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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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.

I’ve also done manga & anime related translations/investigations of songs such as Gurenge from Demon Slayer Kimetsu No Yaiba, and Laputa Castle in The Sky Theme Song or visit my Youtube channel here.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Graded Japanese Reading Practice

Gurenge

Gurenge (Demon Slayer – Kimetsu No Yaiba Opening Song) Translated To English And Explained 鬼滅の刃OP紅蓮華の歌詞を英語に訳して解説 https://youtu.be/rFbA75b_rlA The opening song for Demon Slayer Kimetsu No Yaiba,

Read More »
Culture

Japanese Band Musician Chat

Recently I had a chat with few of my favourite musicians from Japan: Saya from Tenniscoats, Yuko Ikema and Sota Tateishi from Jon No Son on the radio show “Kikeru Radio”.
テニスコーツのさや、池間由布子, 立石草太と「きけるラジオ」で話をしました。
Here’s a transcription in Japanese & English.
日本語と英語の文字起こしをつけました。

Transcript and pictures here:
https://japanoscope.com/japanese-band-musician-chat/

Original recording of chat appeared on Minna Kikeru Radio here:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:hAWdAge29r

Sayas – New Home
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:WtNBRiFevV

Ikema Yuko 池間由布子 Albums
https://minnakikeru.com/?q=ikema

Japanese music and Albums mentioned in the recording:
Kanako Numata –
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:IY3WS9UdJw

Kohost Sota Tateishi’s 立石草太 album with Jon No Son ジョンのサン:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:QmQAX2Cpth

Read More »
Songs In Translation

Yumbo Onibi

Onibi, by Yumbo is such a wonderful song. I’ve done a translation of the lyrics and will post an English language version when I get

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。

What does it mean to be “Ugly” In Japan

Japanese Reading Difficulty

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

Themes

Beauty, depression, cosmetic surgery.

Text Type

Social Media Posts (Twitter & Youtube)

What does it mean to be “busu” 「ブス」or “minikui” in Japan?

In a world that worships at the altar of kawaii 「可愛い」, at saucer sized eyes and at double skinned eyelids. What is it like to feel like you don’t live up? And how can you live a life so that it doesn’t overwhelm you.

Twitter writer and Youtuber “Todoron” painfully, graphically and courageously lays bear her experiences of this situation for all to see on Twitter, and later Youtube. Her first tweet was a single Hiragana character. Her third tweet got 150,000 likes and 30,000 retweets. 

She seems to having something that resonates with contemporary online Japanese society. She mixes simple-truth observations of the state of the world, and her own inner state. Topics she tackles include her history of cosmetic surgery, concepts of beauty and mental health.

Today I want to have a look at the language she uses around the issues.

 

A translation of Todoron's first tweets

Through repeated rounds of cosmetic surgery, you can turn yourself into something that you believe to be beautiful. But turning yourself into something the world believes is beautiful remains impossible to do forever. Beauty is talent. It all depends on whether you are able to bring this beauty out, or you choose to deny it. Even people who show the world that they have achieved beauty through effort are only keeping an appointment with their own natural born talent.

Feelings that only ugly people can understand

・ The fear of the group photo

・ The fear of catching your own image reflecting back at you from panes of glass throughout the city

・ The fear that Snow will not be enough to make you beautiful

・ The feeling of guilt at being attracted to a hot guy

・ The philosophical regret of “Why did I have to be born as myself when I could have just as easily been born as someone like Nozomi Sasaki”

 

I love girly things like frills and lace. It makes me sad that I am so scared of people denying the femininity of the “me covered in those things” that I act like I don’t even like them in the first place.

People always seem to think that people who go public with their cosmetic surgery say to themselves “Cosmetic surgery is making an effort! Please acknowledge how much work I’ve put in! Tell me I’m beautiful” out of some kind of need for acknowledgment of self or urgent need for recognition. But really, I think that the vast majority of people are actually saying to themselves “If I try and hide the fact I’ve had some work done, people will still talk, so I may as well just be open about it. People can choose not to accept what I’ve done if they like, no one is forcing them to stick around if they don’t want to”.

