The title of the song is kind of a joke. Many rock bands that are well past their prime continue to be "Big in Japan" long after they cannot draw a large audience in the UK or US. The movie Spinal Tap also made fun of this phenomenon, as the band had a hit single in Japan just as they appeared to be washed up.
Suggestion credit: Eulbie - New York, NY
In a 1998 interview with the German online magazine Re.flexion, Alphaville lead signer Marian Gold explained: "I must admit the only ones who understood the meaning of the song correctly were Bernhard (Lloyd) and our then publisher Andy Budde. Bernhard recognized the quality of the song and Andy the ability of its marketing."
"'Big In Japan' tells about a couple of lovers trying to get off Heroin. They both imagine how great it would be to love without the drug: no steal, no clients, no ice age in the pupil, real emotions, true worlds. Till nowadays Berlin station Zoo is an important meeting place for junkies. That's why this place became a venue of the song."
"In 1977 I was quite regular in a club in Kreuzberg, the SO36. I hoped to meet David Bowie. There was the rumor he would be in Berlin for withdrawal treatment in that period. There was a fellow, who sold stuff of independent bands from US and UK. I bought the album of a British band named Big In Japan. "Big in Japan" meant so much as if you are nothing in your environs, you can be big somewhere else. You can be a king in another world. And if you aren't that, you can tell it at home. Japan is so far away. Anyway that statement fit perfectly to the story of the couple of lovers. So I used it for the refrain of the song."
"It was strange: as we released the song later, Frankie Goes To Hollywood was the #1 in the charts with "Relax" and we needed some weeks to edge them out. And Holly Johnson, the singer of the band, was the singer of this band "Big in Japan," who I stole the line some years ago, before he came to Frankie Goes To Hollywood."
Agnes from NetherlandsI heard this song sung by Ane Brun in Tokyo fiancee, a film.
Jan from Redhill, United KingdomPS, from Jan in UK, someone asked which film Big in Japan featured in, can't find that either, but Forever Young featured in a 1989 film 'Listen to me' according to Wikipedia. Forever Young has also just been re-released as a rap version, what a shame.... how to spoil a great song.
Jan from Redhill, United KingdomB, Brooklyn, NY writes he thought he'd heard this song way before 1984. I lived in Switzerland in the 1980's and Alphaville were very popular there. The song was in the charts for weeks, big dance song at the discos! I'm also fairly sure it was released before 1984 and I have it on a tape which I'm also thinking was made before '84. Another point, Frankie goes to Hollywood released Relax in Oct '83, Marian Gold mention this in the above copy of his interview, stating they needed some weeks to 'edge them out' of the charts. I remember being in Paris in the January of '84 though, and that was the first time I heard 'Relax', so, all a bit confusing!! Marian Gold is on Facebook though, perhaps someone should ask him personally?!!!
Aaron from Phoenix, AzCan ANYONE PLEASE tell me what movie "Big in Japan" awas featured in? I am thinking it was during some sort of montage in an 80's flick. I have been researching for weeks and cannot find the answer. You can consider yourself the King/Queen if you know this.
Berg from Lyon, FranceGold (the name itself is AbFab) might not be gay, or he might be. Having been married once or even several times is hardly a proof of sexual orientation. The song itself might not be a "gay" song (I have trouble imagining what a gay song is) but it certainly implied gay prostitution when Gold wrote it. The Zoo station was famous for both drugs and prostitution. Male junkies would often turn into sex workers in order to keep up their addiction. "Pay and I'll sleep by your side" obviously refers to prostitution. Junkies go to great lengths to make money to buy drugs. Sex is an easy way of making money and the song implies it.
Kate from London, United KingdomI'm sorry to disappoint those who think that Gold is gay and that Big in Japan is a gay song. Marian Gold - who wrote the lyrics - isn't gay or bissexual, he never was. Acctualy he was "married" 3 or 4 times, all straight marriages. He's a straight guy (with or without make-up). He lived 4 years with Ariane (1980-1984), then he got married with Manuela, an italian girl. After Manuela he has an affair with Gabi Becker, AV's backing vocal, and he had a daugther with her in 1998. Now he's living with a swedish girl in Berlin. "My man" is the english slang for "my drug dealer", there's nothing gay about that. I know that Marian used to have that androgynous style but believe me, he's totally straight.
Steve from Plymouth,Don-why can't his "man" be a gay heroin dealer? Big In Japan is obviously referring to someone delusional about their double life. That could be referring to a closeted gay man.
Could just as easily be referring to addict. Addicts have been known to sell their bodies. That would explain the line "Pay, then I sleep by your side".
Reza from Shiraz, Iranit was a big hit in my country in the 80"s (in iran) everybody was murmuring it on those days without knowing the meaning.great music great voice but of course not a very successful band
Cristian from Santiago, ChileThis song was recorded by SANDRA (Michael Cretu's Wife) on 1984 too. Was called "Japan Ist Weit" and it was her first solo single after left ARABESQUE (her first group). Take a look...
Flavio from Sao Paulo, BrazilWell before late than never... Maybe this letter can have some kind of subliminar message, I mean if we consider the fact of the members that band they are Germans... Well dispite the all things allredy read can be a Neo Nazi propaganda... But still beautyfull
Don from Huntingotn Beach, CaI was heavy into the Southern California Gay Club Scene in the 80's and we knew immediately that "big in Japan" meant gay. We were already using that expression for more than a year before the song came out.
Clearly "I will wait here for my man" does NOT refer to his drug dealer.
Carlos from Lima, PeruBig In Japan is a marvelous song, so is Sounds Like a melody, but we can't deny that this band was never that successful as others belonging to that music era. Anyway, nice melodies, perhaps we could include here "Forever Young", but it has nothing to do witht the previous ones mentioned.
Matic from Ljubljana, EuropeBig in Japan was released in January 1984. See: http://www.alphaville.de/disco/singles.htm
But my favorite Alphaville song is "Sounds like a melody", especially second part. :) Hope that there will be soon songfacts for this song.
B from Brooklyn, NyI have been searching the web and I keep finding different release dates for this song. But when I stopped to think, I realized that everyone has it wrong, including, sorry to say, Song Facts. I (still) have a tape that an old friend made for me back around 1982/83 just before we lost contact with each other and on this tape happens to be BIG IN JAPAN. I believe it's by Alphaville because I've seen the video and it's the same arranngment and the same voice. My problem with this whole thing is that everything I've seen on the web regarding Alphaville shows nothing before 1984. ???(picture me lifting my shoulders [and my eyebrows] in an I-don't-know-do you kind o' way.)