Hosono House Background and Translation of Boku Wa Chotto

Hosono House Album Themes

Hosono Haruomi’s debut solo record is all about being at home. So much so that he called it “Hosono House”. It was recorded shortly after he returned from a West Coast Tour of the United States,  a country which was as much his spiritual home as the one listed in his passport.

「当時の僕は終末感にさいなまれ、その上、ある精神的なショックのフラッシュ・バックなどもあって、身も心もズタズタに分裂してしまうような状態に落ち込んでいた。」 "At the time, I was struck by a premonition of some kind of apocalypse. On top of that, there was a flashback mental shock. I was depressed to the point of my body and mind being shattered."

Where was the “Hosono House”?

Haruomi’s home in Japan at the time barely qualified as being really in Japan. He was in the “American Village” of the suburban Sayama area, about an hour’s drive north west of Tokyo. American Village, is the remnants of the Johnson Air Base, established by the U.S. occupation after the war, on the site of an earlier Japanese air base from the 1930s. The Johnson Town – American Village is a chunk of America plonked down in the far East. I guess you could say it’s a more militarised version of the Disneylands that you can find utterly unchanged, uncustomized and unrepentantly celebrating The Tales of Tom Sawyer and the Wild West from Hong Kong to Shanghai, except with with more of an emphasis on aerial bombardment than nighttime “Celebrate Imagination” firework displays. It’s a case of soft toys for soft power and hard toys for hard power.

 

The America that American Village celebrates is that of the suburbs. It consists of white weatherboard homes, replete with porches, lawns and picket fences, that huddle along a single bitumen road. You can almost see the American officers lingering around the hot dog stands as they return to their abodes after a long day coordinating fire-raids of Pyongyang in the Korean War. The American Village of Sayama is a glob of burger cheese that has dripped out and stuck to the Kimono sleeve of Tokyo.

Haruomi and the “American Village”

It might seem strange that a young, long haired, social drop-out hippy like Haruomi would choose to settle down in such a historic seat of military activity. But it was cheap. After all, which self respecting Japanese would want to live in such strange abodes, devoid of Tatami mats, sliding doors and genkans. There wasn’t even a space to remove your footwear. The previous residents hadn’t bothered with taking their shoes off. So the area attracted the bohemian types, and a little community of artsy weirdos came to occupy the surreal mickey-meets-military, mini-homesteads on Tokyo’s fringe.
It suited Haruomi. He had spent most of his life obsessing over American music in a way that those around him found unhealthy. His band Happy End had become the progenitor of a rock that was able to fully meld the rhythms of American beats and the Japanese language for the first time. In many ways, he too was a piece of American cheese gunk sullying up Tokyo’s svelte look.

Happy End

Retreating to the Sayama hills, by a patch of idyllic greenery that the Americans had, without a touch of self awareness, referred to as Hyde Park, made sense to Haruomi. He was retreating in more ways than one. The band he led, Happy End, not able to sustain the upbeat promise of its name, was breaking up. He said at the time that he felt like the captain of a ship that had weathered a great storm, but was now stranded in a windless ocean. Listening to anything with a rock beat set him on edge.

Pictures of Hosono House Recording Session

Influences on Hosono House

In his troubled state, he found solace in the soothing sounds of the country revival taking hold in early 70s U.S.A. In his recent tour of the motherland, he had sat in with some production sessions with Van Dyke Parks

「ヴァン・ダイクの『ディスカバー・アメリカ』っていうアルバムを徹底的に聞き込んでいくうちに、あのアルバムをとっかかりにして、ぼくの感覚が過去に戻っていったの。たとえば、ぼくが子供の頃に聞いていたハリウッドの映画音楽とか、そういうノスタルジックな世界を思い出したんだね」 "While listening to Van Dyck's" Discover America "album, I got taken back, it was like I was a kid again. I remembered the Hollywood movie music I was listening to, and that kind of nostalgic world. "

「ロック・ビートがイヤになったんだよ。だから古いカントリーを聴き直したり、シンガー・ソング・ライターものを聴いたりしていたわけだ」 "I didn't like rock beats, so I was re-listening to old country and listening to singer-songwriters."

