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Music / Fishmans

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Left to Right: Ken-ichi Motegi, Shinji Sato, Yuzuru Kashiwabara

"Get round in the season."

Fishmans are one of the most beloved bands you've probably never heard of.

Starting off in Tokyo around 1987 as an unremarkable but fun reggae band, Fishmans evolved into an eclectic and ethereal psychedelic pop group by the end of their run, anchored by the otherworldly vocals of frontman Shinji Sato.

While already establishing a small fanbase due to their sound on Neo Yankees' Holiday and thanks to the single "いかれたBaby", the band started to deviate from their signature ska-influenced sound with 1994's Orange. By their next release, the live album Oh! Mountain!, they had doubled down on the weirder, experimental elements of their act. The next two releases redefined Fishmans; both released in the 1996, Kūchū Camp (which contains "Nightcruising", perhaps their signature tune) and Long Season, (a 35 minute progressive dream pop epic) turned the group into left of center icons throughout their home country. Uchū Nippon Setagaya (a reference to Sato's hometown of Setagaya in the Tokyo prefecture) followed the next year, closing out this unnervingly strong streak with their most cohesive, extensive record yet.


It was, sadly, their last studio recording. After long time member Yuzuru Kashiwabara's last live performance with the band, Shinji Sato passed away from a heart attack caused by an unspecified illness, turning what was expected to be a farewell to their bass player into a finale for the entire project. The recording of that last show (98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare) is, without a doubt, their crowning achievement and a bittersweet end to a remarkable career.

Fishmans never achieved any notable mainstream recognition in the west (although 2018 seemed to show signs of this when Spotify put their music for stream), But music dorks on places like RateYourMusic and /mu/ fell in love with their distinctive, unearthly music and championed the band, giving them a smallish but intense cult following in the west. Fans of Sigur Rós and whale noises take note.


Band Members

  • Shinji Sato - vocals/guitar/trumpet (1987 - 1999, died 1999)
  • Kin-ichi Motegi - drums/sampler/backing vocals (1987 - 1999)
  • Yuzuru Kashiwabara - bass (1988 - 1998)
  • Hakase-Sun - keyboards (1990 - 1995)
  • Kesuke Ojima - guitar/backing vocals (1987 - 1994)

Studio Albums

  • 1991 - Chappie, Don't Cry
  • 1992 - King Master George
  • 1993 - Neo Yankees' Holiday
  • 1994 - Orange
  • 1996 - Kūchū Camp note  and Long Season
  • 1997 - Uchū Nippon Setagaya note 

Live Albums

  • 1994 - Oh! Mountain
  • 1998 - 8月の現状 (often called 8 Gatsu no Genjō)
  • 1999 - 98.12.28 男達の別れ (often called 98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare)
  • 2016 - Long Season '96~7 - 96.12.26 Akasaka Blitz note 

Get round in the tropes!

