Tsunku: The man that put the ‘rhythm’ in Rhythm Tengoku

[Editor’s note: VGMari gives us a indepth look at Tsunku, the man responsible for the Rhythm Tengoku series. — CTZ]

Rhythm Tengoku has to be one of the most creative and fun games ever made for the GBA. Even after I swore off all my old GBA games after I got my shiny new DS, I still played through the first Rhythm Tengoku. I thoroughly enjoyed it and ached for more Tsunku goodness. I know I’m a little “late” to be writing about this game since it’s been out for a few years and the new DS game, Rhythm Tengoku Gold has been out for six months, but I noticed there was a serious lack of Rhythm Tengoku blogs here.

I must fix that.

This blog is a musical journey through time and space. Okay, not really. It’s just a musical journey through Tsunku’s career. Tsunku co-produced Rhythm Tengoku and wrote most of the songs for the games. He’s worshiped in Japan for being THE Original Idol Master and I think the best way to show how and why is to showcase his music. 

Tsunku’s Beginning: Sharan Q

Let’s start with some history. Tsunku, real name Mitsuo Terada, was born on October 29, 1968 in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. Way back in the day, 1988 to be exact, Tsunku and band mates Makoto, Hatake, and Taisei formed a group named Sharan Q. Their 1992 debut album “18kagetsu” didn’t even break the Oricon charts (Japan’s version of the Billboard charts). However, with their flambouyant leader and vocalist, Tsunku, they kept on truckin’ till they finally got it big in 1994 when their song “Single Bed” was used as the ending theme to the anime DNA^2. That single broke into the Oricon Top 10 and sold over a million copies.

Single Bed

Following their success with “Single Bed”, they released their second chart-topping single “Zurui Onna” and that not only topped the charts at #2, it’s the 84th best-selling single in Japan of all-time. They finally hit number one with the single “Namida no Kage” in 1996. With a total of 18 singles reaching the Oricon Top 50 and 12 to reach the Top 10, Sharan Q decided to call it quits in 2000 and their final single (my personal favorite) “Shin Ramen Daisuki Koike-san no Uta” reached number 23.

Shin Ramen Daisuki Koike-san no Uta

Koike-saaan… Koike-saaan… SUKI SUKI!

Before Sharan Q decided to disband, they held a 1997 audition for a new vocalist. The audition yielded the fresh faced Michiyo Heike and five runner-ups: Yuko Nakazawa, Natsumi Abe, Kaori Iida, Asuka Fukuda, and Aya Ishiguro. Eventually Tsunku stayed with Sharan Q until 2000 and turned Michiyo into a solo artist and the first ever member of Hello! Project. She wasn’t very widely recieved, so Tsunku turned his attention onto the five runner-ups. He challenged the girls to sell 50,000 copies of their demo single, “Ai no Tane,” within five days. They reached their goal in only four days and this began Tsunku’s quest to form Japan’s most popular girl group Morning Musume.

Ai no Tane

Hello! Project and Morning Musume: Tsunku’s Brand of Girl Pop

So starts Tsunku’s foray into producing girl pop with Michiyo Heike and the runner-ups. With them he starts Hello! Project, an umbrella name for all female idol acts that are contracted by Up Front Agency. He writes and produces the majority of all Hello! Project music. The “mothership” of Hello! Project is Morning Musume.

Morning Musume: An Era of Idols

Morning Musume history is so extensive, I’d need a whole separate blog post for it, so here’s the Cliff Notes version:


-Morning Musume releases their first official single called “Morning Coffee”
-New members are introduced to the group, thus beginning Morning Musume’s “Revolving Door” style of members (Second generation’s Mari Yaguchi, Sayaka Ichii, Kei Yasuda.

Morning Coffee


-Third Generation member Maki Goto is introduced to the group
-Aya Ishiguro “graduates” from Morning Musume
-The group’s seventh single “Love Machine” sold well over a million copies and is their highest selling single to date.

Love Machine


-Fourth Generation members Rika Ishikawa, Hitomi Yoshizawa, Nozomi Tsuji, and Ai Kago were added to the roster.
-Sayaka Ichii “graduates” from Morning Musume
-Their ninth single “Happy Summer Wedding” reaches number one and sells almost a million copies.

Happy Summer Wedding


-Yuko Nakazawa “graduates” from Morning Musume
-Morning Musume releases more number one singles “The Peace!” and “Mr. Moonlight ~ Ai no Big Band ~”
-Fifth Gen members Ai Takahashi, Asami Konno, Makoto Ogawa, and Risa Niigaki are added to the roster.

The Peace!


