The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Today we’re looking at Miki Matsubara and her debut 1979 Japanese City Pop song Mayonaka No Doa 真夜中のドア – Stay With Me. We have an English translation of the song and performance sung by Cake Sullivan, and then we’ll jump into the background. I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020

Japanese Reading Difficulty

4/12 Could be read by 4th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Love, City Pop

Text Type

Song Lyrics

Japanese Lyrics

To you, yes my love to you



私は私 貴方は貴方と

昨夜言ってた そんな気もするわ

グレイのジャケットに

見覚えがある コーヒーのしみ

相変らずなのね

ショーウィンドウに 二人映れば

 

Stay with me…

真夜中のドアをたたき

帰らないでと泣いた

あの季節が 今 目の前

Stay with me…

口ぐせを言いながら

二人の瞬間を抱いて

まだ忘れず 大事にしていた

 

恋と愛とは 違うものだよと

昨夜言われた そんな気もするわ

二度目の冬が来て

離れていった貴方の心

ふり返ればいつも

そこに 貴方を感じていたの

 

Stay with me…

真夜中のドアをたたき

心に穴があいた

あの季節が 今 目の前

Stay with me…

淋しさまぎらわして

置いたレコードの針

同じメロディ 繰り返していた…

 

Stay with me…

真夜中のドアをたたき

帰らないでと泣いた

あの季節が 今 目の前

Stay with me…

口ぐせを言いながら

二人の瞬間を抱いて

まだ忘れず 暖めてた

 

Stay with me…

真夜中のドアをたたき

帰らないでと泣いた

あの季節が 今 目の前

Stay with me…

口ぐせを言いながら

二人の瞬間を抱いて

まだ忘れず 暖めてた

 

Stay with me…

真夜中のドアをたたき

帰らないでと泣いた

あの季節が 今 目の前

Stay with me…

English Translation

My love, I send to you my love

Send to you my love

 

I am me and you are you

Last night I heard you talking

I swear it’s true

I saw on your grey jacket

A coffee stain that I’m sure I’d seen before

I thought, isn’t that just like you dear?

 reflecting in the shop window, right there I saw

 

Stay with me

Till the dark night turns into morning light

I was knocking on your door and crying with the seasons changing

Right before my eyes

Stay by my side

Stay with me

These words, how many times must I repeat?

I remember way back when how you would treat

Treat me so sweet

 

Love and affection

Are not the same thing

Last night I think

That’s what you said to me

And when the 2nd winter came

Seemed like our love just blew away

It’s only now I look back that I see

I always knew when you were right there with me

Stay with me

Till the dark night turns into morning light

I need something to help me fill this hole inside

And the seasons they change

Right before your eyes

Stay with me

Take my mind off how I get so damn lonely

Put the needle on that record

Play that melody

Over and over

And over on repeat

Why Did Miki Matsubara’s Stay With Me Blow Up In 2020?

The internet has a strange habit of regurgitating cultural artifacts up from the bubbling & voluminous ooze of human history. In this way, curios that have been previously looked over, passed on, loved in parallel worlds or inhabited worlds partially loved, somehow find new life. Matsubara Miki’s Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me, meaning “Midnight Door, is one such piece of shimmering flotsam to have surfaced on the digital tide.

The song started doing the rounds on Tic Toc in the dying months of the annus mirabilis of 2020. In an unprecedented year, it was an unexpected cover of the song by Indonesian-Muslim artist Rainych that set the spark of the viral fire that spread to social media, by uploading a cover of the song to Youtube on the 29th of October 2020. 

Flawlessly sung in Japanese by an Indonesian with almost no ability to speak a word of Japanese, the song perhaps represents a new watermark in the globalization of culture.

But who can really say why these things take off? I like to see it as an act of nature, or divinity, or divine nature, like a cyclone or an earth tremor, or a large wave. Perhaps it was the infamous hand of god, guided by the then only recently deceased maradona.

The internet is a surging ocean.

Whatever the providence, some of the appeal must have come from the cheesy, yet undeniably soaring, melody, performance and arrangement. Mayonaka occupies a late 70s, early 80s style jazz fusion, America-meets-rising-sun world, with a combo locking into a funky groove, in consummate session muso fashion. It’s got layers of muted horns, shimmering keys and extended harmony inflected strings. 

It also has a perfectly twinkling  Matsubara eye film clip if you watch one of the most prominent selections doing the rounds on Tik Tok. 

Hey, it was the year of the plague, so you can forgive the greater online diaspora for frothing for a little razzle dazzle.

Miki Matsubara & The Rise of Japanese City Pop

Of course, the song is placed in a larger wave of ironic nostalgia that has been rippling across the globe ever since Japanese and Western DJ’s started spinning the so called – Rare Grooves in the 90s. This was the music of the late economic bubble era 80’s Japan, one part of what had, rather uninspiringly been given the moniker of “New music”. Loosely tied up into an amorphous subgenre mirror ball called “City Pop”, people started seeking out this music deeply influenced by American AOR, Adult and Album Orientated Rock, depending on who you believe, which favored sophisticated, jazz and funk inflected grooves with a smooth, upbeat vibe. This music formed a soft rebellion against the more heart on your sleeve, socio-political movement-orientated folk and raucous rock that had taken hold in the mid 60s. The new music was all about personal fortune and misfortune, the world be damned. Musicians, such as Haromi Hosono and his band Happy End, who I looked at in my last Songs In Translation Video, and, even more characteristically, Sugar Babe, symbolised the start of the change in Japan.

By the time Miki Matsubara released the song in 1979, aged 19 and a year out of high school, the City Pop genre was just starting to launch into full flight.

Who Wrote Miki Matsubara’s Mayonaka 真夜中のドア No Doa Stay With Me?

The music and words to the Mayonaka No Doa Stay With Me were written by two jobbing hit makers Tokuko Miura and Tetsuji Hayashi, both of whom have enough song writing credits listed on their wikipedia pages to give you Carpal Tunnel just trying to scroll through them. Tokuko is perhaps best known as the behind the scenes wordsmith to pen many of Pop megastar Seiko Matsuda’s early hits. Mayonaka no Doa was the only song she worked with Matsubara on.

 

Many of the people Matsubara worked with describe her as being something special. Indeed,she was one of those people that was good at everything. At school, she was a top student, did well at sport, had a charismatic personality that everyone was drawn to. Everyone expected her to go on to a prestigious university. To her local community’s surprise at the age of 17, she courageously set out to the big smoke of Tokyo to pursue another of her many talents – singing. Within a year she was scouted after jumping on stage for an impromptu performance at a bar, and was promptly armed with some hit material and sent to the studio.

Miki Matsubara in Mid-Career

But she wasn’t just an object being acted on. She was serious about her music. From the start there was something mature, adult, about her. She didn’t fit the kawaii sugar puff idol mold. She was undeniably beautiful, but had something of the femme fatale about her. 

A guitarist from her band would later say in an interview that her attitude to music, that “you have to unflinchingly attack it head on”, had changed his life. In short, she was a pro.

At the age of 25, she started seeing many female singers around start to recede into the background, retire, as if being on the downhill side of one’s 20s was the time for a woman in music to quietly step down. Instead, Matsubara doubled down. She also began adding new strings to her bow. She started a band, Dr. Woo. She honed her skills as a songwriter and composer. She wrote theme songs, and anime soundtrack music. In this way, she spent the next decade and half not just as a singer, but as a productive music industry creator.

 

Then, shortly after the turn of the millennium, and entering her early forties, she sent an abrupt and startling email message to her friends. She told them she was cutting ties. Getting rid of her home phone, cancelling her mobile phone contract, closing her email account. Those that replied to the email got nothing in return. To many, it was like she just disappeared.

And she stopped making music.

In a message to her brother she said “I’ve got a favour. Please forget about the years of my life singing and making music.” 

To her close family only she confided the reason for the sudden change. Her message to her brother continued “I can’t help but feel that the way I have been living my life has brought about my sickness…I must find a way to reset myself.”

How Did Miki Matsubara Die?

Matsubara died of uterine cervix cancer on October 7 2004. In 2001, she had made a clean and complete break from music, and from her community to devote herself completely to battling her illness. She was an all-or-nothing person. A perfectionist. Her new life mission was life itself. Now she was a warrior fighting disease.

In the words of Tom Waits, it was a train that took her away, but a train couldn’t bring her home.

 

She was given 3 months to live.

Miki Matsubara Final Years and Legacy

In the end, she proved herself, as in all things, above average even as a patient. From the time of her withdrawal from the world, to the time of her ultimate passing, a span of 3 years passed.

In her last days she confided in her father “There are still so many things I want to do. I don’t want to die”.

He would later say, “she had always been independent, but in the last six months of her life, it was almost as if she became a baby, craving her parent’s love.”

On the 7th of October, she rapped one last time on midnight’s door and was admitted for the final time.

But her music has not so much lived on, as reincarnated. The music of the time has gone on to hold a strange fascination for many people throughout the world. Most notably, the sounds of City Pop have been championed, if not fetishised, by the proponents of Vaporwave (perhaps most characteristically in the Macintosh Plus album Floral Shoppe), that reference the stylised sounds of the early eighties, the more exotic the better, through filters, quotation and varying degrees of irony.