He could almost see the musicians sitting on the porches when he put on records by Tom Rush, Gordon Lightfoot, John Hartford. Most of all, he was impressed by the big down-home sounds of The Band on Music From The Big Pink.

「ロック・ビートがイヤになったんだよ。だから古いカントリーを聴き直したり、シンガー・ソング・ライターものを聴いたりしていたわけだ」 "I didn't like rock beats, so I was re-listening to old country and listening to singer-songwriters."

Recording Sessions for Hosono House

「自宅でメンバーが合宿状態でレコーディングするということは、正味に使える時間が長いという利点とともに、一つ 間違うとしまりなくダラダラやってしまう危険性とが同居していました。そこで、1時から6時までとレコーディング時間を区切り、三日やったら1日休むとい うやり方にしました。」 "Recording at home, it’s as if you’ve all gone off to some kind of live-in boot camp has the advantage that you can really maximise on those “peak” productive periods. The flip side is that you run the risk of wasting time endlessly faffing around. So we created a routine: 1 o'clock to 6 o’clock and after three days, we took a day off. "

So what is a wounded hippie rocker to do with a broken dream and a crate full of country? Head to the hills in search of the Yamato Appalachia.

At the same time, recording technology was getting smaller. Well, still huge really, but small enough that you could, with the help of a few stout buddies, put it in the back of a light truck. This opened up possibilities. The possibility to get away from the pay-by-the hour pressures of a commercial studio. The possibility to record somewhere where you can spend the afternoon getting the right sound, then sit down to a meal with your bandmates, maybe play some cards. The possibility to combine art-life and home-life.

Hosono House Recording Schedule and Dates

So that’s what Hosono and his buddies did (he even gave them band a name “Caramel Mama”, so the album is perhaps not strictly a “solo album” at all). On the 15th of February 1973, they set up in the bedroom of Hosono’s house, because the living room was too boomy. They recorded from roughly 1-6pm, three days on, two days off for the period of around a month, celebrating the end of the process with a party on the 12th of March 1973.

リビング・ルームにシグマ社製16トラックのミキシング・コンソールが置かれ、演奏には8畳ほどのベッド・ルームが使われた “A Sigma 16-track mixing console was placed in the living room, and a bedroom of about 8 tatami mats was used for the performance.”

The Hosono House Sound

「作品とは思えないわけよね。頭で創ったものじゃあないから。何かもっと、恥ずかしいものだね。作品として客観的に見れるものじゃないから。習作の時代だから」 "I don't think it's a “”work of art””. It's not something I created with my head. It's something more embarrassing. It's not something that can be seen objectively as a ““work””. It was “”period of study.”"

The music sounds warm and real, with an immediately recognisable similarity to Music From The Big Pink. In the mix down, they had to struggle with bringing the sound of the vibrating floor under control. The drums were in the bass mic, so if you tried to turn up the bass, you turned up the snare, toms and cymbals too. You could hear the room. It was as if the strange old American air force officer’s dwelling had become an instrument.

The tracks themselves, though very much in the American-country folk style of the time, and exulting in the domestic, also already hint at some of the vagabond eclecticism of his later work, both solo and with legendary electronic-pop-prog band Yellow Magic Orchestra. There are elements of exoticism, adventure, strange references thrown in here and there.

「意図っていうのは、ノヴェルティ・ソングなんですよ。決してラヴソングでもないし、何かをメッセージするわけでもない。ノヴェルティ・ソングというのはどうやって訳せばいいかわからないけど、そういうジャンルがあるんです。冗談音楽もその中の一つだし。昔はトニー谷とかそういう人たちがいっぱいいたけど、その後日本にはなくなっちゃったものなんです」 "The intention was to write novelty songs! A novelty song is not a love song, it doesn't contain a message. I don't know how “novelty song” translates into Japanese, but there is such a genre. I guess in Japan, one “Joke music” might be one type of music contained in it. There used to be a lot of people doing that stuff, like Tony Tani, but after that it pretty much disappeared from Japan. "

Hosono’s Musical Philosophy

Hosono_Haruomi_from__No_Smoking__at_Opening_Ceremony_of_the_Tokyo_International_Film_Festival_2019_(49013189233)

Haruomi has said it takes a lot of effort to be devoted to a genre. It’s like being an athlete.  You work away at one discipline, a certain movement, a certain routine, over and over until you achieve tiny incremental gains that put you ahead of the competition.