A translation of Todoron's first Youtube clip

こんな醜い感情で生きていてもいいですか

Is it good enough to live life with these kind of ugly feelings?

はじめましてとどろんと申します。初投稿です。

Pleased to meet you, I’m dodoron this is my first video.

本日は東京新潟間を背景に整形経験者である私の話をして行こうと思います。

Today, with the scenery between Tokyo and Niigata as my background, I’m going to talk about myself and my experiences as someone who has had cosmetic surgery.

整形経験者

Person who has had cosmetic surgery  

東京駅から発射します。楽しみです。

Launching out from Tokyo. This is going to be fun.

自分語りになりますがこうして外に出られるようになったのは整形してからです。

I fear I will be talking all about myself, but going out like this is only something I have been able to do since having surgery.

ブスは外に出るのも許されない。

Ugly people aren’t allowed in public.

日々顔を非難される経験を積めばそういう思考になります。

If you have experience of having your face criticized on a daily basis over a long period of time, that’s how you come to think.

恐怖。

Fear.

評価。

Criticism.

新潟に出発です。電車や新幹線の音っていいですね。

Leaving Niigata. Don’t you love the sound of the train and the shinkansen?

ガラスがなければ自分の顔を見なくていいし最高なのになあ。

If only there was no glass here to reflect my face everything would be perfect.

朝食を食べ損ねた弁当を買いました。

I missed breakfast, so I’ve bought a bento.

余談ですが美人て財布を出すふりが上手いですよね。

To digress a moment, beautiful people are great at making like they are pulling out their wallet aren’t they?

やっぱりおごられなれているのでしょうか。

I suppose it’s because they are so used to having others pay the bill.

ていうか今気がついたけど服のシワやばいですね。

Never mind that, I’ve just realised the wrinkles in my shirt are next level.

こういうところがブスなんですよね。ごめんなさい。

I guess this is one of the hallmarks of being ugly. I apologize.

美人は服がシワシワでもだらしない美人なのにブスは「そんなんだからブスなんだよ」と言われるの理不尽だよね。

If a beautiful person wears wrinkled clothes they are just a beautiful person in wrinkled clothes. But if an ugly person wears wrinkled clothing, people say “that’s the reason you’re so unattractive”. It makes no sense.

いただきます。おいしそう。

Bon appetite. Looks good.

さて再出発です。雪だー!綺麗!

And, we’re off again. Look at the snow. It’s beautiful!

整形前はきれいなものを見ても素直に口に出せませんでした。

Before having cosmetic surgery, I was unable to speak freely about beautiful things.

ブスがはしゃいでると思われるのが恥ずかしかったからです。

I felt that people would just think that I was an ugly person shooting her mouth off.

ブスって捻くれてる人が多いと思うんですがそういった複雑な感情も影響していると思います。

Ugly people are often a little twisted I think that it must be the result of experiencing such complex emotions.

よし帰りましょ。

Well, time to head for home.

新潟でも撮ろうと思ったのですが無理だったのでお土産を紹介します。

I wasn’t able to shoot in Niigata, as I’d hoped, so I’ll just show you my souvenirs.

のどぐろ茶漬け

Nodo Guro cyatuke

 

嫉妬

Jealousy

 

これは自分用。夜食に食べたら死ぬほど美味しい絶対

This is for me. This would be the bomb to have as a late night snack.

 

可愛い女の子がおっさん臭いもの好きをアピールするのがウザいと思うのは私だけでしょうか。ギャップがいいとか言うけどだいたいだれでも好きだわ。

Am I the only one that gets annoyed at beautiful people trying to make a big thing out of how they love eating the sort of snacks a middle aged man might like. People say “it’s such a lovely contrast”, but let’s face it, who doesn’t like that stuff?

そしてこちらは家族へのお土産

I got these for my family

笹団子です

Bamboo shoot balls

 

ブスだけど見た目可愛いものは好き

I may be ugly, but I like cute stuff.

