If there is a better way to mark the middle of the week than with some Japanese country music I can't think of one. No, don't be like that, it's good stuff, honest.
The first selection is more country-tinged pop than proper country, but it is a catchy little number with a chorus that you don't need to be able to speak Japanese to sing along to. It is from an EP called "Short Piece" released last month by one Kenji Takahashi, about whom I have been able to find out nothing at all - unless he is a former footballer or has a day job as a biochemical engineer.
"Itsudemo Aeru" - Kenji Takahashi
Going a litle further back, Happy End made a couple of excellent West Coast influenced albums at the beginning of the 1970s. They are best known outside Japan for "Kaze Wo Atsumete", which was featured on the soundtrack to "Lost In Translation". This little number is more Nashville than Laurel Canyon and is from their second album, 1971's "Kazemachi Roman".
"Sorairo No Crayon" - Happy End
All very nice. But if you want proper Japanese country music, you have to look to the Daddy of them all, the mighty Hank Sasaki.
"I Am A Japanese Cowboy" - Hank Sasaki
Here's Hank in action in 2008.
Unfortunately I have not been able to establish whether Hank won the Health Spring Silver Stars contest that year, but he was up against some very tough competition.