Haruomi has no stomach for it. He’s not an athlete. He’s a tourist. In the years since Hosono House, his wanderlust has taken him to the kingdoms of rock, country, exotica, electro-pop, ambient and, most recently, pre-rock boogie woogie. He would rather ride his bike through the countryside than grind it out on the cycle-machine. Life is like a box set of Hosono albums, you never know what you’re going to get.

「この頃は、一般的に70年代に流れていた音楽がどんどんつまらなくなってきちゃったというのがあるな。それで、ジェイムス・テイラー、ヴァン・ダイク・パークス、トム・ラッシュ、ゴードン・ライトフット、ジョン・ハートフォード……そんなのばっかり聴いていた。そしてさらには、はっぴいえんどからここに至るまでには、すっかりハリウッド漬けになってたんだ」 "Around this time, the music that was generally played in the 70's became more and more boring, so James Taylor, Van Dyke Parks, Tom Rush, Gordon Lightfoot, John Hartford. Hartford ... I was just listening to that, and even more so, from Happy End on, I was completely immersed in Hollywood. "

Hosono House Lyrics

The lyrics  on Hosono House deal mostly with Haruomi’s immediate surroundings. He wanders through the hills, the houses, the environment, and melds it with the feelings, the hopes and dreams of the time.

「『ホソノ・ハウス』の詞っていうのは、あの頃のぼくの生活、あの場所から出てきたもので、それ以上のものも、それ以下のものも書けなかったんだ」 "The lyrics of 'Hosono House' came out of my life at that time, that place. I couldn't have written anything more or less than what I did."

Song In-depth: Boku Wa Chotto

By way of illustration, today I’ve done a translation of track two on the album “Boku wa chotto”. The title itself is prosaic, matter-of-fact, maybe almost akin to the “it’s so boring it’s good” aesthetic of late teens Melbourne dole-wave. It means “I’m a little…” or “Maybe, for me…”. It’s equivocal, an unfinished thought. It seems to reflect the uncertainty that Haruomi was feeling in this period in his life, in his art, in his sense of place.

But mostly, Boku wa chotto is an attempt to banish these uncertainties in a sun-drenched ode to the quiet life. The singer is sun-bathing, chatting over tea, going out for strolls, listening to country music, and ultimately deciding to keep quiet. It even has a reference to the white houses of the American Village he was living in at the time.

レコーディングは毎日午後に5時間ほど行われ、3日に1日休むペースで進み 後に細野は「日本語のロックがどうのこうのという騒ぎの中心にまつり上げられた“はっぴい”も過去のこととなったし、少し静かにしていたいという思いを込めて“僕はだまるつもりです”と歌ったのだが、その後のめぐり合わせで入ってしまったキャラメル・ママのおかげで、一層落ち着く暇などなくなってしまったものだ」[3]と語っている。 All that stuff about Happy End being “Japanese rock lyric trail blazers” and had come to an end, and I was thinking things might quieten down. I put that sense into Boku Wa Chotto. As it turned out, once I started doing things with this “Caramel Mama” band, things weren’t nearly as quiet as I had expected!

Japan, The Sun and the “Hi No Dezuru Kuni” 日の出ずる国

The only line that jolts us out of this at-home bliss is the refrain, as many good refrains do. The line appears three times and refers to the nation of Japan, another home reference, but this time at much more bird’s eye level. He uses an archaic name for the country 日の出ずる国, “the country where the sun rises”. Our term “Land of the Rising Sun” is a translation of this phrase. The modern Japanese name for Japan is a variation on this theme ”日本”, meaning literally the “The origin of the sun”. At first glance this sounds kind of conceited, like the Japanese had come up with a name for their own country that made it so central that it was where the sun itself originates. But in reality, the name was bestowed by China, who were the ultimate superpower in the region of the time, much as America is now. Japan is roughly East of China, so it made sense to refer to the country as “the place where the sun rises”.