But before she was a meme, Matsubara was a human. Before she was a femme fatale, she was a talented daughter. Before she was a sparkling eye, she was an insightful mind.

And no matter whether she comes knocking on our door in the dead of night or not, she deserves to stay with me and you.

Stay With Me General And Buying Info

What Album did 真夜中のドア Stay With Me appear on?

Stay With Me first appeared as Miki’s debut single on the 5th of November 1979. It would go on to appear on her debut album “Pocket Park” on the 21st of January 1980, on vinyl and cassette. A CD version of the album in 1990 and was reissued in 2009.

The song has also appeared on several best of and compilation albums below.

Differences Between Album and Single Versions of Stay With Me

The intro section of the single version of Stay With Me features Miki’s vocals, while the album version only has back up singers. The album version of Stay With Me is also around 15 seconds longer than the single version, due to the inclusion of an extra chorus.

How Many Times Has Stay With Me been covered?

There are 28 cover versions of the song listed on the the Japanese version of Wikipedia. There have been countless other renditions of the song since it became popular on social media.

Miki Matsubara Soundtracks

Miki Matsubara wrote theme songs and contributed to the sound tracks for animations including Dirty Pair and Gundam 0033.

These are still available on DVD and Bluray:

Miki Matsubara Merch

Miki Matsubara Posters

Miki Matsubara T-Shirts

Other Miki Matsubara Stuff

City Pop Stuff

Vaporwave Stuff

Japanoscope uses affiliate links. Which means we may receive commisions when you click on some product links. We only link to products we believe in, use ourselves or think are genuinely good. This helps us keep all of the content on the site free of charge. As Monty Python once said, “We’re selling records in the foyer. Some of us have gotta eat too you know”.

The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Miki Matsubara 松原みき Mayonaka no doa 真夜中のドア with English Lyrics and translation sung by Cake Sullivan.
I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020.
Along the way I answer questions such as how did Miki Matsubara die? How did her music fit into the larger genres of Japanese City Pop and New Music?

Read More »
Japanese Learning Programs

Rocket Japanese Review 2021

I take an in depth look at the Rocket Japanese platform, 2021 edition, in depth and outline what I like, what I don’t like and what some of the alternatives are.

Read More »
Culture

The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Miki Matsubara 松原みき Mayonaka no doa 真夜中のドア with English Lyrics and translation sung by Cake Sullivan.
I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020.
Along the way I answer questions such as how did Miki Matsubara die? How did her music fit into the larger genres of Japanese City Pop and New Music?

Read More »
Graded Japanese Reading Practice

Moshi Moshi Yusuke – 30 Top Japanese New Japanese Words In Japanese in 2020 P.II

Do you know these Japanese words? AI超え おうち時間 顔芸 These are some of the new Japanese vocabulary that entered the lexicon in 2020. Japanese language, like any tongue, is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly changing. This means the process of learning Japanese is an ongoing one. But a fun one! Each year, the education company U-Can releases a list of the 30 new words, called 流行語 or 新語, that have entered the Japanese for that year. I chatted with Moshi Moshi Yusuke もしもしゆうすけ about the different words on the list. We talked about the different social movements in Japan that have occurred over the year that have lead to these new words coming into the Japanese language.

Read More »

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Japanese Games

Best Ever Japanese Games For Families and Friends

Japanese people may have a reputation for being relatively straight laced, but when it comes to having fun, they get serious. Life’s too short for not many games. Why have just hide-and-seek, when you could also have Keidoro? Why have only Western style playing cards, when you could also have Hanafuda. These are questions as unanswerable as “what is the sound of one hand clapping”. If you are a fan of Japanese culture, you’ve got to find time in your life for Japanese games!

1. Shiritori しりとり (Steal the Ending)

This one takes out the top spot because it is easy, you can do it anywhere, and it doesn’t require anything to play. Shiritori is a simple word game that can be played in Japanese or English. 

How to Play Shiritori

Choose a topic. Eg “animals”, “foods”, “places”. The first player says a word, such as “dog”. The second player has to make a word that ends in the last letter of the word, such as “gorilla”. The third player makes a word with the last letter of that word, such as “antelope”. If anyone says a word that ends with the letter “N” they are out. If they can’t think of a word they are out. The last person left is the winner.

Why you should play Shiritori

 This game is perfect for travelling. It helps with language development by expanding vocabulary and making you think about spelling.

 

2. Suika-Wari スイカ割り(Break The Watermelon)

This is the classic summertime game.

How to play Suika-Wari

Place a watermelon on a sheet on the ground. One-by-one people are given a stick, blindfolded and directed in the general direction of the watermelon, which they must attempt to smash with the stick. It’s kind of like the Japanese version of a pinata. 

Why you should play Suika-Wari

 It’s simple and fun. Everyone gets to eat the watermelon at the end. It’s great as an outdoor summer game. It doesn’t cost you more than the price of a watermelon.

3. Babanuki ババ抜き (Pick the Old Lady)

This is a simple card game that can be played from kids from around 4-5 years and up.

How to play Babanuki

Deal out every card in the deck, including only one joker, to all the players. Each player discards any pairs they have in their hand. Then each person takes it in turns to take a card from the person next to them. If the card they draw makes a pair with something already in their own hand, the player discards the pair. The goal is to get rid of all your cards. The person that is left holding the joker in the end is the loser.

Why you should play Babanuki

 It’s easy enough for most ages to be able to participate, but fun enough for any age. You have the psychological tension of people facing each other while they exchange cards. Bluffing is a feature. All you need is a set of standard cards to play.

4. Jyan-ken じゃんけん Rock Paper Scissors

This one should probably be number one really, considering how much Jyan-ken is an integral part of Japanese society. Any time people want to decide the order of someone doing something in Japan, they use Rock Paper Scissor.

But it’s not the sort of game that you play for more than a few minutes, so I haven’t put it at the top for our purposes.

How to play Jyan-ken

All you really need to know is what beats what:

Here’s a video that takes you through it:

 

Why You Should Play Jyan-Ken

Jyan-Ken is as much as a life skill, used for deciding the order of things, as it is a game!

5. Kei-doro ケイドロ (Cops and Robbers)

This is a simple game for groups of children.

How To Play Keidoro

Players are divided into groups of “Cops” (Kei) or “Robbers” (Doro). At the start of the game the cops count out time while the robbers go and hide. When time is up, the cops go out searching for the robbers. When they find one, they escort the robber to a pre-assigned “prison”. The Robber must stay in the prison until another robber comes to free them. The game ends when all the robbers have been captured.

Why you should play Keidoro

This is a great game for teaching teamwork and for getting children outside and moving.

6. Beigoma ベイゴマ  (Spinning Tops) – Beyblades

A koma is a “spinning top” and begoma is the game of battling tops. 

How to play Beigoma

Mark out a playing area. Each player launches their spinning top into the area. The winner is the person who’s spinning top spins the longest or knocks out the opponent’s spinning top from the playing area.

Why you should play Beigoma

For the sheer fun of the beautiful symmetry of a spinning top in motion!

7. Karuta かるた 

Karuta is a card game that is great for teaching kids Japanese hiragana, and for getting a basic familiarity with Japanese poetry.

How to play Karuta

The cards are placed face up on the ground. A reader reads out the text on a card from the deck. Players race to find and claim the card that features the text that the reader has read.

Why you should play Karuta

Karuta is great for Japanese language development, improving memory and reflexes. The cards themselves are often works of art.

8. Hanafuda 花札 (Flower Cards)

Hanafuda is much more complex than the other games on the list, so is best for families with older children. Once again, the cards themselves are often beautiful works of art.

How to Play Hanafuda

Video instructions can be found here

Why you should play Hanafuda

Hanafuda is a bit more challenging than some of the other games on the list. You will be playing a traditional game with a long history. Nintendo started out making Hanafuda games, and they seem to know a thing or two about gaming..

Japanese Game Items

Japanoscope uses affiliate links. Which means we may receive commisions when you click on some product links. We only link to products we believe in, use ourselves or think are genuinely good. This helps us keep all of the content on the site free of charge. As Monty Python once said, “We’re selling records in the foyer. Some of us have gotta eat too you know”.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1). I’ve written songs in Japanese and have released several albums through Tokyo label Majikick Records.

ピータージョセフヘッドです。4年間京都市立芸大の大学院として日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Demon Slayer Cosplay Costume Gallery 2021

Every year Japan creates a list of new words that have entered the Japanese language. In the 2020 list the word “kimetsu no yaiba” made an appearance. Such was the rise in popularity of anime “Demon Slayer”.

Amongst other things, the program is notable for the striking kimono patterns worn by many of the characters. It didn’t take long for the show to take off internationally and for Cosplayers to Tanjiro-style sniff a costuming opportunity.

With that in mind, here is a gallery of some of our favourite Demon Slayer cosplay options.

Japanoscope uses affiliate links. Which means we may receive commisions when you click on some product links. We only link to products we believe in, use ourselves or think are genuinely good. This helps us keep all of the content on the site free of charge. As Monty Python once said, “We’re selling records in the foyer. Some of us have gotta eat too you know”.

Kimono Shirt Guide

Comparing different kimono shirt options, including kimono wrap around shirts, designer shirts and budget kimono inspired options.