  • Adorkable: All three of them, but especially Kin-ichi and Shinji.
  • Ambient: Dabbled in this around Long Season until the end of their run, which Uchu being all of this.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Averted. The band has reunited at times, but mostly for reunion shows and having a guest member sing Shinji's parts. And even with that, they tend to go with the name "Fishmans + ________".
  • Brown Note: While Fishmans are known to not induce creepy fuel if at all, Part 3 of Long Season does give some off putting feel, in particular with Kin-ichi's drumming and the eerie atmosphere.
    • Surprisingly enough, they invoked this during the bootleg 1997.12.12 Live at Liquid Room performance with the song "土曜日の夜", using a, of all things, an Aphex Twin sample, giving the calm and catchy song a creepy vibe.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Shinji Sato. No explaination why. He came off as very quirky, giddy, and super energetic when performing live. Ironically, he was pretty reserved and private during interviews, if a bit stubborn.
  • Dream Pop: One of their genres anyway, but the closest one you could set them to.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Chappie, Don't Cry and King Master George were typical dub and ska albums, and while Neo Yankees' Holiday ventured into more experimental territory it didn't hint at the direction the band would later take. Depending on who you ask, either Oh! Mountain or Orange was when the band's usual dream pop sound kicked in.
  • End of an Era: 98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare for the band's three-piece era. Due to the fact Kashiwabara wanted to leave the band in 1998 due to feeling he had accomplished everything and didn't want to burn out, the band decided to do a final tour under the name "Otokotachi no Wakare" (translated as "A Men's Farwell") as a way to signal an end of said era and wrapping up the performance at Akasaka Blitz. It ended up becoming something else.
  • Epic Rocking: Their songs tended to go around the six or eight minute mark. Long Season however threw it into the stratosphere by being a 35 minute song. That's not even getting with Uchū Nippon Setagaya having "Walking In the Rhythm" be a 12 minute epic.
    • 98.12.28 did this as Serial Escalation with the live version of Long Season by making it 41 minutes of pure bliss and a fitting Grand Finale for their (accidental) final show.
    • The band's final single "ゆらめき in the Air" was 13 minutes, making it the longest single in their catalog. They made it even longer with the 98.12.28 performance, making it 16 minutes long.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Everyone adores Shinji. Which makes his passing in 1999 heartbreaking.
  • Grand Finale: As stated, 98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare was an accidental one. The performance was intended to be Yuzuru's final show as a bassist, as Shinji and Kin-ichi were planning to continue Fishmans anyway. However with Shinji's death the following year, it eerily became just that: The band's Grand Finale.
  • Image Boards: Where the band's popuarlity came to be. Years after Fishmans broke up, the /mu/ board found out about them and put them within the ranks of greatest bands/releases.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: While the band's line-up broke from a five piece with the release of Orangenote , the popular line-up of Shinji/Kin-ichi/Yuzuru sticked until 98.12.28.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "すばらしくて Nice Choice" from Kuchu Camp is literally about disregarding life and doing drugs, surprising for a Fishmans song with it's peppy beat.
  • Meaningful Name: Long Season. The song prelude to it was the single "Season", which was just a reworking of what would later on be revealed as Long Season, a longer version of the single version.
    • "Otokotachi no Wakare" roughly translates to "A Men's Farewell", which was meant for Kashiwabara, who was leaving the band.
  • Mind Screw: Considering their underground status and the fact they never reached international success except in their home country, good luck figuring out what their lyrics are about. Or buying their CDs.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: While their style can be put within Dream Pop, their true music style is all over the map.
  • New Sound Album: Their career. But again, depending on who you ask: Orange became less ska and more Dream Pop like (and especially with Oh! Mountain).
    • Uchū Nippon Setagaya featured some electronic elements mixed with Dream Pop and ambience.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Parodied with the release of Long Season, as the promo photos for the album had them fishing.
  • Older Than They Look: Yuzuru and Kin-ichi look like they could be in their late 20s, but are actually in their late forties. Shinji was thirty-three before his passing, but yet looked like a young adolescent.
  • Record Producer: ZAK (Kazuyuki Matsumura), who's production helped contribute to the band's sound. Ironically enough, he was the engineer for Neo Yankees' Holiday, where the band's weird elements slowly began to appear.
  • Sixth Ranger:
    • Supporting members Darts Sekiguchi (guitar) and Honzi (keyboardist, violinist, accordion and backing vocalist) were this an vital to the band's sound.
    • As mentioned above in Record Producer, ZAK.
  • Serial Escalation: Their music. Just listen to something off of Chappie, Don't Cry and then their later work like Long Season. The change from usual dub sound to whatever the heck they became is stark.
  • Shrouded in Myth:
    • The band's history is all of this, especially for non-Japanese folks. That's known from this page and from websites like RateYourMusic is heavy digging and inferring. There's even mystique in regards to 98.12.28 mainly due to it's sheer accidental Grand Finale style. Japanese fans have commented however that they were pretty popular in their nation.
    • Shinji's death as well, but it seems to be intentional. Most say his tragic passing was from an unspecified heart condition he dealt with, while some just say he suffered a cold he couldn't recover from to even a car crash. The intentional part comes over the fact Shinji's family never disclosed what his condition was for his privacy sake.
  • Spiritual Successor: Yuzuru's post-Fishmans band Polaris, which continues the same direction Fishmans had during their late 90s era. Invoked afterwards too when Polaris would cover "Season" as a tribute to Fishmans and Shinji in 2016.
  • Tag Line: They had a lot of these apparently, for some reason, examples include:
    • For Orange: "...Yellow, orange, red... The sound of graduation."
    • For Kuchu Camp: "...Something in the Air"
    • For Long Season: "We Are Not Four Seasons."
    • For Uchu Nippon Setagaya: "You're RIGHT, I'm RIGHT too. There's no one LEFT here."
  • Trilogy: Aerial Camp, Long Season, and Uchu Nippon Setagaya are this by the band (and by fans), even called "The Setagaya Trilogy", in reference to the Setagaya prefecture in Tokyo, Shinji's hometown.
  • Title Drop: "Season" obviously, and it even has a title drop in Long Season at the very beginning with Shinji's voice echoing "Season!". Both songs have the title drop of "Get round in the season."
  • Triumphant Reprise: Long Season features a beautiful one near the end when it repeats the same melody from the beginning.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Some of Shinji's lyrics, but most of the time aren't.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: Fishmans invoked this in their music, especially with Long Season.


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