 

そしてジャスミンティー

And, jazmine tea

 

なんか凹んでるんだけど

Looks a bit dinted but

パンを食べる、うめぇ

Time for a pastry. Man, that’s good.

おいしいという感覚は美醜に関わらず平等に与えられた最高の快楽ですね。

Deliciousness is the greatest sense that people of beauty or ugliness have received equally.

ごちそうさまでした。

That was good.

帰りは雨で景色がよく見えませんでした。

I couldn’t see the scenery on the way back because of the rain.

今日の動画はここで終わりです。初投稿いかがでしたか。

I’ll finish up my video here. How did you like my first post?

ぜひご意見ありましたらコメント欄までお願いいたします。

If you have any thoughts please let me know in the comments.

では、ありがとうございました。

Thank you very much.

さようなら

Goodbye.

 
Graded Japanese Reading Practice
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Gurenge

Gurenge (Demon Slayer – Kimetsu No Yaiba Opening Song) Translated To English And Explained 鬼滅の刃OP紅蓮華の歌詞を英語に訳して解説 https://youtu.be/rFbA75b_rlA The opening song for Demon Slayer Kimetsu No Yaiba,

Read More »
Culture
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Japanese Band Musician Chat

Recently I had a chat with few of my favourite musicians from Japan: Saya from Tenniscoats, Yuko Ikema and Sota Tateishi from Jon No Son on the radio show “Kikeru Radio”.
テニスコーツのさや、池間由布子, 立石草太と「きけるラジオ」で話をしました。
Here’s a transcription in Japanese & English.
日本語と英語の文字起こしをつけました。

Transcript and pictures here:
https://japanoscope.com/japanese-band-musician-chat/

Original recording of chat appeared on Minna Kikeru Radio here:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:hAWdAge29r

Sayas – New Home
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:WtNBRiFevV

Ikema Yuko 池間由布子 Albums
https://minnakikeru.com/?q=ikema

Japanese music and Albums mentioned in the recording:
Kanako Numata –
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:IY3WS9UdJw

Kohost Sota Tateishi’s 立石草太 album with Jon No Son ジョンのサン:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:QmQAX2Cpth

Read More »
Songs In Translation
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Yumbo Onibi

Onibi, by Yumbo is such a wonderful song. I’ve done a translation of the lyrics and will post an English language version when I get

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。

What are the words that killed Hana Kimura?

What happened to Hana Kimura?

Words are knives. On the 23rd of May 2020 we saw that in the tragic death of Hana Kimura, Wrestler and star of reality TV show Terrace House.

So what were the linguistic weapons that killed her? And what are the words that tried to come to her rescue? And how can we dodge the knives when they are thrown at us? Today I would like to tackle these questions by translating and analysing some of the comments made on Japanese social networks before and after her death.

I’ve divided these comments into the supporters of Hana, and the haters of Hana. And her own voice.

I want to start with the famous soccer player Keisuke Honda. He released a long audio commentary on the incident where he shared his own approach to dealing with online bullying. I will come back to the details of exactly what he does at the end, and hopefully that will help anyone that is listening if they ever have to deal with online abuse. First of all let’s look at one of his twitter comments.

 

Japanese Reading Difficulty

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

Themes

Hana Kimura, Suicide, Online bulllying

Text Type

Social Media Posts

Supporter

Honda Keisuke

Famouse Japanese soccer player.

弱い人を狙うな。
Don’t target the weak people.
誹謗中傷はやるなって言ってもなくならないし、なのでやってもいいからちゃんと強い人を狙うこと。
Even if I say “quit hating online”, online bullying won’t go away. So I’ll just say, go ahead and bully, but target the strong.

「結論」
俺んところに来い。そして末長く誹謗中傷のプラットフォームとして使用してください。

Conclusion
Bring your bullying my way, and you can use your platform to troll me to your heart’s content.

Hater

テラスハウス史上、いやテレビ史上1番気色悪いです。
You are the most disgusting thing that has ever appeared on Terrace House, no, on Television.
ほんとにお願いだから目立たないでください。
Please just do us a favour and pull your head in.
プロレスもだれも応援してません。
No one is barracking for you, even as a pro-wrestler.

