I was just pulled out of my weekend slumber by the closing story on NPR’s Weekend Edition a profile of a Japanese alternative pop singer called Ayano Tsuji, who specializes in simply presented songs featuring mostly her voice, melodies with an insistent quality, and a ukelele. The segment may have been originally produced for the NPR afternoon magazine The World, which has a more extensive page on a story about the singer by the same producer, Robert Rand. That story aired in November, though, so maybe Mr. Rand is just a fan. It does seem that I’m not alone in my interest in the material.

As I listened to the story, I became more and more interested in the woman’s music, which sounded to me very much like some of my very favorite Dale Lawrence songs, the tunes that Dale was writing just at the end of his time with the Gizmos.Certainly, at least, Tsuji’s aesthetic lines up with the simplicity of some of Dale’s songs from that era.

I am blogging this so that my memory of the songs doesn’t erode away under the winds of sleep, and so that I can unearth Tsuji’s material for a closer look.

Happily at least one song, Neko no Onagaeshi, is available in transliteration. This song appears to have been used in the anime film “The Cat Returns.” Cori Chan also has a few lyrics and a translated song or two. Here are a few more English translations.

Here’s an MP3 of Kaze Ni Naru, which may actually be “Neko no Onagaeshi”. This does apppear to be that song, which is a fully-orchestrated version. It seems that there was also an acoustic-only release which I have yet to dig up. In general, it seems that her older releases featured simpler, sparer arrangements, based on commentary by others out in the intarweb.

The artist’s extensive site at her label, Speedstar Records, includes listenable samples from a recent release, Calendar Calendar, which appears to be a concept album of sorts. Interestingly there is one track (for July, it seems) produced by James Iha, late of Smashing Pumpkins, so perhaps I’m not imagining that Midwestern thing.

The label page also links to the artist’s official site. Kawaii!

Happily, she is appears to be an active blogger, which Google semi-successfully translates.

21 thoughts on “Ayano Tsuji

  1. Dear Mike,
    Thank you for the notes on Ayano Tsuji. I heard the original broadcast on The World and like you awoke to the NPR report on her. Thought it was a repeat at first but realized it was a little different. Back in November I rushed around Los Angeles and finally purchased her “Cover Girl” album. Thanks for posting the MP3 of Kaze ni Naru. Unfortunately ITunes doesn’t seem to carry any of her music so we’ll have to just keep shopping around the Japanese records stores to keep up on her.
    Anyway, thanks for the info on Ayano!

  2. I was quite taken by the little bit of music I heard on the NPR piece the other day (1/21). Do you know the name of the song which closes out the broadcast?

    Secondly, do you have a recomendation for one of her albums? It looks like Amazon only carries her latest (Calendar) which, from the sampling I heard on the Speedstar web site, sounds extremely overproduced when compared to the music highlighted in the NPR story.

    Finally, what’s the best way to go about acquiring Ayano’s music? I found a couple of websites (JPOPHelp.com in Canada and CDJapan.co in Japan) where I could order her CD’s, but I’m worried about how trustworthy these sites might be.

  3. Calendar Calendar, while some may think a bit overproduced, is actually a great album. I found a Japanese site that has the whole thing on mp3’s and downloaded it a couple of days ago. I’ll post a link if anyone wants it.

  4. Thanks for the MP3 link!

    Did a little looking on the cdjapan site; these are sorted by date. Sorry about the formatting!


    Calendar Calendar
    (2005/11/23, 12 tracks) $24.47 (6th album)

    Cover Girl (2004/05/19, 14 tracks, 2CDs) $24.84 (cover album)

    (2003/05/21, 11 tracks) $24.84 (5th album)

    (2002/04/17, 11 tracks) $24.84 (4th album)

    (2001/04/18, 11 tracks) $24.84 (3rd album)

    Haru wa Touki Yume no Hate ni
    (2000/03/15, 10 tracks) $24.84 (2nd album)

    Kimi he no kimochi (1999/09/22, 6 tracks) $15.42 (Debut album)


    Neko no ongaeshi (2002/07/17, 30 tracks) $20.39



  5. I am trying to locate the name of the CD (title) that contains the song that was played at the end of the NPR broadcast on Ayano Tsuji (Sat Jan 21, 2006(. Since I do not know japanese, it is very difficult to figure out the info from the CD titles. Let me know if you have this info ( also the info on where to obtain the CD)

  6. Yeah, I heard the broadcast on my way home from work in San Francisco. This is one of those rare times where I instantly love every bit of a song I hear. How adorable is this sound?

    Looks like some of her music is available on Amazon.

    -Daniel Cook

  7. I’ve been listening to ‘Neko no Ongaeshi’ at least once a day for the past two weeks now…and it hasn’t gotten annoying yet. In fact, I tend to get a goofy grin while listening đŸ™‚

    I really need to buy one of her CDs, but I don’t know which one!

    Ravi, I tried to write down the lyrics I heard in the NPR broadcast there at the end after the commentator stops speaking.