Either way, the sun has a central place in Japanese culture. Their striking flag has a sun on a white background. Their Emperor is meant to be descended from the Amaterasu, the ancient Goddess of the sun. So Haruomi’s numerous references to sunshine, rays of light, glistening and shimmering is rich in deep cultural reverberations.

Hosono House Cultural Context

The other cultural context we can’t ignore is that of the massive riots that raged through the 1960’s Japan, which were only just beginning to quiet down in the early 70s. Amongst the many issues that had brought people onto the streets, the most universally mobilising was that of the Japan-America Security Treaty which placed American army and air bases throughout Japan, in return for protection. Many viewed, and still view, this mafioso-like arrangement as an infringement on Japanese sovereignty and an act of American imperialism. Perhaps the ironic thing about this movement and the security bases themselves, was that the U.S. bases often became places of congregation for radicals, partly because of the anti-war publications that were distributed from US activists themselve.

So, though Boku wa chotto is not an overtly political song, and Haruomi has never shown a particular proclivity towards activism, I think that it is safe to say the songs has references to the political climate of the time and to the dueling urges of nationalism, anti-imperialism, pacifism and the love-hate relationship between the United States and the 日の出ずる国.

 

That’s a lot to bite off. No wonder the upshot of Haruomi’s domestic, sun-soaked, Japanese-Americana riffing is that he’s going to take a quiet moment.

僕は一寸 Boku Wa Chotto In Translation

This is rough translation of the song. It’s translated more for rhyme and to capture the general feel than as complete word-for-word translation.

ひなたぼっこでも

していきませんか

そこにまあ すわって

お茶でも飲んで お話を

どんな話をしゃべりましょうか

日の出ずる国の明日の事でも・・・

 

散歩がてらに 歩きませんか

そこから 立ちあがって

服のすそでも はらって

どんなところを歩きましょうか

日の出ずる国の輝く道でも・・・

 

道のぬかるみ 入り日が映り

だまりこくる 夕焼けの午後

僕は一寸 笑うつもりです―

 

ここら辺りに住みつきませんか

あそこを ひきはらって

生で聞けるからカントリーミュージック

白い家でも見つけましょうか

日の出ずる丘に彼女と2人で

 

外の日溜り 枯木に埋まり

だまりこくる 家の中の午後

僕は一寸 だまるつもりです―

Don’t be shy

We could just sit here in this sunshine

We could put the kettle on

Talk about whatever we want

 Shall we talk about

What’s over the horizon

For me and you and everyone

And the land of the rising sun

Why don’t we go

Out, go for a stroll

Climb up over the hill

Just like Jack and Jill

Which path should we go down. we could go left or right, I don’t mind

Or follow that glistening one

On the road to the rising sun

 

And the mud on the path

Is shining just like glass

As the afternoon keeps quiet

And the sun just keeps on shining

I’m gonna let that time pass

The only plan I’ve got is to laugh

 

Why don’t we live around here

Mov outta that old place

Listen to the people play their country music, every day

 

find a house that’s white

Paint it any colour we might  like

Maybe we could find one

On the hill beneath the rising sun

Splashes of sunlight

Cover up the trees all dying

The afternoon’s still silent

Maybe we could stay inside

Sometimes it’s alright

To stay quiet

Hosono House Track Listing

1.”Rock-a-Bye My Baby” (ろっか・ばい・まい・べいびい Rokka Bai Mai Beibī)3:15

2.”Boku wa Chotto” (僕は一寸)3:52

3.”Choo Choo Gatagoto” (CHOO CHOO ガタゴト)3:25

4.”Owari no Kisetsu” (終わりの季節)3:12

5.”Fuyu Koe” (冬越え)3:15

6.”Party” (パーティー Pātī)2:02

7.”Fuku ha Uchi Oni ha Soto” (福は内 鬼は外)2:28

8.”Jūsho Futei Mushoku Teishūnyū” (住所不定無職低収入)2:35

9.”Koi wa Momoiro” (恋は桃色)2:47

10.”Rose and Beast” (薔薇と野獣 Bara to Yajū)4:24

11.”Aiaigasa” (相合傘)0:18

Where To Listen to Hosono House?

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