探探探査: Ex-ex-exploration! The making of the ISAS rock group music video


At the start of 2021, Murakami Go was ready for a new challenge. As Project Scientist of Japan’s Mio orbiter that is currently travelling to Mercury as part of the joint BepiColombo mission with ESA, Murakami’s day was not lacking in important tasks. But the project he had planned for the next two months was a little different.

Assistant Professor MURAKAMI Go

“I was asked to host the Open Campus event this year,” explained Murakami. “It was to be a big job, as this year we had to go virtual.”

While the Communication Hall of Space Science and Exploration is open most of the year[*], the annual open days on the ISAS JAXA Sagamihara campus are when the doors to the laboratories swing open and all our researchers have the opportunity to show their work to visitors. In normal years, the event welcomes around 13,000 people over two days and was not something anyone wanted to miss. But with the COVID-19 pandemic presenting a serious risk in large crowds, the event had to go online.

In addition to introducing the talks by different mission teams and the live tours of the institute via webcam, Murakami was given an hour slot to fill with an imaginative idea. Inspired by the parody songs performed by both NASA and ESA, Murakami proposed that ISAS formed JAXA’s first cover band.

Doctoral candidate, KUBO Yuki

“We decided to make a parody version of the song 前前前世 (zen-zen-zense) to make everyone feel part of ISAS ,” Murakami said. “We called it 探探探査 (tan-tan-tansa)!”

前前前世 by the Japanese rock band RADWIMPS is a song famous both in Japan and overseas as the soundtrack to the animated movie “Your Name” (君の名は). While 前前前世 translates as “past-past-past-life”, the title given to the ISAS parody version is based on 探査 (tansa) meaning “exploration”. So 探探探査 could be translated as “ex-ex-exploration”!

“The song is well known around the world,” noted Murakami. “And of course, we all love it!”

Assistant Professor OZAKI Naoya

About ten ISAS researchers joined Murakami to bring the project to life, with himself, Kubo Yuki and Ozaki Naoya (both from the Department of Spacecraft Engineering) taking the role of RADWIMP’s two guitarists, bassist and vocalist. Many other members of ISAS can also be seen as guest stars in the video, including Hayabusa2 Project Manager, Tsuda Yuichi.

Aside from the title, the newly formed ISAS rock group did not change any of the song lyrics, but used the many space-related themes already present to highlight missions at ISAS. Each scene in the final video is either an imitation of the same scene in the RADWIMPS music video or that in the anime “Your Name”, interwoven with clips from ISAS related to the lyrics.

Antenna on the ISAS main building connecting to Reimei.

The video opens with sunset over the roof of the main building on the ISAS JAXA Sagamihara campus and changing traffic lights at the intersection just outside the main entrance. Both scenes are imitations of the start of the song in “Your Name”. On the building roof you can see an antenna turning as it connects with our small scientific satellite, Reimei.

The song then begins with a parody of the three musicians of RADWIMPS, who perform the music video standing in a field. Murakami, Kubo and Ozaki are seen on the grass on the Sagamihara campus as they kick-off the performance.

“Naoya and Yuki can actually play the guitar,” admitted Murakami. “I could only play the air base!”

Even for Kubo, the group’s lead vocalist, starring in the video meant he had to polish skills he had not needed for many years.

Traffic lights outside ISAS.

“It was super challenging,” Kubo laughed. “I played guitar and sung in a band at my high school, but nothing since then!”

Our first space theme in the song appears with the line:

even so, I flew here as fast as I could-

Launch of the Epsilon launch vehicle.

and we briefly leave behind Murakami, Kubo and Ozaki to see a video clip of the first launch of the JAXA Epsilon Launch Vehicle; a rocket that uses solid propellent for efficient and lower cost launches. This first launch carried the Hisaki ultraviolet space telescope into orbit in 2013. Hisaki remotely observes the atmospheres of planets in our Solar System, such as Venus, Mars and Jupiter.

Just the sight of your hair, your eyes… makes my chest hurt

At the word “eyes” (瞳 : Hitomi), we transition smoothly to an animation of the Hitomi X-ray space telescope being deployed in space in 2016. Hitomi unfortunately had a short life, but its successor, the XRISM X-ray space telescope, is due to launch later this fiscal year.