Read More »

Rocket Japanese Review 2021

I take an in depth look at the Rocket Japanese platform, 2021 edition, in depth and outline what I like, what I don’t like and what some of the alternatives are.

Read More »

The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Miki Matsubara 松原みき Mayonaka no doa 真夜中のドア with English Lyrics and translation sung by Cake Sullivan.
I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020.
Along the way I answer questions such as how did Miki Matsubara die? How did her music fit into the larger genres of Japanese City Pop and New Music?

Read More »

Moshi Moshi Yusuke – 30 Top Japanese New Japanese Words In Japanese in 2020 P.II

Do you know these Japanese words? AI超え おうち時間 顔芸 These are some of the new Japanese vocabulary that entered the lexicon in 2020. Japanese language, like any tongue, is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly changing. This means the process of learning Japanese is an ongoing one. But a fun one! Each year, the education company U-Can releases a list of the 30 new words, called 流行語 or 新語, that have entered the Japanese for that year. I chatted with Moshi Moshi Yusuke もしもしゆうすけ about the different words on the list. We talked about the different social movements in Japan that have occurred over the year that have lead to these new words coming into the Japanese language.

Read More »

Best Japan Coloring Books 2021

A big list of my all time favorite Japan coloring books for grown ups. Including the latest Kimono coloring books, zen coloring books, and manga coloring books.

Read More »

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Ponponpon Lyrics in English and Japanese

Ever wondered what the Kyary Pamyu Pamyu & Yasutaka Nakata’s PonPonPon lyrics are all about? I did too. So I’ve done translated the song into English. While I was at it I did a thorough research into the background of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Yasutaka Nakata, and the history of the song.

First of all here’s my translation, then you’ll find all the background info below.

Japanese Reading Difficulty

6/12 Could be read by 6th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Individuality

Text Type

Song Lyrics

ぽんぽんぽん歌詞

Ponponpon Japanese Lyrics

あの交差点で みんながもしスキップをして
もしあの町の真ん中で 手をつないで空を見上げたら
もしもあの町のどこかで チャーンスが掴みたいのなら
まだ泣くのには早いよね ただ前に進むしかないは イヤ イヤ

 

 

 

ポンポン出して しまえばいいの
全然しないの つまらないでしょ?
ヘッドフォーンかけて リズムに乗せて
ウェイウェイ明けて 私の道を

 

 

ポンポン進む 色々のこと
どんどん聞いてる あなたの気持ち
ポイポイ捨てる 悪い子はだれ?
そうそういい子 アアYOU MAKE ME HAPPY!

EVERYDAY ポン!

EVERY TIME IS ポN!
MERRYーGOーROUND乗りたいの!
EVERYDAY ポン!
EVERY TIME IS ポN!
多分、そんなんじゃ だめでしょ・・・

ポンポン出して しまえばいいの
全然しないの つまらないでしょ?
ヘッドフォーンかけて リズムに乗せて
ウェイウェイ明けて 私の道を
ポン・ポン・ウェイ・ウェイ・ウェい
ポン・ポン・ウェイ・ポン・ウェイ・ポン・ポン
ウェイ・ウェい・ポン・ポン・ポン
ウェイ・ウェイ・ポン・ウェイ・ポン・ウェイ・ウェイ

ぽんぽんぽん英訳

Ponponpon English Lyrics

Tell me what it would be like
If everyone just started skipping round at the street lights
And won’t you tell me
Would it just be alright
If we all held hands and looked up at the sky
Right here in the middle of the busy city
Maybe there’s a chance right here for you and me
And don’t you think that maybe it’s too soon to cry
All we really can do is keep moving, you and I

Go go, oh my love, let it out, let it out
Don’t don’t keep it in, sing it loud, sing it loud
Put on those headphones and let the rhythm carry you
Clear clear the way, we’re coming through, we’re coming through

Keep, keep going on, whatever it is you want
Hear hear, hear that song, feel it coming on so strong
Throw throw it all away, if you’re the bad guy who’s to say?
The whole damn world is sad maybe
But you make me happy

Every day you’re gone
Every time you’re gone
riding on that merry go round
Every day I’m gone
Every time I’m gone
But listen out, can you hear that sound?

Keep, keep going on, whatever it is you want
Hear hear, hear that song, feel it coming on so strong

The Story of PonPonPon

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, PonPonPon and The Simpsons

Recently, I’ve come to use the Simpsons as a tool to measure fame. I needed to find a way of measuring notoriety when my son reached the age of 11 and became suddenly obsessed with wanting to know exactly how famous each musician he heard was. Let’s call it a “streaming media generation problem”. 

Concert attendance, youtube plays, Spotify monthly streams, there are a lot of ways you could measure something like that. But, I’ve found it’s simplest to use the metric of “They’re famous, but are they appear-on-The-Simpsons-famous”.

Though it is obviously a western-culture centric measure, one artist that qualifies as “appear on The Simpsons famous” is Japan’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Indeed, she was famous enough to soundtrack a love-montage scene of the character of comic book store owner geek Jeff, in a Simpsons episode from 2014. 

Now let’s contextualise this by saying Japanese musicians don’t have a strong history of crossing over to America. It has been more than half a century since a Japanese song has been number one on an American music chart. You have to go back to 1963’s ue wo muite aruko (bizarrely released under the title of Sukiyaki in the States) by Sakamoto Kyu. 

 

So the Simpsons nod to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is significant.

So how did Kyary make her way to the animated streets of Springfield from the anime saturated streets of Tokyo?

 

Early Years of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

In many ways, Kyary is one of those “plucked from the streets and catapulted to fame” stories we love to fetishise. Through the naughties, magazines featuring photos of people snapped on the streets, especially around the Harajuku district in Tokyo, were huge. The shots captured the outlandish outfits of the socially hoi paloi but fashionably ooh la la types. These glossies are testament to the explosion of color, creativity and kawaii cutesiness that spilt out like rainbow coloured acrylics across Japan at the time. 

Harajuku Cuteness

Cuteness has been a thing in Japan for a long long while, but in the naughties it was as if someone took all the pink, all the pouting, all the high pitch and cranked it, in the immortal words of Spinal Tap, up to 11. 

But it wasn’t just straight-out cuteness. It was cuteness put through a sausage grinder, twisted, manipulated, mixed with the grotesque, the aesthetic of the street, the plain ridiculous. It was pretty cute, but the cute wasn’t always pretty.

In some ways, there are even parallels with the Flower Power hippy movement of the 60s, which has sadly come to be thought of in retrospect as somewhat vacuous, naive, even facile, but which at the time was counter-cultural, courageous and deeply confronting. 

Though kawaii and Japanese decora is not as overtly political or heart-on-your sleeve let’s-change-the-world as the summer of love, there is something about a massively oversized glowing polka dot bow ribbon matched with, say a torn skull themed top and a riot of colour too-too below, which issues an aesthetic challenge all of its own. Cuteness was elevated to an artform.

Akamoji-kei 赤文字系 and Aomoji-Kei 青文字系 Japanese fashion

Kyaray Pamyu Pamyu is considered representative of the fashion style of Aomoji-kei.

Emoji-kei means “red letter style”. It refers to the magazines that are popular with female office workers that often had red lettering on their covers. Titles have included “JJ”, “CanCam”, “Vivi”, “Ray” and “JJ”. They are characterised by fashions that are more “aware of the male gaze” and more traditionally “feminine or cute in the eyes of men”.

To differentiate the fashion styles that were happening in Harajuku, the term “Aomoji-kei”, “blue letter style”, started to be used to refer to fashions that were less overly playing up to this male concept of female beauty. These fashions often introduced more boyish elements, such as street wear or trousers. They were less afraid to be “off-the-wall”, and brazenly colorful. 

It is ironic that Kyary, who in many ways is the poster child of “cuteness”, is also the poster child of a fashion movement that is actually associated with being less feminine or “cute”. Although Kyaray is undeniably interested in the idea of cuteness, it is not the sort of pure, male centric, cuteness that is characterised by Akamoji-kei.

There is a Japanese article with pictures here

Kyary Pamyu "Street Snaps"

The first key moment for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu personally was when she had her photo taken on the streets of Shinjuku in 2009 by the magazine Kera. From there, she would go on to appear regularly in street photos, in increasingly adventurous clothing, and later in more staged pics in magazines such as Zipper and HR. Her Cinderella story from street to weirdoid bubblegum idol, to full blown music-fashion monster had begun.

 

But in other ways, the street Cinderella narrative isn’t quite right. From the start, Kyary was also an auteur, a net based omni creator with a blog and a suite of social media channels. She was an influencer before that was even a thing. In 2010, while still in high school, her blog on the popular Ameblog platform had 2 million hits a day. This is the equivalent of your niece appearing at the academy awards every day after coming home from school.

 

When Kyary Pamyu Pamyu talked about, say, a certain lotion, or beauty cream, the manufacturers would notice a rise in sales. In 2012, her twitter account was ranked the number one celebrity account in Japan. She had her own online channel to publish her self produced videos. She even wrote a manifesto outlining her world view. She may have been a Cinderella with a glass shoe, but she was also a Cinderella with a self made online production apparatus.

