Ikiataribattari Song From Midnight Diner: Lyrics & Background

I’ve had so many musical discoveries watching the Netflix series Midnight Diner. One of these was the wonderfully quasi-onamatopoec euphoneous 人生行きあたりばったりJinsei Ikiataribattari song by Suemarr that first made an appearance in the “nekomanma” episode of the program. I’ve done an English translation of the ikiataribattari lyrics, and some quotes by the songwriter about how the song was made. 

As with much of the Midnight Diner soundtrack, the song is not made by a big name star, but rather a jobbing musical craftsman plying his trade in the shadows just to the side of the neon lights. 

Suemarr (スーマー)and the creation of Ikiataribattari

Suemarr’s (pronounced Soo-mar) big musical break came relatively late in life. On top of an earlier incarnation as a drummer, he had been singing songs for the better part of 15 years when his composition Jinse Ikiataribattari featured in Midnight Diner. 

The original creator of the Midnight Diner comic Yaro Abe had actually been aware of Suemarr from before the video version of the show started to be made, as Suemarr has spoken about on his blog:  

“「人生行きあたりばったり」が歌になるまでの経緯は、実は「深夜食堂」よりも前の話に遡ります。

The process of the creation of the song “Jinsei Ikiataribattari” actually started long before “Midnight Diner”. 

「人生行きあたりばったり」は御存知の通り、安倍夜郎さんが歌詩を書いて、私が歌にしました。

As you know, the words to “Jinsei Ikiatari Battari”were written by Yaro Abe, to which I added music.

安倍さんはその歌詩を手紙に6番まで書き上げて私に送ってくれました。『これに曲をつけてくれませんか?」

Abe sent my six verses of lyrics in the mail. “Could you set this to song? “

正にあの深夜食堂に登場する人たちの絵のタッチと同じような繊細で温かみのある字で綴られていました。

The words delicately and warmly captured the essence of the characters that appear in the Midnight Diner series.”

The song was originally written as a collaboration between the mangaka and the songwriter to be included on Suemarr’s debut album Minstrel.

Suemarr meets Midnight Diner director Joji Matsuoka

The director of the screen adaptation, Joji Matsuoka, became aware of Suemarr’s work when he and Abe ventured out to see him play one night:

“久しぶりに福原希己江さんと新橋の草枕という喫茶店でライブをした時に安倍夜郎さんと「深夜食堂」監督の松岡錠二さんが初めて聴きに来てくれました。

I was playing a gig with Kimie Fukuhara for the first time in a while at a cafe called Kusamakura in Shinbashi. Yaro Abe and Midnight Diner director Joji Matsuoka came to watch for the first time.”

I’ve written in the past about how Kimie Fukuhara met the Midnight Diner director at a party. Suemarr was also a friend of the Midnight Diner’s opening theme singer Tsunekichi Suzuki. You get the sense that the show’s strong musical identity really did come together naturally, at the bar, down the darkly twinkling alley, over the choko cup. Perhaps this is part of the reason why the Midnight Diner soundtrack has such a strong identity. It’s the sound of an artistic social circle.

Suemarr elaborates on his relationship with Kimie Fukuhara:

この頃は既に福原希己江さんの歌は「深夜食堂」で流れていました。

At the time, Kimie Fukura’s songs were already being used in Midnight Diner.

実は福原希己江さんとはかなり前からの知り合いで、八丁堀にある七針というギャラリーでのライブで出会いました。

Actually, I had known Kimie Fukuhara for quite a long time, I had met her at a gig at a gallery in Hatchobori called Nanahari.

その七針が制作した彼女のソロアルバムを出した頃で、深夜食堂が放映されるよりもずっと前のことでした。

Her first solo album, produced by that same Nanahari, was released long before Midnight Diner went to air.

それ以来、仲良くなり、時々ライブを一緒にやっていたのです。

From there on, we struck up a friendship and would play shows together from time to time.