Supporter

長与 千種 Chigusa Nagayo
Wrestler
心がザワザワして苦しい。
My heart is heaving in pain. 
ありえん ありえん ありえん ありえんぞ、許せない 言葉は時に鋭利過ぎるナイフになって人の心の奥深くを 無残に切り裂き荒らす。
It’s impossible, impossible, impossible. It’s unforgivable. Sometimes words are over-sharp knives that cut cruelly, deep inside a person and sever the heart in two.

観たままの姿は基本キャラクターとしての偽りの姿。

If you only saw the face she (Hana) presented, you were seeing a fictitious character. 
本当の姿を出さずに生きる彼女はプロとして。
She lived without showing her true self, she was a professional.
長与千種の知る本来の持つ顔は清純なのに
The Hana that Chigusa Nagayo knew was a pure soul. 

Hater

テラハ見ていて初めて気持ちが悪くなりました。
For the first time, watching Terrace House made me sick.

テラハ大好きだったのに花さんのせいで嫌いになりました。早く卒業してください。大嫌いです。
I loved Terrace House until Hana came on. Please leave the show soon. I hate you.

お前が早くいなくなればみんな幸せなのにな。まじで早く消えてくれよ。
If you were gone, everyone would be so happy. I’m serious, just disappear.

Supporter

岡田結実さん

「人の言葉って刃物だっていうのが、人が亡くなってからわかるっていうのがすごく悔しいですし、そんなことあっちゃいけない」

「芸能人だから、顔を合わせない人だからっていって叩いてくる人多いじゃないですか

Celebrity and actress Yui Okada

The fact that people don’t realise that words are knives is just tragic. This sort of thing just shouldn’t happen.

Because someone is famous, and you don’t ever have to come face to face with them, a lot of people just think it’s okay to take pot shots.

Supporter

Hater

テラハに出なければ今頃底辺プロレスで地味にしかし平和に過ごせてたものの、
If you hadn’t gone on Terrace House, about now you would be a low-grade wrestler living a regular, yet peaceful, life.
あなたの性格ゆえに完全に人間として終わりましたね。
But because of your personality, you basically have lost all value as a human being. 
これで彼氏欲しいとか、DV絶対するからやめてください。
Because of that, don’t say things like “I want a boyfriend”. I’m sure you would be prone to domestic violence, so just don’t.
それともそういう家庭で育ったのかもですね。育ちは怖いですね。
I guess maybe you were raised in a household like that. How you are raised is a scary thing.

Supporter

メンタリストDaiGo @Mentalist_DaiGo

テラスハウスの木村花さんの訃報fuho見てやはり思うけど、芸能事務所とかは、ネットの誹謗中傷に対して、【情報開示請求】ちゃんとやって訴訟soshoしたらいいと思う。
On hearing of Terrace House Hana Kimura’s death, it made me think, yet again, that entertainment agencies need to step up, lodge information disclosure requests and sue.

アンチに容赦yoshaなど不要。損害賠償だけでなく、勤務先の会社にも内容 証明送りつけて【社会的に抹殺masatsu】すべき。
Haters need no leniency. And it shouldn’t stop at compensation for damages. People need to have their places of work sent evidence of what has transpired, these sort of actions need to be obliterated from society.

Hater

In response to Hana’s cat photo post

猫にも暴力ふるってんのー
Are you even being violent towards cats?

Supporter

Smiley Kikuchi – Commentator

ネットの誹謗中傷の書き込みをされて傷ついている人に「たかがその程度で」と考える人もいます。
There are people that think that being abused online is “no big thing”.
程度のレベルを決めるのは、やった側ではなく、やられた側が決めます。
But what is and is not a big thing isn’t decided by perpetrators, but by those that are perpetrated against.
悪戯とか死ぬとは思わなかったでは済まされない。
Saying that pranking around is not deadly does not cut it. 
書き込んだ者は言葉の凶器で命を奪った指殺人の犯人です。もうやめてください。
The people that have used their words as weapons are criminal “armchair murderers” who have stolen a life. Please just stop