    I’m only just starting to learn the language with help from a Japanese friend…so I may be off in terms of the actual words. Here’s what I’m hearing, in any case(in romaji, or romanised JPNese):

    …mitsumite iru sore wa yoru no hoshii sora ni

    tooku tooku hikatakana kimi no kokoro toke nashi piko ini fuwa fuwa fuwa fuwa mai wo nita yo

    mamo nani wo iranai wasure kakete ita kotoba kono teni

    itsu made mo itsu made mo kimi wo sa na shitteiru

    amo nani mo iranai wasure kakete ita kotoba


    hakeshi naku hagu shimaku kimi wo ai shitteiru

    kimi wo ai shitteiru.

    Hope that helps someone! đŸ˜‰

  8. The acoustic version of 風になる (kaze ni naru) is available on Tsuji Ayano’s album “恋する眼鏡” (sorry, no transliteration). Personally, I find it much more agreeable than the orchestrated version.

  9. Hi,

    It depends how much you want this stuff of course. None of her material is currently released in the US. I wanted it a lot so I ordered 5 albums from cdjapan who delivered in a very efficient and speedy way.
    Most people seem to want to find the acoustic (The Cat Returns movie) version of Kaze ni Naru, it is best found on Koisuru Megane – a “hits” compilation up to 2002. As to her best work – I feel that her song writing is actually improving, with her last two albums containing many of her best songs. I do agree that some songs are over-arranged, a product of a pop music culture where the singer is usually a short lived plug-in looker and the true “star” is the arranger. I have found that even the more heavily arranged songs on Renrenfuka are at least pleasant and the whole album can be listened to without recourse to the skip button. The standouts are 1,4,8 & 9 with track 1 (Sakura no ki no shita de) being her finest song of all imho. CALENDAR CALENDAR has 3 (of its 12 month subtitled) tracks that are a bit busy for my taste – of course they are the domestic singles – but the quality of the other nine songs is so high that it is by far the most enjoyable new album I’ve heard so far this year in any genre. The standouts are February, June, July, October & November. I find it amazing that several of these songs contain the unique freshness and simplicity that one would expect from to see diluted by this stage of her career. But on the contrary, they sound fresher and better than her early work.

  10. Hi Gary:
    Did you find the song that played at the end of the recent NPR broadcast in any of the CDs that you bought. If so, can you let us know the CD title.

  11. Ravi,

    I did not hear the NPR broadcast but went back and found it on the net. They played portions of 5 songs, the first and last are not on any of the five albums that I have (Kimi he no kimochi, Haru wa Touki Yume no Hate ni, Koisuru Megane, Renrenfuka & CALENDAR CALENDAR), I think they must be on either Harumikan or Balanco. I just ordered both of them yesterday from cdjapan. I’ll let you know which one the last song is on on when I’ve listened to them. By the way, you can’t go wrong with any of the five albums that I’ve heard – all have become indispensable to me.

  12. Well, I received Harumikan and Balanco from cdjapan, played them through and that song (the one played first and last in the NPR show) is not on either one. It must be from a single only – I’ve no idea which one and after buying all her albums except Cover Girl (which is all covers) I think I will probably not be buying all her singles on import. Sorry Ravi.

  13. Thanks Gary….. for the update. I will try out some of her singles and see if i luck out finding that song.


  14. In response to Gary (Feb.23rd/March 3) to Ravi’s questions about the singles featured on NPR, I found 2 of these singles on her album Koi Suru Megane, which I just received from CDJapan!!! These songs are fresh, simple, and brilliantly orchestrated… I’m off right now to buy several other of her early CDs, and also Calendar, thanks to comments of other chatroom guests.

  15. Hey guys. I am also a huge fan of Tsuji Ayano chan. I did rememeber hearing both NPR stories on her both last year and earlier this year. I was last in Japan for Christmas and New Year’s with my girlfriend. I was on a mission to find any of her used cds since new cd’s in Japan ( and everything else for that matter) are so extremely expensive. I was able to find only new cds. I would love to see her in concert. My friends in Japan realized how much I enjoy Tsuji chan, and they bought the dvd Neko no Ongaishi for me. Wow, my friends are truly amazing. When I arrived home, one of my girlfriend’s friends has ALL of Tsuji
    Anyano’s music, and he made me a cd. I listen to it everyday, and it is good Japanese listening practice. Next month I will be entering another semester of Japanese, so with the help of my beautiful Japanese queen, we will together try to translate more of her music. Jaa maa ta ne!! (See you later) Jefferson

  16. Nice article there. I’ve also another big fan of Tsuji Ayano…I’ve bought many of her albums including BALANCO, Cover girl,…etc…even though they’re so difficult to get outside of Japan..I’m still trying to buy CALENDAR CALENDAR…its a combination of her “Four Seasons” singles she released last year.


  17. I found you while doing a search for Ayano Tsuji. I enjoyed reading your article and the many other comments, and thank you for the song file!

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