Strangely enough, I’ve played music at Nanahari  surprisingly myself on two occasions. It is a white box, tucked under a nondescript city structure in a corporate looking, business orientated area of Tokyo. It is the kind of room you would more expect to find, say, a team of sweatshop foreign apparel workers in than a couple of songwriters trading verses and musings on the whimsical nature of things. Certainly not the sort of place you usually expect to find bohemian troubadours aimlessly a-rambling on the ikiataribattari.

Kimie Fukuhara went on to take an iphone recording of Suemarr playing jinsei ikiataribattari live and send it to the Tokyo Stories production team. 

Either way, the song seems like it was all but inevitably destined to appear in the show. After all, the words to the song had been written by the original comic creator himself…

Ikiataribattari writing process

Suemarr’s description of the how the song was written also has a strong sense of inevitability about it:

安倍さんの詩を何度か読み返している内に、歌になっていました。

I read the lyrics over and over, and it just became a song.

言葉と音楽は出会いです。こんなこともあるのです。

Words and music are a coming together.  This kind of thing exists.

And though the “song wrote itself” narrative is an oft-used cliche, the “destiny” creation story goes well with the theme of the song itself – that, in life, you are best off following your nose. Which is a slightly more lacadiscally bohemian way of saying, surrender yourself to a higher power.

So, with that background in place let’s get into looking at what the Ikiataribattari lyrics are actually on about.

What does Ikiatari battari mean?

Ikiataribattari means to wander around without any particular aim or purpose. It means to ramble, or wander or let yourself be blown on the breeze of chance and whimsy. 

All this is really one of the blue jean, everyday work-wear central themes of folk music and ideology. It’s the narrative of the freewheelin hobo, lone wolf, outsider who rollin’ stones it from town to town like musical shoe salesman – except with a guitar case on his back rather than a suitcase in his hands. You can see this right from “Through this world I’m a-bound to ramble” right through to it’s more rock n roll incarnation “Baby I was born to run”. 

You can also see it in Suemarr’s Japanese folk forebears, for example, as in Wataru Takada’s iconic “Seikatsu no Gara”:

It is one of those beautiful confluences of the world as it is that the Midnight Diner team first heard Suemarr’s music at a venue called “Kusamakura” which literally means “grass pillow” and is a word for sleeping in the open grass field while on the move.

Ikiataribattari lyrics Translated

Here is my translation of the ikiataribattari song lyrics. I’ve aimed to create a translation which is singable and uses a rhyming structure that both pays attention to those found in the original and makes sense in English. As such, not every line is a completely “literal” representation of the original (although, it is hard to know what literal even means, in that when rendering something completely literally it often actually ends up making little to no sense in the corresponding language).


行き当たりばったり
行き当たりばったり
行き当たりばったりよ

子供の頃から
いくつになっても
行き当たりばったりよ

路地裏くねくね
会ってもなくゆくのが
とても好きなのよ

暑い日が日陰で
寒い日は日向で
じっとしてるよ

散々迷って
失敗するのも
よくあることだろうよ

どうしようもないけど
何とかなってる
それでいいじゃないの

運もないけど
神様いるって
何となく信じてる

死ぬまでそうだろうなぁ

I go whichever way the wind blows
I go whichever way the wind blows
I go whichever way the wind blows

I’ve been like that since I was a kid
I guess I’ll be just like that right until the end
I go whichever way the wind blows

Rambling through those back streets
Follow my nose, and follow my feet
That’s just how I like it, don’t you know?

When it’s hot, I slip into the shade
When it’s cold, a pool of sun to bathe
I take it easy as she goes.

Sometimes you get lost, don’t know where you are
Sometimes you try your heart out, and never get far
Well that’s just one for the road
Sometimes there’s nothing for it
But if your heads above water
There’s no shame in that, no no no.

Yes, it’s true that I’ve got no love
But there must be some kind of God up above
Or I guess I kinda sorta hope so.

And I guess that’s how I’ll be till I lay low.

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. You can hear my music at my bandcamp page:

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。

僕の音楽はBandcampで聞けます。

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