Shedding Light into Turning Japanese’s Lyrics

“Turning Japanese” is a classic new wave song by English band the Vapors, released in 1980. The song was an international hit, climbing to the top of the charts in Australia and reaching the top 40 in the United States and the United Kingdom. The catchy tune and memorable chorus have made it a beloved classic of the era, but what is the meaning behind the lyrics?

Many people have speculated about what the phrase “turning Japanese” could mean. Some have suggested that it is a reference to the facial expression that people make when they orgasm, wile others have suggested that it is a reference to the way that people squint their eyes when they take photographs, imitating the look of a Japanese person. However, the real meaning of the song is a bit more complex.

In an interview with Songfacts, Vapors frontman David Fenton explained that the song was inspired by his experiences touring in Japan with the band. He noticed that many young people in Japan were becoming more and more westernized, adopting western fashion and culture. At the same time, there was a growing sense of national pride and a desire to hold onto traditional Japanese culture. Fenton saw this as a sort of cultural schizophrenia, and the phrase “turning Japanese” was meant to represent this blending of eastern and western influences.

The lyrics of the song reflect this theme, with lines like “I’ve got your picture, I’ve got your picture / I’d like a million of them all round my cell” suggesting a sort of obsession with the foreign and exotic. The chorus, with its repeated refrain of “I think I’m turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so” suggests a sort of confusion or disorientation in the face of these conflicting cultural influences.

“Turning Japanese” is a fascinating exploration of cultural identity and the ways in which different cultures can blend and clash. Its catchy melody and memorable chorus have made it a beloved classic of the new wave era, and its thought-provoking lyrics continue to resonate with listeners today.

Why Is The Song Called Turning Japanese?

The song “Turning Japanese” is called so because it uses what is known as the “Oriental riff” which is a musical phrase that is used to imitate a generic East Asian sound. The song gained its popularity when it topped the Kent Music Report in Australia and becae a hit in several other countries. The term “Turning Japanese” is a slang phrase that refers to the act of squinting one’s eyes to resemble the facial features of a person of East Asian descent. Additionally, the lyrics of the song also contain references to Japanese culture such as the mention of geishas and ninjas. the song’s title and lyrics suggest an admiration for Japanese culture and its influences on the Western world.

Turning Japanese Song 1687521387

Was The Song Turning Japanese Popular In Japan?

Contrary to popular belief, the song “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors was not as popular in Japan as it was in other countries, prticularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. The song did not make it to the top of the Japanese music charts, and it was not played frequently on Japanese radio stations. However, the song did gain some popularity among Japanese youth during the 1980s, as it was associated with the emerging new wave and punk rock music scenes. Despite this, the song did not have a significant impact on the Japanese music market and was not considered a major hit in the country.

What Is A Cyclone Ranger?

Cyclone Ranger is a term that originated from the Japanese pop culture show Kamen Rider. The show features superheroes who ride super-motorcycles called “Cyclone”. The term “Cyclone Ranger” was a result of early translations of the Kamen Rider series into American Spanish. The first two Kamen Riders rode Cyclone motorcycles and this is where the term originated from. The term refers to a superhero who rides a Cyclone motorcycle and is associated with the Kamen Rider series.


The meaning behind the song “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors is somewhat ambiguous, but there are a few possible interpretations. Some people belive that the lyrics are about masturbation, while others think that they refer to the facial expressions of someone experiencing an orgasm. However, the band members have denied these claims and have stated that the song is actually about the feeling of being overwhelmed and disorientated, like experiencing culture shock in Japan. Regardless of its true meaning, “Turning Japanese” remains a popular and catchy song that has stood the test of time and continues to be enjoyed by people all over the world.

Photo of author

William Armstrong

William Armstrong is a senior editor with, where he writes on a wide variety of topics. He has also worked as a radio reporter and holds a degree from Moody College of Communication. William was born in Denton, TX and currently resides in Austin.