The Hitomi X-ray space telescope.

はるか昔から知る” その声に “生まれて初めて何を言えばいい?”
To that voice I’ve known since so long ago, what should I say as my first words?

Construction of the Mio Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter for BepiColombo.

This line is reminiscent of the long path to launch the BepiColombo mission to Mercury, and we see a flash of a document from the mission’s first working group dated November 2001. Scenes speed towards the present day, with the construction of Japan’s Mio orbiter, which forms half BepiColombo together with the orbiter from ESA. As the song floods towards the chorus, we see the triumphant launch of the mission in 2018 as it begins its seven year journey to our innermost planet.

After BepiColombo, it is time to rewind back to the very beginning of everything with the lyrics:

Or maybe I should start the whole universe again from zero?

The image is that of a future mission, LiteBIRD, which will search for primordial gravitational waves emitted during the first instant after the beginning of the Universe.

From Universe creation to human exploration, our next scene is a parody of the RADWIMPS music video where a samurai slow-walks through bamboo. In the ISAS version, the slow walk is replicated by Kubo in an inflatable space suit costume walking beside the lunar surface simulator at ISAS. This large space is filled with a sand that replicates the top layer of the Moon or other celestial bodies, while controlled lighting can imitate sunlight on different planets. It is a top location to test new rover designs.

“It’s one of the greatest views at ISAS!” Murakami said, enthusiastically. “And I got the suit in an offer from Nissin “UFO” cup yakisoba!”

Which demonstrates that you never know when an item may be useful when you are a space scientist.

LiteBIRD will search for the signatures of primordial gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background.

As the song declares:

All-sky survey by Akari.

何億 何光年分”の物語を語りにきたんだよ
I’ve come to tell you a tale that spans hundreds of millions of light years

we shoot away from the Earth and fade into the all sky survey performed by ISAS’s Infrared Imaging Surveyor, Akari, as the lyrics proclaim:

けどいざその姿 この目に映すと
The second you form is reflected in these eyes

Akari was a 68.5cm space telescope that was cooled down to just 6K (-267°C) in order to view the sky in infrared wavelengths. Its mission was to explore the formation of galaxies, stars and planetary systems. The satellite was launched in 2006 and completed operations in November, 2011.

Parodying the writing on the hands in “Your Name”, we see the names of all the currently operating ISAS spacecraft; Hisaki, Arase, Reimei, Hayabusa2, IKAROS, Akatsuki, GEOTAIL, Hinode and Mio, with the final hand saying “I like”!

Playing the Ariane 5, HII-A and Epsilon.

When we switch back to our three guitarists, their instruments have been replaced with cutouts of rockets! Murakami is now playing the ESA Ariane 5 that launched BepiColombo, Kubo is on JAXA’s HII-A rocket that launched missions such as Hayabusa2, while Ozaki is strumming on the Epsilon. Then we see the trio in front of the vacuum chamber that was used to calibrate the ultraviolet detector for Hisaki and will be used again for UVSPEX, an exoplanet transit detector that will fly on the Russia-led WSO-UV observatory. Appropriately, both the group’s attire and instruments have been exchanged to suit the situation.

革命前夜の僕らを 誰が止めるというんだろう
On the night before our revolution, who could possibly stop us?

In front of the vacuum chamber.

“This is when we see a meeting of the ‘young gang-stars’”, says Murakami. “I love this scene because it shows our spirt and how we will bring a revolution to ISAS!”

The researchers are seen both in person and then remote, as precautions against virus spread changed the working habits at the institute. It was a situation that also affected many plans for the production.

ISAS gang-stars!

“The announcement of the state of emergency in Japan meant that we needed to change our plans and prepare many sections via Zoom,” described Murakami. “Our instrument recordings were all done at home, with only the vocal and chorus recorded at a studio.”

During the video, we see screen captures of the group practicing, balancing their instruments beside their computers (and sometimes, small children)! The final sound was edited by Kubo and Ozaki, while Murakami edited the video.

