics, which Sheena Ringo also had a hand at. It's a different world than where you are right now, and anything other than where you are right now is better. Much better.