 

 

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu meets Yasutaka Nakata

The 2nd key moment for Kyary came at a nightclub in 2010. She was still in her final year of high school but had already started DJing at clubs. It was there that she had a chance meeting with Yasutaka Nakata.

 

In her own words,  “I working as a DJ at the TAKENOKO, a club event for minors, and the organizers got Nakata Yasutaka to handle the production. I talked to him a number of times and in no time he started to handle my production. I first met him at the “Harajuku Style Collection”, and at that time he had black hair for some reason, so I didn’t recognize him. He often keeps me up to date with gourmet news. He is very knowledgeable and always has an answer for my questions. He is like a fun big brother to talk to. “

Yasutaka is perhaps the ultimate Faceless Man hitmaker of the Japanese music world. There are obvious parallels with a figure like Phil Spector in the sixties guiding a revolving door of mostly female singers to stardom, backed by signature walls of sound that tended to dwarf the sculpted pretty young things toplining the tunes out front.  

If anything, Nakata is more of a one-man-show than was Spector. Nakata generally does absolutely everything involved in the creation of a piece of music, he writes the song,  he writes the words, and then does all the engineering and production. 

Where Spector worked with the songwriting factory of the Brill building of New York, Yasutaka’s 1619 Broadway is in his own small personal studio consisting of a computer, a keyboard, and an embarrassingly small vocal booth around the size of a broom closet. Considering the sounds that come out of there, it is the musical equivalent of a Tardis. And rather than a revolving door, it’s probably more accurate to say that camp Nakata is more like an ever growing tent with a flap in a constant state of unzipping. 

 

The Tardis
Yasutaka Nakata's Studio

Many artists never leave the tent. His relationship working with the trio Perfume has seen him steer the group to hits across two decades. His production relationship with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has lasted several olympic game cycles. To mash up metaphors, Nakata’s tent is a tardis, and the Tardis is a Hotel California from which you can check out but never leave.

 

This is also testament to the fact that, in contrast to Spector, Yasutaka understands the first fundamental rule of showbiz, don’t shoot the talent.

 

About PonPonPon Lyrics

The song that we’re looking particularly at today, Pon Pon Pon, is a Nakata masterpiece. Or perhaps an abomination, depending on which way you look at. But that’s probably true of most things that make a bold statement. Visually, the video clip and aesthetic that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu brings is equally masterful.

The first thing that personally  struck me when I heard the song was the nonsensical refrain. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom may be one kind of genius, but it takes another kind altogether to craft pop gold out of two monosyllables, pon and wei. Though neither of these sounds strictly has any meaning, they are both rich in association. The sound “pon” in Japan is often used as an onomatopoeic word to describe something that is bursting or being struck and is actually similar enough in both sound and meaning to be something of a distant cousin of our own English word “pop”, separated as it is by a single alphabetic flick of the fingers. I smell a linguistic conspiracy. 

The other sound, “wei”, is related to the English word way, but is also close to the exclamatory sound “yay”, which has been incorporated into the Japanese vernacular sounding more like “iei” .This lends the wei a care-free fun vibe. 

The song lyrics themselves are a somewhat garbled take on the need for a person to find their own “way” in life. If only Frank Sinatra had lived long enough to put a version of this song into his set as a medley with “I did it my way”.  Surely, there’s a mash up waiting to happen. 

 

The lyrics certainly can’t be described as deep, but they can’t be written off as shallow either. Yes, the main protagonist in the song wants to skip through the streets, and ride on the merry-go-round, and get lost in whatever rhythms are drumming out of the headphones. But she is doing so to keep from crying, as a way of moving on. It is a song of radical defiance, a refusal of depression and a challenge to the listener to find a way to live with meaning in a meaningless world. A wei-pon wei-pon way.

In crafting my translation, I’ve reimagined the words somewhat in places, while trying to remain as true in spirit as I could.

There were some sections I just couldn’t bring myself not to mess with a little. Namely the somewhat ridiculous snippets of cultural appropriation that are the English sections , sections that you so often get in Japanese pop music. Probably the main offender is:

“Everyday is pon, every time is pon, I want to ride a Merry-go-round”.

These I’ve changed to more of a love related motif with, 

“every day you’re gone, every time you’re gone, riding on that merry-go-round”. 

In this context the merry-go-round becomes more of a metaphor for the hurl and burl of life.

Generally though, I’ve tried to keep things pretty close, whilst allowing for a singable, rhyming translation.

My Arrangement of PonPonPon

Musical arrangement-wise, I’ve aimed at a shadow image opposite of the original. Mine is dark. It’s acoustic. I tried to resist using anything electronic as much as I could, but I did allow myself the liberty of a little electric guitar. Creation process wise-it’s not dissimilar to Nakata’s original, in that it’s just me tinkering away from wo to go. Although, in a little suburban tin shed in albion, rather than in a high rise apartment in Tokyo.

I guess you could say I was trying to find my own way to wei pon wei.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu & Fashion Books

Japanoscope uses affiliate links. Which means we may receive commisions when you click on some product links. We only link to products we believe in, use ourselves or think are genuinely good. This helps us keep all of the content on the site free of charge. As Monty Python once said, “We’re selling records in the foyer. Some of us have gotta eat too you know”.

The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Miki Matsubara 松原みき Mayonaka no doa 真夜中のドア with English Lyrics and translation sung by Cake Sullivan.
I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020.
Along the way I answer questions such as how did Miki Matsubara die? How did her music fit into the larger genres of Japanese City Pop and New Music?

Read More »

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanese Learning Programs

Rocket Japanese Review 2021

I take an in depth look at the Rocket Japanese platform, 2021 edition, in depth and outline what I like, what I don’t like and what some of the alternatives are.

Read More »
Culture

The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Miki Matsubara 松原みき Mayonaka no doa 真夜中のドア with English Lyrics and translation sung by Cake Sullivan.
I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020.
Along the way I answer questions such as how did Miki Matsubara die? How did her music fit into the larger genres of Japanese City Pop and New Music?

Read More »
Graded Japanese Reading Practice

Moshi Moshi Yusuke – 30 Top Japanese New Japanese Words In Japanese in 2020 P.II

Do you know these Japanese words? AI超え おうち時間 顔芸 These are some of the new Japanese vocabulary that entered the lexicon in 2020. Japanese language, like any tongue, is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly changing. This means the process of learning Japanese is an ongoing one. But a fun one! Each year, the education company U-Can releases a list of the 30 new words, called 流行語 or 新語, that have entered the Japanese for that year. I chatted with Moshi Moshi Yusuke もしもしゆうすけ about the different words on the list. We talked about the different social movements in Japan that have occurred over the year that have lead to these new words coming into the Japanese language.

Read More »

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Japanese Courtyard

Bluestone Crazy Paving wiht Greenery

Being fans of all things Japanese, we decided to incorporate many Japanese ideas into our backyard to create a small Japanese courtyard. We weren’t trying to recreate a complete authentic garden, just trying to take inspiration from some of things we’ve seen in Japanese gardens.

Espalier Plum Tree
Espalier Plum Tree
Tree and Wooden Shed
Bamboo Edging

Midnight Diner Theme Song Omoide by Tsunekichi Suzuki Translated and Explained

Today I present a translation into English of the opening theme song from Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories (Shinya Shokudo) soundtrack, Omoide, by Tsunekichi Suzuki. I give a background on the songwriter, translate the lyrics, present the song in Japanese and English, and give a commentary on the translation.

But first thing’s first…

Who sings the theme song on Netflix Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories?

The opening song for Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories (深夜食堂 Shinya Shokudo) is the song Omoide 思ひで by Tsunekichi Suzuki. It was first released on his 2006 album ぜいご Zeigo.

Zeigo Tsunekichi Suzuki Album

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 10th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Impernance

Text Type

Folk Song

Background To Midnight Diner Song Omoide and Tsunekichi Suzuki

In 2015, Japanese singer-songwriter Tsunekichi Suzuki wrote on his blog about how he left his home country at the age of 61 to go on an adventure to China. The trip was one of a handful of international music tours he made in his life, a life which would end just five years later in 2020. 

Tsunekichi’s blog describes how, after a soundcheck for one of his Chinese tour dates he went to have a cigarette on the street and a youth waiting outside asked him “is this where Tsunekichi Suzuki is playing tonight?”

Tsunekichi told him it was. The young person asked “is Tsunekichi Suzuki famous in Japan, like he is in China?”

Tsunekichi just mumbled ineffectually. He didn’t really know what to say.

Later, on his blog, Tsunekichi said “I should have just told the young man straight out, no Tsunekichi Suzuki is not famous in Japan…None of the people waiting outside the gig knew it was me they had come to see. I thought it had been suspicious when people told me I was popular in China”.

Tsunekichi Suzuki and Midnight Diner

But the truth is, he had become kind of big in China, and in Korea, and in several other countries to boot. He had achieved this level of international notoriety because of a TV show called Shinya Shokudo in Japan but you may know the show by it’s Netflix international release name “Midnight Diner”. 

Midnight Diner uses several of his songs in its soundtrack . If you don’t know the show, it’s set in a wood-paneled Tokyo bar, that caters to a midnight to morning clientele of colourful fringe dwellers. 