Supporter

Kazuya – Youtuber & Commentator

ネットの誹謗中傷の書き込みをされて傷ついている人に「たかがその程度で」と考える人もいます。
There are people that think that being abused online is “no big thing”.
程度のレベルを決めるのは、やった側ではなく、やられた側が決めます。
But what is and is not a big thing isn’t decided by perpetrators, but by those that are perpetrated against.
悪戯とか死ぬとは思わなかったでは済まされない。
Saying that pranking around is not deadly does not cut it. 
書き込んだ者は言葉の凶器で命を奪った指殺人の犯人です。もうやめてください。
The people that have used their words as weapons are criminal “armchair murderers” who have stolen a life. Please just stop

Supporter

Katsube Genki – Social Commentator

@KTB_genki
木村花さんの死去shikyoを受けて、著名人がSNS上の誹謗中傷をどうにかして欲しいという声を上げているけれど、
Since Hana Kimura’s death famous people have been calling for something to be done about online bullying.
誹謗中傷を続けたい人たちが、早速彼等彼女等に誹謗中傷をしている。
That has led to the bullies in turn quickly abusing the people that are calling out the abuse. 
そうやって他の著名人が続かないようにしている。本当にクズだと思う。
That is how the bullies try to bring down the celebrities. They really are no better than garbage.

Hana's own comments

毎日100件近く率直な意見。 
Everyday, nearly 100 frank opinions.
傷付いたのは否定できなかったから。
The reason they cut me up is that I was unable to deny what they were saying. 
死ね、気持ち悪い、消えろ、今まで ずっと私が1番私に思ってました。
“Drop dead”, “you make sick”, “disappear”. These are all words I have told myself, more than anyone else. 
お母さん産んでくれてありがとう。
Mother, thanks for bringing me into this world.
愛されたかった人生でした。
In my life, all I wanted was to feel loved.
側で支えてくれたみんなありがとう。
Thanks to everyone who has been in my corner.

大好きです。 弱い私でごめんなさい
I love you. Sorry for being weak little me.

 

愛してる、楽しく長生きしてネ。ごめんね。

I love you. Have fun, and live long. I’m sorry.

Honda Keisuke's comments

Renowned soccer player Keisuke Honda released an auditory commentary on his Nowvoice platform, where he talked about approaches to online bullying and his own approach to dealing with haters. He has some interesting ideas that are hopefully useful to many people.

 

言葉の暴力ってというのは実際の暴力よりもはるかに時によっては、ダメージを受けるというのは間違いではないと思います。
The violence of language can cause more damage than real violence.
僕自身も誹謗中傷されて、全く平気かといったらそうではないし、それは気にはします。気にしないといったらウソになる。
I, myself, have been the subject of online abuse. To say that it doesn’t phase me would be a lie.
僕の場合は慣れてきたというか逆にそういった誹謗中傷がエネルギー元になってきたというのもあって。
But in my case, I guess you could say I’m used to it. It’s even gotten to the point where you could say that online abuse has become a source of energy for me.
僕は本当なにかおかしいこと言っているとかもしれないですけど誹謗中傷の人いなくなったらそれはそれですばらしい世界でなくなったらいいとん思っているんですよ。なくなるべきだとおもっているしなくなったらいいとおもっているんですけど
I might be saying something strange here, and I really do think the world would be a better place without the bullies, and I do think that bullying shouldn’t happen,
本当にそういった人たちもいるから反骨精神じゃないけどモチベーションになれているといのもあるんですよ。。。そういった意味では感謝している。
but I feel like those people have actually become a kind of motivation for me. Maybe it’s some kind of “rebellious spirit” kind of thing…but, in that way, I’m thankful to them.

