Every generation has its heroes: John Wayne, The Beatles, Steve McQueen, Bruce Springsteen, Doogie Howser. Yet, these days in Japan, you're more likely to see babyfaced idol groups or K-POP superstars burning up pop charts and inspiring young people. But what about the generations before them. Those who oversaw the rise of the Japanese music industry in the first place.

Well, for starters, they are still pumping out genki, high-energy hits. There is the 80-something gyoza cook who is a club DJ by night, the island music of the Okinawan senior group KBG84, and of course, the bigger-than-life stylings of Obachaaan, the Osaka-based grandma idol group.

Older Ladies in Osaka

Kansai region is a fun place to be. Home to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe, no visitor could ask for a more photogenic and scenic destination. Despite boasting numerous World Heritage Sites such as the Golden Pavillion, Himeji Castle, and the Todaiji, the region is similarly well-known for its boisterous, and warm-hearted residents.

While Tokyo residents are often considered cold hearted—no offense—people in Kansai are thought to be friendly and outgoing. With such eccentric personalities, it's no wonder that Osaka and the surrounding areas are famous for stand up comedy groups. While there are many entertaining people throughout Kansai, most peculiar are the Obasan (おばさん), older ladies.

Commonly adorning leopard-print blouses and other loud fashions, Obasan are known for being friendly but outspoken. They are quick to welcome strangers but are shrewd and aggressive shoppers. Yet, don't worry if they should cut you in a grocery store line or swipe the last delicatessen; they are famous for their kindness as well as the old-fashioned sweets they freely dole out.


Obachaaan is a concept group based upon the attitudes and impressions of the older ladies of Osaka. The group released its first single in 2012, and, depending on the circumstance, incorporates from one to forty-seven members. It should be noted, however, that the group’s shenanigans seem to center around seven or eight core members. On cue, they are ready to dish-out sass as well as inspiring affirmations.

According to their website, group members are vulgar and noisy, yet dutiful and humane. They aim to banish sadness and dark times, instead inspiring listeners to be joyful about the lighter side of life. While their fashion sense is abrasive, the group is multi-talented. Their high-energy music videos incorporate rapping, singing, and dancing as well as an eclectic mix of musical stylings.

“Obachan Theme Song”

Like any good concept group, Obachaaans announced themselves loudly in their debut single. Titled "Obachan Theme Song," it is a catchy hip hop track. I think I even notice a tip of the hat to the Beastie Boys.

The video follows Obachaaan through their de facto "headquarters," a Tamade discount supermarket. We also follow them down the quintessential half-empty back-alley shopping arcade. Throughout, their lyrics remind us to be happy and genki. Or else...

Translated lyrics are available on the YouTube page. My favorite passage is:

Ah, yeah.
Of course, we feel down sometimes.
But it is a waste of time.
We are most beautiful when we are smiling.

Thank you for the sound advice, “Oba Oba Oba Obachaaan!”

“Over the Sky”

“Over the Sky” is the sixth hit by the idol group and, let me tell you, it has everything.

The video starts off with a member of Obachaaan confronting a forlorn teen wondering the beach. Paraphrasing, she chides the teen for being down. She reminds her not to get herself down, just relax, take a bath, have some Osaka okonomiyaki. And, of course, put on some Obachaaan music.

Later, while dancing in a convertible, they attract a disgruntled police officer, and, I don’t want to ruin it, but they make Bullitt look tame. I never knew older people had such disdain for the law.


“Put your Oba-hands up!”

This high-tempo track is a bass-beating club hit. Yet, it may not be obvious: the name is a portmanteau of “obasan” and “party.” And it fails to deliver on neither.

Despite the dungeon and fetters, and perhaps forced entry, the lyrics are reflective but uplifting. Obachaaan recognizes that there are hard times, and the world is a complicated and crowded place. Just don’t let it get you down.


Obachaaan’s most recent single is a celebration of their stomping grounds, or a tourism promo video, I’m not entirely sure which. Regardless, while they have incorporated English lyrics before, this is their first single wholly sung in the language. So, without further ado:

“Here is Osaka, wonderful city.” Now with free wi-fi.

The track is pretty funky, and I think they took more than a little inspiration from some of Quentin Tarantino's soundtracks. Nevertheless, the video shows off the fun areas of Dotonbori, while showcasing dance parties in the festive underbelly of Shinsekai.

It exudes joie de vivre. And really makes me want beer and kushi-katsu.

Come on!

By - Luke Mahoney.