“I had to listen to my croaky voice for hours and hours!” said Kubo. “Fortunately, Naoya isn’t just a wizard of astrodynamics, he’s a wizard with music and helped me a great deal.”

Band practice during the pandemic.

Just past of the 3 minute mark, the ISAS rock group imitate the hand clapping “WOW” (remotely) seen in the RADWIMPS music video. To this background cheer, three mission success are shown: the insertion of the Akatsuki climate orbiter into orbit around Venus, the Hayabusa2 control room after the second touchdown on asteroid Ryugu, and the successful test of the lock-release mechanism on Mio after launch, which will enable the orbiter to extend its mast and antenna at Mercury.

As the song now draws to a close, we hear the lyrics:

The Hayabusa2 capsule and parachute in the Australian desert.

Even if you were to lose everything and be scattered to the winds

And we see the return of a wounded Hayabusa spacecraft burning up in the atmosphere in a shower of stars after it successfully returns the first asteroid sample to Earth. This is followed by the sample capsule from Hayabusa2 as it shoots down towards the Australian desert, as the song proclaims:

I’ll never lose my way again – I’d just start searching again from step 1

The parting scene is three toy astronauts standing on the simulated lunar surface, mimicking the end shot in the RADWIMPS video.

In front of the Hayabusa2 model in the Communication Hall of Space Science and Exploration.

“I bought these astronauts in the ISAS COOP store!” Murakami said, resourcefully.

So what’s next for our ISAS rock group?

“I think the best way to be great at your job is to also have fun!” Kubo noted. “I hope humorous projects like a 探探探査 will accurate our space exploration.”

“This project is just the first step,” agreed Murakami. “Stay tuned!”

English lyrics translation of Zenzenzense from [here].

[*] To reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, the Communication Hall may require a reservation for visits. Please check the website for updates.

Translation of 前前前世 credit screen:

出演 Cast

Vocal & Guitar: 久保勇貴 KUBO Yuki
Guitar: 尾崎直哉 OZAKI Naoya
Air Bass: 村上豪 MURAKAMI Go

Remote wow:
平田大 HIRATA Masaru、石城陽太 ISHIGAKI Youta、
菅原春菜 SUGAHARA Haruna、平田佳織 HIRATA Kaori、
備後博生 BINGO Hiroki、与賀田佳澄 YOGATA Kasumi、
小田切公秀 ODAGIRI Kimihide、中島晋太郎 NAKAJIMA Shintaro、
武井悠人 TAKEI Yuto、松田翔也 MATSUDA Shoya

特別出演 Special Appearance: 津田雄一 TSUDA Yuichi

演奏(音源収録)Music Recorded by

Vocal & Guitar: 久保勇貴 KUBO Yuki
Guitar: 尾崎直哉 OZAKI Naoya
Bass: 石城陽太 ISHIGAKI Yota
Drums & Chorus (backing vocal): 平田大 HIRATA Masaru
Chorus (backing vocal): 村上豪 MURAKAMI Go

企画 Producers

久保勇貴 KUBO Yuki, 村上豪 MURAKAMI Go,
梶谷伊織 KAJITANI Iori (Tokyo HR Dept.),
兵頭龍樹 HYODO Ryuki

撮影 Photography

松田昇也 MATSUDA Shoya

監督 Director


協力 Filmed with the cooperation of:

撮影協力 Special thanks to:
片山保宏 KATAYAMA Yasuhiro, 山崎敦 YAMAZAKI Atsushi,
大野木瞭太 OHNOGI Ryohta

小道具 Props: 
山下美和子 YAMASHITA Miwako, 篠原育 SHINOHARA Iku,
三谷烈史 MITANI Takefumi, 岩下早苗 IWASHITA Sanae,
かと。のこ♪ Kato. Noko

衣装 Costume Support:
藤井淳 FUJII Atsushi, 高島健 TAKASHIMA Takeshi,
村上葉月 MURAKAMI Hazuki

画像提供 Images credit:
JAXA, NASA, ESA/M.Pedoussaut/S. Corvaja, ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE/Opbique Video du CSG/JM Guillon