"Turning Japanese" is a song released by the English band The Vapors from their album New Clear Days, and the song for which they are known best. The song's lyrics consist mainly of the singer talking about pictures of his love. Musically, the song features an Oriental riff played on guitar.

Overview[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Songwriter David Fenton explains: "Turning Japanese is all the clichés about angst and youth and turning into something you didn't expect to."[6]

The band knew they had a success with "Turning Japanese", so much so that they waited until their second single before releasing it, fearing that if they released it as their first they would become "one-hit wonders", but they never matched its success.[7]

The song enjoyed some sales in Japan after its great success in Australia, where it spent 2 weeks at number 1 during June 1980.[8]

"Turning Japanese" was believed to euphemistically refer to masturbation—i.e. the act causing the man to squint and therefore resemble a Japanese's person's eyes[2]or possibly, referencing the British slang word "Jap's eye" (the slit of the penis) and the act of turning referring to the process of masturbation—but the song's author Fenton denied that claim in an interview on VH1. "It could have been (turning) Portuguese, Lebanese, anything that fitted with that phrase. It has nothing to do with the Japanese." "The first time the idea of masturbation came up was when we were touring America. It was written about that 'turning Japanese' was an English phrase for masturbation, which it wasn't."

Guitarist Rob Kemp went on to say, "It's a love song about somebody who had lost their girlfriend and was going slowly crazy, turning Japanese is just all the cliches of our angst... turning into something you never expected to."

Chart performance[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1980) Peak


Australia (Kent Music Report)[8] 1
Canada (RPM 50 Singles)[9] 6
Ireland (IRMA)[10] 4
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[5] 9
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[11] 3
US Billboard Hot 100[12] 36
US BillboardHot Dance Club Play[12] 34
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