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.
Ponponpon Japanese Lyrics
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
そうそういい子 アアＹＯＵ ＭＡＫＥ ＭＥ ＨＡＰＰＹ！
ＥＶＥＲＹ ＴＩＭＥ ＩＳ ポN！
ＥＶＥＲＹ ＴＩＭＥ ＩＳ ポN！
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.
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.
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.
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
Arts and Photography
KYARY PAMYU PAMYU ARTWORKS 2011-2016 (SEIBENDO SHINKO)$60.11 View product on Amazon
Arts and Photography
The Tokyo Look Book: Stylish To Spectacular, Goth To Gyaru, Sidewalk To Catwalk$26.14 View product on Amazon
Kyary inspired fashion
Clothing, Shoes and Jewelry
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Clothing, Shoes and Jewelry
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Childish GambinoのThis Is Americaの日本語訳と解説ビデオを作りました。 This is America解説 This Is Americaはアメリカという国のいろんな「矛盾」を描く曲、歌詞、ビデオです。音楽では極端に対照的な構造になっています。きれいなアフリカっぽい合唱団、ギターの音楽の前後に非常に暗い感じのヒップホップの音楽がある。 それと同じようにビデオでは前のほうでChildish Gambinoと子供たちが楽しく踊っている間後ろのほうで人が反乱したり、もめたり、黒試合やっているしている。 歌詞では「お金持ちになろうぜ」「SNSで大人気になろうぜ」「踊ろうぜ」の次に「お前はただの黒人だ。拳銃を常備しないとくろすぞ」のような内容になっている。 上手いこと、アメリカ社会の矛盾をいろんな媒体で表している。 いうまでもなく、一番焦点を当てられている問題は「黒人対しての差別」「警察の黒人に対しての暴力」と「アメリカに銃が溢れている」です。 ビデオと曲が分けられないぐらい密接に合致しているけど今日は特にThis Is Americaの歌詞の方を見ていきたいと思います。 歌詞はすごく面白いと思います。一つの言葉に多重の意味がある両義的に解釈出来るのがほとんどです。はっきりした意味がほとんどない。一行一行が短い。長い文章はあまりないです。どっちかというと言葉のリズムと響きで遊んでいる感覚です。 僕が思うには一つ一つの言葉を苦労して一生懸命に考えたではなく、リズムを刻みながら思いついた言葉をその場で吐き出すように作ったのではないかと思います。でも、そのために無意識にいろんな意味に富んだ、いろんな解釈が出来る歌詞になっていると思います。 This is America 歌詞 和訳
いろんなレットイットビーの日本語訳がネット上にありますが、どれも１００％ピンと来ないから他の訳を参考にしながら西洋人、英語の母語話者として、自分の訳を作りました。 ビートルズのレットイットビーは日本人のほとんどの人は知っているのではないかと思います。 音楽を聞くだけですごく素敵な曲で十分楽しめる、感動ができると思います。歌詞の意味もみんなある程度、大雑把に分かっていると思いますが、もっと歌詞を深く見て本当の意味を探ると色々面白い発見があるから今日はその話をしたいと思います。 Mother Maryの意味 後でlet it beの題名を見てみたいと思いますがまずはmother maryという歌詞から考えて行きたいと思います。 一番議論されている歌詞は「Mother Mary」のところです。聖母マリアとして解釈が出来るし、ポールのお母さんとして解釈出来ます。僕が思うにはどちらもの意味が含まれていると思います。 まず、”Mother Mary”を辞書で調べたら聖母マリアが出てきます。 確かに Mother Maryはそういう意味です。 でも、この曲はどういう風に作られたかというとポールが夢の中で自分の母親が出て来て、「ポールはいろいろ悩んでいるようだけど、大丈夫だよ。そのままほっとおけば何とかなるよ。」と言ってくれたらしいです。 それで、なんと、ポールのお母さんの名前は「メリー」なんです。マリアの英語発音のメリーです。 ポールのお母さんと聖母マリア それでみんなよくこのMother Maryはポールのお母さんを指しているのか、聖母マリアを指しているのか、議論されます。 ポール自身どっちなのか聞かれたとき、「人の解釈に任せます」と言っています。 じゃ、どっちなんでしょうか。 僕が思うにはどちらもだと思います。 普段自分のお母さんでも、人のお母さんでも、”Mother 何とか”と呼ぶことはほとんどないと思います。
A new translation of the lyrics and meaning of the Mononoke Hime lyrics and Princess Mononoke theme song.
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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).