Midnight Diner Soundtrack

The show opens with a long sequence of the bright downtown lights of Tokyo, sans street noise. The footage is strikingly off-set to Tsunekichi’s gentle acoustic Irish Folk influenced song “Omoide” or Remembrance. 

This was the proverbial 2nd wind for the singer. A significant time had passed since Tsunekichi had first experienced a fairly short, but intense, few weeks in the national spotlight in 1989. His band, Cement Mixers, had appeared on the TV show “Ikasu Bando Tengoku”. They sounded like this:

Tsunekichi Suzuki & Cement Mixers on Ikaten (いかすバンド天国)

The TV show’s title Ikasu Bando Tengoku いかすバンド天国 translates as “Cool Band Heaven”, and it was kind of like bandstand meets battle of the bands meets eurovision, but read right to left, Japanese style. 

This show was a phenomenon in Japan and coincided with what came to be known as the バンドブーム “Band Boom”, where young groups playing guitars wrested prominence for a time from the studio manufactured “idols” that dominated the charts of the second biggest music market in the world. 

The Ikasu Bando Tengoku show even got it’s own shortened nickname いかてん“Ikaten”, which had particular out of left field resonance with the word “Ikaten” also meaning “Deep fried Tempura Squid”. Many of the bands grew out of the 歩行者天国Hokosha Tengoku “pedestrian paradice” scene of Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district where 100s of bands would perform on the street on the weekends. This scene had its own nickname too, the “Hoten”. The two “tens” Ikaten and Hoten became inexorably entwined. Now all the record indie execs had to do to scout their next big thing was to take a trip down to the swinging parklands of Tokyo and literally pick a band off the street.

The whole thing didn’t last though, because the good residents of Harajuku didn’t take so well to their neighbourhood becoming a default outdoor live band arena where the music and wacky fashion raged 24/7. The Ikaten program was taken off the air at the end of 1990 and the bands were largely turfed out of the streets of Harajuku. In 1991, the bubble of the Japanese economic post war miracle came to an end and ushered in what is now known as the 失われた10年 “Ushinawareta 10 nen”, or the lost decade.

You can watch a 2007 television program looking back at the Ikaten program here:

Post-Ikaten Tsunekichi 

It seems Tsunekichi’s hopes of superstardom were also lost somewhere along with those ten years, after his band released one album on a major label, to some critical acclaim, and promptly broke up. He formed another band つれれこ社中Tsurereko Shachu, which managed to release one album later that decade, in 1997. Tsunekichi wasn’t to reappear greatly in the public consciousness again until his 2006 solo album ぜいご Zeigo, which was lauded by one of the songwriters I’ve translated here in the past 高田渡 Wataru Takada. The album was ultimately picked up to form the raw materials of the soundtrack to the Midnight Diner tv show many have now watched on Netflix around the world.

Omoide’s 18th Century Irish Folk Origins

One of the strange circularities of this story is that the song Omoide, featured in the opening scenes, is itself based on an 18th century folk song from another island people half way across the world. It is essentially a re-working of the catchily, and perhaps pastorally racily, titled  Irish folk song “A pretty girl milking her cow”. Judy Garland made the song world famous by singing it in the 1940 movie “Little Nellie”.

A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow Lyrics

The English version is attributed to Thomas Moore (1779–1852)

It was on a fine summer’s morning

The birds sweetly tune on each bough

And as I walked out for my pleasure

I saw a maid milking a cow

Her voice was so enchanting, melodious

Left me quite unable to go

My heart, it was loaded with sorrow

For the pretty maid milking her cow

Then to her I made my advances

“Good morrow most beautiful maid

Your beauty my heart so entrances”

“Pray sir do not banter,” she said

“I’m not such a rare precious jewel

That I should enamour you so

I am but a poor little milk girl,”

Says the pretty maid milking her cow

The Indies afford no such jewel

So bright, so transparently clear

I do not add things to my funeral

Consent but to know me my dear

Oh, had I the Lamp of Aladdin

Or the wealth that gold mines can bestow

I’d rather be poor in a cottage

With the pretty girl milking her cow.

An interesting aside about this song for Australians is that this song was apparently sung by Jack Jones,  teenage son of Anne Jones the publican of the Glenrowan Inn (Victoria, Australia) while it was under siege by the famous Ned Kelly Gang bushrangers.

Tsunekichi’s reworking of the Irish tune

Tsunekichi gives the song about girls milking cows a much more ethereal feel, and an ephemeral theme. Here it becomes a Japanese musing on the impermanent nature of things, as the song’s protagonist muses on such questions as what becomes of a breath once it is exhaled, and if you pierce through the sky and the clouds, do you find another sky and clouds waiting there beyond?

I’ll let you ponder those questions as you listen to these Japanese and English versions of the song Omoide, or “Remembrance”.

Omoide Lyrics and Translation

君が吐いた白い息が
kimiga ha i ta shiroi i kiga
今ゆっくり風に乗って
ima yuku ri kazo notte
空に浮かぶ雲の中に
sorani ukabu kumo no nakani
少しずつ消えてゆく
sugo shi zuttsu kiete yuku

遠く高い空の中で
tōku takai sorono naka de
手を伸ばす白い雲
tewo no ba su shiroi kumo
君が吐いた息を吸って
kimiga ha i ta ikio sute
ぽっかりと浮かんでる
pok karito ukan deru
ずっと昔のことのようだね

zutto mukashino kotono yō da ne
川面の上を雲が流れる
kawa mono u e o kumo ga naga re ru
照り返す日差しを避けて
teri kae su hizashi o sa ke te
軒下に眠る犬
noki shita ni memoru i nu
思い出もあの 空の中に
omo i de mo a no sora no nakani
少しづつ消えてゆく

sugo shi zuttsu kiete yuku
この空の向こう側には
ko no sorano mukō-gawa ni wa
もうひとつの青い空
mō hitotsu no aoi sora
誰もいない空の中に
daremo i na i sorano nakate
ぽっかりと浮かぶ雲
pok karito ukanbu kumo
ずっと昔のことのようだね
zutto mukashino kotono yō da ne
川面の上を雲が流れる
kawa mono u e o kumo ga naga re ru

君が吐いた白い息が

 

kimiga ha i ta shiroi i kiga
今ゆっくり風に乗って
ima yuku ri kazo notte
空に浮かぶ雲の中に
sorani u ka bu kumo no nakani
少しずつ消えてゆく
sugo shi zuttsu kiete yuku
少しずつ消えてゆく
sugo shi zuttsu kiete yuku

See your pale breath floating over there

As it slowly drifts off in the air

See it billow into the clouds in the sky

And vanish before your eyes

See the white clouds reaching out there hands

In the sky so far above the land

Breathing in the air you breathed out

Rolling on, Rolling On, Rolling On

And do you remember

The clouds streaming by ‘bove the river?

And didn’t they look just like this?

Or maybe my mind plays tricks

And do you remember the glaring sun

And the dog sleeping there ‘neath the eaves

And all of these memories

Fade into the sky as they leave

On the other side of the sky

There’s another sky there so blue

There’s not a single soul or a sound

But there’s a rolling, rolling cloud

And do you remember

The clouds streaming by ‘bove the river?

And didn’t they look just like this?

Or maybe my mind plays tricks

See your pale breath floating over there

As it slowly drifts off in the air

See it billow into the clouds in the sky

And vanish before your eyes

And vanish before your eyes

What is Midnight Diner Shinya Shokudo?

Shinya Shokudo is originally a Manga. It has appeared in the Big Comic Original in serialized form since 2006. It was later turned into serialised and movie screen adaptations.

Where Can I Read Shinya Shokudo in English?

Many editions of the comic have been translated here on the Internet Archive.

Where can you buy shinya Shokudo Comics?

Shinya Shokudo are available in the original Japanese from Amazon Japan here.

Where Can You Watch Midnight Diner Shinya Shokudo?

You can watch Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories on Netflix, or you can buy it out right on Bluray here:

Are there Midnight Diner Cook Books?

There’s not an official Midnight Diner Cook Book available at the moment, but there are several books that feature similar recipes:

Or if you can read Japanese you could try these:

Hungry for Midnight Diner Merch?

Cool, a t-shirt of the sign on the Midnight Diner restaurant ”めしや” “Meshiya”, which is a colloquial term for “restaurant”. Simple & understated. Nice.

Or give the Midnight Master some love.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanese Learning Programs

Rocket Japanese Review 2021

I take an in depth look at the Rocket Japanese platform, 2021 edition, in depth and outline what I like, what I don’t like and what some of the alternatives are.

Read More »
Culture

The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Miki Matsubara 松原みき Mayonaka no doa 真夜中のドア with English Lyrics and translation sung by Cake Sullivan.
I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020.
Along the way I answer questions such as how did Miki Matsubara die? How did her music fit into the larger genres of Japanese City Pop and New Music?

Read More »
Graded Japanese Reading Practice

Moshi Moshi Yusuke – 30 Top Japanese New Japanese Words In Japanese in 2020 P.II

Do you know these Japanese words? AI超え おうち時間 顔芸 These are some of the new Japanese vocabulary that entered the lexicon in 2020. Japanese language, like any tongue, is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly changing. This means the process of learning Japanese is an ongoing one. But a fun one! Each year, the education company U-Can releases a list of the 30 new words, called 流行語 or 新語, that have entered the Japanese for that year. I chatted with Moshi Moshi Yusuke もしもしゆうすけ about the different words on the list. We talked about the different social movements in Japan that have occurred over the year that have lead to these new words coming into the Japanese language.