He goes on to talk about how the bullies may have been raised in difficult circumstances themselves, and be projecting their own pain. He tries to identify or humanise them.
He talks about how he has received death threats and all sorts of abuse, but is still alive and well. He goes as far as saying he wants to accept their abuse as a way of helping them heal.
He says he was blessed with a supporting upbringing, but not everyone is like that. As a result
He says people are fundamentally drawn to being mean to each other, and that realistically there is no way to eradicate this human trait.
His answer, then, for himself, is to accept the hatred, and use it like garbage that you turn into rocket fuel. Burn it up, harness its energy. I think that is a really important message for anyone that anyone who is a creator, wants to take part in the arena of ideas, who wants to change the world in any way, or anyone that just has a voice.

Graded Japanese Reading Practice
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Gurenge

Gurenge (Demon Slayer – Kimetsu No Yaiba Opening Song) Translated To English And Explained 鬼滅の刃OP紅蓮華の歌詞を英語に訳して解説 https://youtu.be/rFbA75b_rlA The opening song for Demon Slayer Kimetsu No Yaiba,

Read More »
Culture
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Japanese Band Musician Chat

Recently I had a chat with few of my favourite musicians from Japan: Saya from Tenniscoats, Yuko Ikema and Sota Tateishi from Jon No Son on the radio show “Kikeru Radio”.
テニスコーツのさや、池間由布子, 立石草太と「きけるラジオ」で話をしました。
Here’s a transcription in Japanese & English.
日本語と英語の文字起こしをつけました。

Transcript and pictures here:
https://japanoscope.com/japanese-band-musician-chat/

Original recording of chat appeared on Minna Kikeru Radio here:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:hAWdAge29r

Sayas – New Home
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:WtNBRiFevV

Ikema Yuko 池間由布子 Albums
https://minnakikeru.com/?q=ikema

Japanese music and Albums mentioned in the recording:
Kanako Numata –
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:IY3WS9UdJw

Kohost Sota Tateishi’s 立石草太 album with Jon No Son ジョンのサン:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:QmQAX2Cpth

Read More »
Songs In Translation
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Yumbo Onibi

Onibi, by Yumbo is such a wonderful song. I’ve done a translation of the lyrics and will post an English language version when I get

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。

Learn Japanese Through Death Poems Part 3

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 5th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Poetry, Death, Mortality, nature.

Text Type

Poem, Haiku

About Japanese Death Poems

Today we’re taking our third look at Japanese death poems. Now like the name suggests these are poems that people in Japan have written through the ages just before they die, or on their deathbed, and they’re fascinating little windows into a whole different world across time and space -windows on people reflecting on their lives in their final moments.
These poems have been around since around the 7th century.
I first came across these through this book Japanese death poems by Yoel Hoffman. It’s a fantastic little compendium of these poems and translations. So I thought I’d go through and introduce some of these but also give my own take. I’ll do some of my own translations, because there’s often quite a few different ways that these things can be done.

Death Poem byHiroshi Kuroshiki

A translation of an Instagram post from the artist

香波

Ko-Ha

Died 14 August 1897

Following on from the misty moons, and writers who are dreaming in our previous look at Japanese Death Poems, we have a death poem by Koha 香波. Once again we have somebody with a pretty groovy name. I wish we could all have names as good as these guys. Ko 香 means a “fragrance” or a “smell” and 波 ha means “wave”. So Koha is a fragrant wave. You often hear references to fragrances, and the idea of lotuses and flowers in Buddhist thought. Indeed, if you go to a temple, you often see they put out incense burning to create an otherworldly feeling. Koha died in 1897, so we’re going relatively modern here! His poem goes:

筆投げて

 

月に物言う

 

ばかりなり

 

Fude nagete

 

Tsuki ni mono iu 

 

Bakari nari

 

Now, I hurl my pen

From here on

I talk with the moon.

 
 

Explanation of the poem

筆投げて

I feel like this one has a little bit of that attitude to it. Koha is talking about throwing his pen, or his brush. A bold statement for a writer. I imagine people at this time would have been writing with brushes more than ballpoint pens. So we can take 筆, fude, to mean pen. 

 

月に物言う 

Once again in our Japanese Death Poems we have the 月 つき moon coming in. As most people that have had some experience of Japanese culture will know, we find a lot of reverence for the moon, and doing moon viewing and that sort of thing. 物 means thing and 言う means say, so I’m going to say things to the moon.