-Morning Musume releases yet another number one single “Souda! We’re Alive!”
-Maki Goto “graduates” from Morning Musume

Souda! We’re Alive


-“As for One Day” reaches the number one spot
-Sixth Gen girls Miki Fujimoto, Eri Kamei, Sayumi Michishige, and Reina Tanaka are added to the roster.
-Kei Yasuda “graduates” from Morning Musume

As For One Day


-Natsumi Abe, Nozomi Tsuji and Ai Kago “graduate” from Morning Musume
-Tsunku held auditions for “Lucky 7” girls, but after a shit load of fuss and anticipation… he chose NO ONE.
-“Roman ~My Dear Boy~,” “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari,” and “Namida ga Tomaranai Hookago” are released.

Roman ~My Dear Boy~


-Rika Ishigawa and Kaori Iida “graduate” from Morning Musume
-Mari Yaguchi is caught by the tabloid zine “Friday!” on a date with Oguri Shun (a Japanese pin-up boy actor known for roles in “Hanazakari no Kimitachi he”, “Stand Up!” and “Binbo Danshi”) and resigns from Morning Musume due to the scandal.
-Tsunku, once again. launches auditions for Seventh Gen members and adds Koharu Kusumi to the roster.
-“Iroppoi Jirettai” is their most popular single of the year

Iroppoi Jirettai


-Morning Musume wins Kanagawa Image Up Award for their work on anti-pollution campaigns
-Asami Konno and Makoto Ogawa “graduate” from Morning Musume
-Eighth Gen Aika Mitsui is added to the roster
-“Aruiteru” is released and becomes Morning Musume’s first number one single in two years



-Tsunku surprises everyone (as usual) and decided to add TWO more members to the Eight Generation. Even more surprising, they weren’t of Japanese descent. Introducing Li Chun and Qian Lin from China to the roster.
-Hitomi Yoshizawa “graduates” from Morning Musume
-Their single “Kanashimi Twilight” was so successful that it earned Morning Musume the Best Single Selling Female Group in Japan title.
-Miki Fujimoto, much like Mari Yaguchi, resigns from Morning Musume due to being caught by Friday with a comedian named Tomoharu Shoji.

Kanashimi Twilight


-“Pepper Keibu” goes to number three on the Oricon charts and is a cover of Pink Lady’s debut single originally released in 1976.

Pepper Keibu

Tsunku’s Solo Works

Even while the ever-busy Tsunku was writing and producing for all the acts in Hello! Project, he managed to come out with a few solo albums. The first of his solo albums is called “A Hard Day’s Night” and just as you would expect, it’s a Beatles cover album. Released on December 16th, 2000, all the songs are sung in Engl(r)ish and are very true to the original tracks … With the exception of Tsunku’s incredibly thick Japanese accent.


Four years after The Beatles’ cover album, Tsunku releases “Take 1” in 2004 followed by “Type 2” in 2005 and “V3 ~Seishun Cover~” in 2006. Below is a sample track from “V3 ~Seishun Cover~.”

Twilight Avenue

Sharan Q: A Come Back

In 2006, Sharan Q released a new single. It’s actually one of Morning Musume’s singles that Tsunku decided he wanted to re-record with his old band. Sharan Q’s version of “Aruiteru” is released two weeks after Morning Musume’s release of their single.


Tsunku ventures into videogames: Rhythm Tengoku

Tsunku came up with the concept of Rhythm Tengoku for the GBA along with Nintendo’s Yoshio Sakamoto (most notable works include the WarioWare series and Metroid Prime). Together with Sakamoto and the WarioWare development team, Rhythm Tengoku was born. Combining the quirkiness of the WarioWare series and the quirkiness of Tsunku’s pop music, it feels as though it was a match-made in Tengoku… er, Heaven.

Rhythm Tengoku is a game of mini-games, much like the WarioWare series. The game is divided into stages and in each stage there are six levels. Each level is it’s own mini game in which you must perform actions in sync with the background music. At the end of each stage, you’re faced with a remix track that incorporates the previous five mini games.

Rhythm Tengoku “Space Dance”

Rhythm Tengoku Remix 3

On July 31, 2008 Rhythm Tengoku Gold was released in Japan for the Nintendo DS. Just like it’s GBA predecessor, it was co-developed by Tsunku and the WarioWare team. Although the concept of the game is still the same as the first, it’s game play is different due to their use of the DS touch screen. Instead of pressing the A and B buttons, you tap, flick, slide or hold the stylus depending on which stage you’re playing.

Rhythm Tengoku Gold CM Collection

Rhythm Tengoku Gold Frog Dance

Rhythm Tengoku Gold Karate

Tsunku is considered to be one of Japan’s most prolific producers and song writers– and rightly so with as many number one hits as Tsunku has written. Still topping the charts with his song writing, there’s no stopping Tsunku on his mission to make music that makes people happy, so don’t forget to buy Rhythm Tengoku Gold when it’s localized and tap, slide and flick your heart out!

In conclusion, I leave you all my rappin’ hos.

Rhythm Tengoku “Rap Women”

Mari Monzo