Read More »

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Translating Kiyoshiro Imawano’s Slow Ballad

Kiyoshiro Imawano, King of Japanese Rock

Many musicians have been appointed as rulers of a given musical domain. Sinatra was the chairman, Elvis was the King, Bowie was the Duke, Springteen the boss, and there have been many more fathers and godfathers than there have been mothers and godmothers similarly anointed to go around.

Well, other countries have their own musical monarchs too. Japan may be lorded over by an Emperor, but realm of rhythm is ruled by a King of Rock. His name is Kiyoshiro Imawano and he inhabits are persona somewhere between Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Van Morrison.

 

Today I’ve translated his song “Slow Ballad”, which was released as the 6th single for Kiyoshiro’s band RC Succession.

Japanese Language Difficulty

5/12 Could be easily understood by 5th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Love

Text Type

Songs In Translation

About RC Succession's "Slow Ballad"

The song is a meta-power ballad about a young man hearing a slow song on the radio while he’s sleeping in the car with his girlfriend. Slow Ballad has a soul feel that would not sound out of place sung by, say, Otis Redding, replete with horns provided by American group Tower Of Power, who happened to be touring in Japan around the time the song was recorded. But the song is made by Kiyoshiro’s passionately, impained, rasp of a vocal that is on the edge, often over the edge, of losing control. 

Nicholson Baker once wrote that to write a poem all you have to do is describe the most significant moment of your day. Slow Ballad is right on cue. Kiyoshiro’s moment is of two people on a frigid night, in a municipal car park, in a sedan, wrapped in a blanket sleeping while the tunes play. The strength of the song is in the fact that it never tries to break out of the instant. And yet, you still get the sense that the moment is part of some larger inexorable, and most probably darker, pulse of time. 

Released six years after the band’s first single, Slow Ballad appeared at a time when few people were buying the band’s music or coming to shows. And it would not be until the release of their 9th single another four years later that the band would see large-scale success. Kiyoshiro himself would ultimately go on to eclipse the band and have cross-over mainstream success another two years later after collaborating with Ryuichi Sakomoto on the track Ikenai Rouge Magic.

 

 

But the song Slow Ballad has lodged itself in the popular consciousness of Japan, as a record of the humbler and leaner days of the man who would go on to become rock royalty. From the municipal ground car park, kiyoshiro would claim his own country’s mantle of the King of Rock, and take his own throne at the table of the international council of dionysian lords of song.

Lyrics

昨日はクルマの中で寝た
あの娘と手をつないで
市営グランドの駐車場
二人で毛布にくるまって
 
カーラジオからスローバラード
夜露が窓をつつんで
悪い予感のかけらもないさ

あの娘のねごとを聞いたよ
ほんとさ 確かに聞いたんだ
 
カーラジオからスローバラード
夜露が窓をつつんで
悪い予感のかけらもないさ
ぼくら夢を見たのさ
とってもよく似た夢を

Last night I slept in a car
Hand in hand with a girl neath the stars
In the carpark at the municipal ground
With a warm warm blanket wrapped around us

And the radio played a balad so slow
As the night dew shimmered on the wind screen window
And I didn’t have a single bad feeling no no

And I tell you I heard her talk in her sleep
But what she said is a secret I’m gonna take with me
And the radio played a balad so slow
As the night dew shimmered on the wind screen window
And I didn’t have a single bad feeling no no
And the two of us dreamed a dream
So alike, that just one it may well have been

 

The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Miki Matsubara 松原みき Mayonaka no doa 真夜中のドア with English Lyrics and translation sung by Cake Sullivan.
I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020.
Along the way I answer questions such as how did Miki Matsubara die? How did her music fit into the larger genres of Japanese City Pop and New Music?

Read More »

Moshi Moshi Yusuke – 30 Top Japanese New Japanese Words In Japanese in 2020 P.II

Do you know these Japanese words? AI超え おうち時間 顔芸 These are some of the new Japanese vocabulary that entered the lexicon in 2020. Japanese language, like any tongue, is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly changing. This means the process of learning Japanese is an ongoing one. But a fun one! Each year, the education company U-Can releases a list of the 30 new words, called 流行語 or 新語, that have entered the Japanese for that year. I chatted with Moshi Moshi Yusuke もしもしゆうすけ about the different words on the list. We talked about the different social movements in Japan that have occurred over the year that have lead to these new words coming into the Japanese language.

Read More »

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Record Collecting Japanese Vinyl

Japan is a collector’s dream. Whether its toys, comics, or video games, there are stores filled with everything you want. What’s more, CD’s never really went out of fashion in Japan so there’s still large music stores such as Shibuya’s Tower Records which has seven levels divided by genres and themes.

I spoke with two record collectors about their hobby and what makes Japanese records and CD’s stand out from the rest.

I first spoke with Dave from djshadowreconstructed.com , a collector from the UK whose passion is DJ Shadow. So how did Dave get hooked?

“I guess I’ve always been a bit of a collector. I started to buy a lot of CD’s and things in my teenage years, and then my actual DJ Shadow collection probably [wasn’t started] until 2006…What started it was, I was getting more and more into Shadow and I was looking to try and track down every track its physical form, whether it be on vinyl or CD. So that started me on the road to buying multiple versions of things like a different copy of Endtroducing for example for the In / Flux bonus track.”

The bonus track appeared on the Japanese edition of DJ Shadow’s debut album Endtroducing from 1996, and at the time it was one of the few places to hear it on CD. This helped make the Japanese edition of the album highly sought after by collectors.

I next spoke to Brian from Australia who also goes by the name AstroBboy. With a nickname like that it will come as no surprise that Brian collects Hip Hop and Astro Boy merchandise. Or at least he did, because as he told me he no longer collects. So what happened?

“When it comes to records, I guess it started when I was 15 or 16. I was really into the Beastie Boys and a second hand CD/record store near my school had a copy of She’s On It. That single wasn’t released on Licensed To Ill so I needed that song to complete my collection at the time. So when I purchased this single it was just for that one song, and I was pretty happy…but then after collecting 500 Beastie Boys records it got a bit out of control. [Later] I was moving a lot and as you can imagine records weigh a lot. It was also getting to a point where it was more about collecting than the music, so I sold off the collection.”

What Is Special About Japanese Releases On Vinyl

While CDs and records are pressed all over the world, Japanese pressings are sought after by collectors for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there may be different artwork or bonus tracks, but an added curiosity is the obi strip. The obi is a piece of paper which is wrapped around one side of a CD or record packaging and they often contain information on them such as price, translated titles, and advertisements for other releases. The obi is uncommon outside of Japan leading to people sometimes throwing them away, which means collectors will often pay more for an item with an obi than without. Especially if they’re a completist.

Japanese Record With Obi Strip

Japanese Exclusive Songs and Albums

Part of the fun of collecting is finding interesting items, and Japan is full of them. While the unique artwork and obi strips can be cool, for me the main attraction is the bonus tracks, and Brian told me about one I had never heard.

In 2005 Beastie Boys released a compilation titled Solid Gold Hits which featured a remix of their song Right Right Now Now exclusive to Japan. The remix is titled RRNN: Straight Outta Shibuya and features a rap in Japanese by Takagi Kan. Kan is part of the Major Force group who released several Hip Hop records in Japan during the 1980’s and 1990’s. We previously wrote about his song Last Orgy, and how his TV show with Hiroshi Fujiwara inspired BAPE’s Nigo.

But Straight Outta Shibuya wasn’t the first time Takagi Kan collaborated with the Beastie Boys, as he actually contributed Japanese linear notes to some Japanese editions of Beastie Boys albums, including Licensed To Ill in 1986. Straight Outta Shibuya was later collected on a special digital deluxe edition of Beastie Boys To The 5 Boroughs album meaning more people have the opportunity to hear it now.

While “exclusive to Japan” may have once meant you were unlikely to find something outside of Japan at all, these days thanks to the internet and websites such as eBay or Discogs, you can get just about anything delivered to your door. So what exclusive items should I look out for? Dave gave some suggestions for a potential collector:

“There’s a few Mo’ Wax compilations which feature DJ Shadow, like Build & Destroy, Mo’ Groove, Ape Shall Never Kill Ape box set. Mostly the [interesting DJ Shadow] Japan stuff is promotional variations with unique artwork or track listings.”

I also asked Brian about Beastie Boys items and he told me about some “cute” 3” mini CDs. While CDs are generally 5”, in the 1980’s and 1990’s some bands released songs on 3” CDs, including the Beastie Boys’ Japan exclusive Get It Together single. Then in 2005 the band played with size again when they released a copy of their Licensed To Ill album on CD, but in a 12” packaging, replicating a vinyl release. Again, this was exclusive to Japan.

Keeping Track Of Your Collection

It’s hard to imagine ever keeping track of so many unique releases, and both Dave and Brian have found different ways to solve this by using the internet. 

