Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Watermelon, Penguin and Orange Plankton
Orange Plankton... at press conference. (click to enlarge)
At a press conference crowded with reporters and TV cameras, Tokyo pop band Orange Plankton reveals to the world the name of their new single... Well, OK, not quite.
In reality the event in the photo above was held to announce that Ueno station, one of Tokyo’s biggest train stations, had become a Suica-friendly zone. Suica cards are IC cards issued by Japan Railway (JR) to pay for train trips, but now at the Ueno and Tokyo stations, with the card customers in the station can also buy drinks or cigarettes by touching a vending machine with it, or pay for meals, and spend money in other ways as well. "Suica", by the way, I think is an abbreviation of "sui sui", meaning "move quickly", and "card" (and it's also an IC card, thus SuICa -- clever, eh?). So, with a Suica, rather than wasting time lining up to buy tickets you can get on the jam-packed commuter trains right away. But the sound "suika" also means watermelon. And as everything must have mascots in Japan, JR’s Suica’s mascot is a penguin. Weird? Welcome to Japan.
The Suica penguin.
But back to the topic of the press conference – if you look carefully at the picture above, you can see a woman in a bright red coat. That’s singer Yumi of Orange Plankton, and around her are the other members of the band. I don’t know how they arranged this, but one of Orange Plankton’s songs was chosen by JR as a theme song for the Suica Station, to be played on TV monitors in the station. At the start of the ceremony (which featured the actress Hayami Yu and a couple of other celebrities I didn’t recognize), that song was played on a big screen above the stage, though unfortunately I missed the song because I got there a little late. And I forgot to ask which song of theirs was the Suica theme tune.
Colors in a sea of gray and navy.
Orange Plankton has been on a roll recently. A few of their songs were used in a TV commercial for a chain of pachinko pinball centers. Another tune was used to advertise apartments for students. And now this, Suica. If they keep this pace up and become famous nationwide, they might just become a band that does give news conferences...