Brian helps run Beastiemania, a fan website dedicated to everything Beastie Boys. But the collection on Beastiemania doesn’t all belong to Brian, and it’s instead been put together by a huge list of fans from all over the world, making it the most complete and detailed Beastie Boys discography online.

Meanwhile, Dave runs an Instagram page @thedjshadowcollection, which he uses to share his collection with the world. Through his page Dave shares regular posts with updates of new or interesting items, some of which are extremely rare. This has led to him meeting other collectors from around the world, and Dave is currently collaborating with some other fans on a new DJ Shadow fan site, DJ Shadow Reconstructed.

With so many people collecting now you would almost expect there to be nothing of interest left in stores. But when I was recently in Japan, I was struck by how well stocked their record stores are. It seemed I could find anything if I was willing to spend enough time digging through crates. 

Why Do People Like Japanese Vinyl

While I was impressed by all of the stock in Japanese record stores, I was even more impressed by how the CDs and records were all in such amazing condition, and often looked brand new. As a final question, I asked Dave and Brian about why they thought this was, but neither were too certain. While this aspect of collecting must remain a mystery, they both did agree that even if you’re buying something online from Japan it will always arrive with utmost care.

It seems that the reason people like Japanese records comes down to the following:

-Exclusive artwork

-Bonus tracks

-Obi Strip and Inserts (Lyrics Sheets, Linear Notes, Poster)

-Second hand items that look brand new

-Items which are posted to you undamaged

So, while you may not be able to visit Japan right now, it is perhaps the perfect time to start saving for your next trip so you can experience firsthand Japan’s exclusive records and CDs, and fill up the gaps in your collections. Even if you collect something other than Beastie Boys or DJ Shadow, Japan will surely have what you need tucked into a crate somewhere for a few hundred yen.

Where To Buy Japanese Vinyl Records

While there’s record stores all over Japan, here’s some of our favourites.

Tower Records Tokyo

The Shibuya store is a massive 7 floors, and the Shinjuku store has a great vinyl only floor filled with almost anything you could want. These stores are great if you want to find some new CD’s or records, but beware of the price!

Their website gives you an idea of their stock, and provides services to ship worldwide. http://tower.jp

Disc Union Tokyo & Osaka

These stores are spread all over Tokyo. Their main Shinjuku store is 8 floors, while they also have smaller stores dedicted to Jazz, Metal, and Soul. Disc Union are the best place to find second hand records and CDs, and some even sell cassette tapes. There website has a handy map of all their stores, and there’s even an English version. https://diskunion.net/st/shop/

Marking Records Matsumoto

A beautiful store, Marking sell new records, CDs, cassette tapes, and zines. Their focus is on Alternative music so take a look at their website to get an idea of what to expect. https://shop.markingrecords.com/ 

 

Time Bomb Osaka

Recommended by AstroBBoy, a great collection of second hand records across various genres. They also ship overseas if you buy online. https://timebomb.co.jp/en

Jet Set Kyoto

This store sells every genre of music, as well as books, magazines, and DVDs. They have a selection of new and used records to browse, and you can also buy online with international shipping.

https://www.jetsetrecords.net

Yahoo Auctions

This is the #1 place to buy random stuff from Japan if you’re overseas. It’s similar to eBay so there’s magazines, merchandise, and book alongside CDs and records, and a lot of Japan Exclusive items are available here. It can be complicated to use if you’re not in Japan, but you can use a service like Buyee to buy things on your behalf. https://auctions.yahoo.co.jp

Mercari

Similar to Yahoo Auctions, Mercari is filled with exclusive Japan Only items like records and magazines. Just like Yahoo Auctions, they use Buyee to allow international purchases. 

https://buyee.jp/mercari/ 

Contributor

James Gaunt is an Australian writer who published his book Making Psyence Fiction in 2020. James previously lived in Tokyo, Japan but has recently returned to Melbourne, Australia. He maintains a keen interest in Japanese music, and publishes regularly on Medium http://medium.com/@jimmyjrg

The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Miki Matsubara 松原みき Mayonaka no doa 真夜中のドア with English Lyrics and translation sung by Cake Sullivan.
I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020.
Along the way I answer questions such as how did Miki Matsubara die? How did her music fit into the larger genres of Japanese City Pop and New Music?

Read More »

Transgender Women Accepted Into Japanese Women’s Universities

We’ve translated some Japanese media and social media about recent moves for the Women’s Universities in Japan to welcome transgender women as students.

There are a group of Women’s Universities in Japan that have recently come out to say that they will soon start accepting transgender women. This is, of course, a major change in the country and has been covered in several major news outlets and provoked a lot of discussion, of a more or less civil nature, across social media.

Today we’ve translated some excerpts from Asahi News, The Huffington Post Japan, and a selection of tweets from twitter to get an overview of the coverage.

We present the selections in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in Japanese and English for those that are interested to get down in the weeds of the language a bit more

Japanese Reading Difficulty

11/12 Could be read by 10th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Gender, Transgender, Education in Japan

Text Type

Newspapers & Social Media Posts

トランス女性OK、深化する女子大 課題はハラスメント

(2020年8月13日付け朝日新聞より)

 

生まれた時の性別が男性で、性自認が女性のトランスジェンダーの学生の受け入れが今春、お茶の水女子大(東京)と奈良女子大の国立2大学で始まった。

実際に入学したかどうかは明らかにしていない。

来春は宮城学院女子大でも始まる。

受け入れを検討する女子大が増える中、大学側に当事者を保護する取り組みを求め声もあがる。

 「全ての学びたい女性に開かれているのが女子大。それは、戸籍上の女性に限らないということ。女子大の使命の延長線上にある」

 この4月、トランスジェンダー女性の受け入れを始めたお茶の水女子大の三浦徹副学長はそう話す。

同大は2018年7月に受け入れを表明。19年4月に対応ガイドラインを制定し、準備を進めてきた。

どう接すれば…受け入れ前は不安の声も

 受け入れにあたっては「性自認が女性である」ことをどう認定するかが問われた。

同大では、受験前に申告書を出してもらい、性自認の確認や、受験時や学生生活を送る上での態勢などについて必要があれば面談をする形にした。

医師の診断書は必須ではない。「性自認は変化する。あえて多面的にした」と同大は説明する。

Trans women allowed, Women’s Universities Deepen, Harassment Challenge Remains

 

From this Spring, two public universities, Ochanomizu Women’s University (Tokyo) and Nara Women’s University, have begun accepting transgender students whose sex at time of birth was male but who identify their gender as female.

It is not clear whether any transgender students have yet been admitted.

From next Spring, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University will also begin admitting transgender students.

As women’s universities that accept transgender women increase, so do the voices calling for safeguards for students.

“It’s the Women’s Universities that provide all women wishing to learn a safe place. That does not apply only to women who are listed as such on the official Family Register. This is an extension of the mission of Women’s Universities.”

So spoke Ochanomizu University Vice Head of School Toru Miura in April.

The university announced that they would accept transgender students in July 2018. Since drafting guidelines in April 2019, preparations have been proceeding.

Prior to the changes, voices expressed their unease at how they should interact with the students 

Questions have been raised about how “people that identify as female” should be validated under the new system.

At Ochanomizu, prospective students are asked to submit an application document prior to sitting the entrance exam and, where necessary, are asked to have an interview to confirm status of their gender identity in relation to exams and student life.

There is no necessity for a medical certificate from a doctor to be produced. “Gender identity changes. We now presume that it is versatile.”

室伏学長(お茶の水女子大学) は会見の冒頭で次のように述べた。

 

学ぶ意欲のあるすべての女性にとって、真摯な夢の実現の場として存在するという国立大学法人としての本学のミッションに基づき判断した。

今回の決定を『多様性を包摂する女子大学と社会』の創出に向けた取り組みと位置づけており、

今後、固定的な性別意識にとらわれず、ひとりひとりが人間としてその個性と能力を十分に発揮し、『多様な女性』があらゆる分野に参画できる社会の実現につながっていくことを期待している。

はるか以前の社会と比べると格段に進歩したが、それでも様々な場で女性が職業人として活躍するには困難がある。

その現状を変え、女性たちが差別や偏見を受けずに幸せに暮らせる社会を作るために、大学という学びの場で、自らの価値を認識し、社会に貢献するという確信を持って前進する精神をはぐくむ必要があると考える。

それが実現できるのは、女性が旧来の役割意識などの、無意識の偏見、そういったものから解放されて自由に活躍できる女子大学だろうと考えている。

本学はすべての女性たちがその年齢や国籍等に関係なく、個々人の尊厳と権利を保障されて、自身の学びを進化させ、自由に自己の資質能力を開発させることを目指している。

その意味からも、性自認が女性であって、真摯に女子大学で学ぶことを希望する人を受け入れるのは自然な流れだろうと思うし、多様性を包摂する社会としても当然のことと考えた。

As a national university corporate body, this decision was based on our mission of providing a place to all women who have a sincere desire and dream to learn.

We see this decision as part of a movement to create a women’s university and society that embraces diversity

We dream of a society where “diverse women” can participate in a variety of fields and where each person can achieve their own expression of their own unique human abilities, unrestrained by rigid concepts of gender. 

Though we have come a long way in comparison to societies of the distant past, there are still many barriers to women’s fruitful participation in the workforce.

We believe that we must change the status quo by fostering women’s sense of self worth and resolve to contribute to society, so that they can take their place in society to lead happy lives free from discrimination and prejudice.

We believe that it is the freely functioning women’s university that is able to free women from the conceptions of women’s traditional roles and from unconscious bias.

Our university aims to develop all women, regardless of age or nationality, by guaranteeing each and every individual’s dignity and rights, and pushing forward their learning to create people with the ability to freely express their innate abilities.

In this respect, we consider that it naturally flows that women who identify as female, who hold sincere desires to study at a women’s university, should be welcomed and that this should happen as a matter of course within a society that embraces diversity.

Some Twitter Comments

@milk_and_wine

Trans女子大のトランス女性受け入れに当事者でもないのに(当事者ってのはこの場合、その大学の学生たちのこと)「女子大終わった」みたいなこと言ってるトランスヘイターこっわ。

普通に学生やってるトランス女性より、こういうひとたちの方がよっぽど一緒に学びたくない…こわいし…

 

@ripo0079

トランス女性がお茶大入るのは女性の権利の侵害などと訴えている方は概ねお茶大には縁がない程度の知的階級さを感じさせますね。

 

@horry_a

「人の生命に関わることがらについて『コスト』という言葉を使う」って、ほんとにダメだと思う。

去年、お茶大の報道時に、誰でもトイレの増設は必要(でもトランスを閉じ込めてはいいけない)って書いたら「コスト」がかかるって非難がきた。

それはコストじゃない。必要なもの。

 

@MJunko0523

お茶大のトランスウーマン受け入れの件で、トランスウーマンになりすます奴がいるから駄目だという人たち。

たとえば、ある国で「日本人になりすました奴が犯罪を行ったから日本人は全員入国禁止」と言われたら、「はいそうですか」と納得するのですか?

私は納得できません。

要はそういうことです。

@milk_and_wine

I find the Trans-haters, who, without being in any way the ones that are personally affected by the admitting of transexual women (which is to say, students), and say things like “It’s the end of Women’s Universities”, just give me the creeps. I find the idea of studying with them a lot more scary than studying with transexual women.

 

@ripo0079

I find that the ones who say that allowing transexual women into women’s universities is a breach of women’s rights are generally those of the intellectual class with no connection with the university whatsoever.

 

@horry_a

I think that the use of the word “cost” when talking about matters that affect people’s very being is just not on.

When it was reported last year about Ochanomizu University,  I wrote that it is necessary to extend the provision of toilet amenities and I took criticism over the cost that this would entail.

That is not a “cost”. It is a necessity.

 

To the people who say that it won’t do to have trans women at Ochanomizu because there are men that will make themselves out to be transgender to get access.

If you heard that there was a country where they said “There are people making themselves out to be Japanese citizens that are coming to our country and committing crimes, so we will ban entry to all Japanese Citizens”, would you just say, “yes, that’s fair enough” and accept it.

I would not.

It’s a similar thing.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanese Learning Programs

Rocket Japanese Review 2021

I take an in depth look at the Rocket Japanese platform, 2021 edition, in depth and outline what I like, what I don’t like and what some of the alternatives are.

Read More »
Culture

The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Miki Matsubara 松原みき Mayonaka no doa 真夜中のドア with English Lyrics and translation sung by Cake Sullivan.
I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020.
Along the way I answer questions such as how did Miki Matsubara die? How did her music fit into the larger genres of Japanese City Pop and New Music?

Read More »
Graded Japanese Reading Practice

Moshi Moshi Yusuke – 30 Top Japanese New Japanese Words In Japanese in 2020 P.II

Do you know these Japanese words? AI超え おうち時間 顔芸 These are some of the new Japanese vocabulary that entered the lexicon in 2020. Japanese language, like any tongue, is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly changing. This means the process of learning Japanese is an ongoing one. But a fun one! Each year, the education company U-Can releases a list of the 30 new words, called 流行語 or 新語, that have entered the Japanese for that year. I chatted with Moshi Moshi Yusuke もしもしゆうすけ about the different words on the list. We talked about the different social movements in Japan that have occurred over the year that have lead to these new words coming into the Japanese language.

Read More »

Japanoscope uses affiliate links. Which means we may receive commisions when you click on some product links. We only link to products we believe in, use ourselves or think are genuinely good. This helps us keep all of the content on the site free of charge. As Monty Python once said, “We’re selling records in the foyer. Some of us have gotta eat too you know”.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Imjin River by the Folk Crusaders In Japanese and English

Japanese Reading Difficulty

4/12 Could be read and understood by 4th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Partitioning of Korea

Text Type

Songs In Translation

Lyrics

イムジン河水清く とうとうと流る
水鳥自由にむらがり 飛び交うよ
我が祖国南の地 想いははるか
イムジン河水清く とうとうと流る

北の大地から 南の空へ
飛び行く鳥よ 自由の使者よ
誰が祖国を二つに 分けてしまったの
誰が祖国を 分けてしまったの

    

イムジン河空遠く 虹よかかっておくれ
河よ 想いを伝えておくれ
ふるさとをいつまでも 忘れはしない
イムジン河水清く とうとうと流る

The imjin river flows so clear

It flows so strong, it flows so deep oh yes my dear

And the water fowl form flocks and fly

To and fro to and fro

My heart lies in the south

My hope lays at rivers mouth

And the imjin river flows so clear

It flows so strong it flows so deep oh yes my dear

 

From the northern continental planes

The birds they fly in flocks they fly in waves

And Like messengers from freedoms shore

make their way make their way

Who was it that cut our land in two

Gave half to me and half to you

And do they even know just what they’ve done

And do they watch the same great imjin river run

 

Down the imjin river way off far

Theres a rainbow forming in the air

Oh Imjin river tell my love

Look above look above

And tell them that I still know the road

That leads back to my home

Cause the imjin river flows so clear

 

It flows so strong it flows so deep oh yes my dear

Today for we’re looking at a song called イムジン河 Imjin River.

Imjin River runs between North and South Korea, through the ironically named demilitarised zone, where two armies eyeball eachother off across one of the most heavily armed borders on earth. The song about the river was original called Rimjingang and was composed in Korea in 1957 by Ko Jonghan to a poem by Pak Se-yong song. Rimjingang is banned in North Korea, as it uses the Imjin River as a symbol of freedom, flowing with the river north to south. 

The song found its way to Japan in the 1960s, with the Korean diaspora, where it was heard by a young writer in Kyoto names Takeshi Matsuyama. With the help of his Korean friends, Matsuyama translated some of the original lyrics and added two verses of his own. Late 60s Japan was heavily influenced by the folk music movement that was happening in America. A large number of folk acts, mixing Japanese and western folk elements were born, including a group called the Folk Crusaders in Kyoto. The group has some similarities with folk groups such as Peter, Paul and Mary. 

Matsuyama taught his version of the Korean song to group member Kazuhiko Kato. Both thought it was a long-standing Korean “traditional” song, rather than a fairly recently composed song with definite authors. The group arranged it into something quite new and attempted to launch it as their follow up song to the break out, and extremely odd, novelty single 帰ってきたよっぱらい Kaete Kaete Kita Yopparai.

Nagsa Oshima later made a somewhat experimental film of the same name, which you can see here.

Unfortunately, Imjin River was deemed too political by the Japanese government and was effectively banned in that country too.

The song, however, remains popular both in its original Korean form, and its modified Japanese form. It is a powerful statement of the pain felt by the partitioned people of the Koreas. The Japanese version also functions as a symbolic gesture by Japanese youths of the 1960s trying to break down the barriers that were often, and continue to be, placed around Korean communities in that country. Here is the Japanese version of the Folk Crusaders singing Imujin-Gawa.

 

Check out some more Japanese songs in translation here.

This song was translated as part of the Songs in Translation segment on RRR radio program Vital Bits.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Japanese Learning Programs

Rocket Japanese Review 2021

I take an in depth look at the Rocket Japanese platform, 2021 edition, in depth and outline what I like, what I don’t like and what some of the alternatives are.

Read More »
Culture

The Story Of Miki Matsubara & Mayonaka No Doa – Stay With Me

Miki Matsubara 松原みき Mayonaka no doa 真夜中のドア with English Lyrics and translation sung by Cake Sullivan.
I track the history of the song from the 1979 original version, through to the Rainych Youtube cover, to Mayonaka blowing up on TikTok in 2020.
Along the way I answer questions such as how did Miki Matsubara die? How did her music fit into the larger genres of Japanese City Pop and New Music?

Read More »
Graded Japanese Reading Practice

Moshi Moshi Yusuke – 30 Top Japanese New Japanese Words In Japanese in 2020 P.II

Do you know these Japanese words? AI超え おうち時間 顔芸 These are some of the new Japanese vocabulary that entered the lexicon in 2020. Japanese language, like any tongue, is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly changing. This means the process of learning Japanese is an ongoing one. But a fun one! Each year, the education company U-Can releases a list of the 30 new words, called 流行語 or 新語, that have entered the Japanese for that year. I chatted with Moshi Moshi Yusuke もしもしゆうすけ about the different words on the list. We talked about the different social movements in Japan that have occurred over the year that have lead to these new words coming into the Japanese language.

Read More »

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。