ばかりなり

ばかり is “only”, so Koha is saying “all” I’m going to do is speak to the moon. Then again, as many other poems, we’ve got なり nari, which is one more of our 切れ字 kireji, which is there to give an emphasis. People probably know the word なり nari as meaning “to become”, or it’s often a way of saying “is”. I was confused by the word in the past, for example when a waiter would bring an order and say something like “ビールになります”, which sounds strange if you say “this is becoming a beer”. It actually just means “here is a beer”, so it’s just saying this is something. So this “nari” is different to “kana”, which is offering a sense of wonder. Nari is a bit more solid, and saying ばかりなり is really saying “that’s all all I’m doing”, from here here on all I do is talk to the moon.

So let’s just refer back to Hoffman translation which is:

I cast the brush aside –

From her on I’ll speak to the moon

face to face.

An English Parallel

All of this made me think of the Bob Dylan song Tombstone Blues, which isn’t talking about deaths, but it’s still talking about that sense of a writer or somebody that’s involved in the sciences, or the worldly ways reaching the edge of where that can take you. Reaching the end of logical thought and just wanting to “throw it”. It’s that sense of wanting to just throw your tools across the room because they can’t help you anymore. 

Bob Dylan writes in Tombstone Blues, 

The geometry of innocence, flesh on the bone

Causes Galileo’s math book to get thrown

At Delilah who’s sitting worthlessly alone

But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter”

 

Sometimes sentiment can be similar across centuries and continents, people and place. 

Japanese poetry books

Graded Japanese Reading Practice

Gurenge

Gurenge (Demon Slayer – Kimetsu No Yaiba Opening Song) Translated To English And Explained 鬼滅の刃OP紅蓮華の歌詞を英語に訳して解説 https://youtu.be/rFbA75b_rlA The opening song for Demon Slayer Kimetsu No Yaiba,

Read More »
Culture

Japanese Band Musician Chat

Recently I had a chat with few of my favourite musicians from Japan: Saya from Tenniscoats, Yuko Ikema and Sota Tateishi from Jon No Son on the radio show “Kikeru Radio”.
テニスコーツのさや、池間由布子, 立石草太と「きけるラジオ」で話をしました。
Here’s a transcription in Japanese & English.
日本語と英語の文字起こしをつけました。

Transcript and pictures here:
https://japanoscope.com/japanese-band-musician-chat/

Original recording of chat appeared on Minna Kikeru Radio here:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:hAWdAge29r

Sayas – New Home
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:WtNBRiFevV

Ikema Yuko 池間由布子 Albums
https://minnakikeru.com/?q=ikema

Japanese music and Albums mentioned in the recording:
Kanako Numata –
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:IY3WS9UdJw

Kohost Sota Tateishi’s 立石草太 album with Jon No Son ジョンのサン:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:QmQAX2Cpth

Read More »
Songs In Translation

Yumbo Onibi

Onibi, by Yumbo is such a wonderful song. I’ve done a translation of the lyrics and will post an English language version when I get

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 Death Poems 辞世 Part 2 – Translated and analysed

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 5th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Poetry, Death, Mortality, nature.

Text Type

Poem, Haiku

About Japanese Death Poems

Here is our second installment on Japanese death poems, this time we’re looking at a poem by Onitsura. These poems are messages from people writing on, or close to, their death beds.
I first came across these through a book Japanese death poems by Yoel Hoffman. I thought I’d try my own hand at some translations.

Death Poem byHiroshi Kuroshiki

鬼貫

Oni-tsura

Died 2nd August 1738, aged 78

Today’s poem is by a Onitsura. Another great name. Oni, means demon. It can also be used as a shorthand term for great power, something like “super”. Tsura, also read as Kan, is a unit of measurement. In it’s Kun-reading it can be tsuranuku, meaning to pierce or penetrate. So was the name meant as “

夢返せ

からすのさます

霧の月

 

Yume kaese

 

Karasu no samasu

 

Kiri no tsuki

 

Give me back my dream

 

Misted moon

 

That wakes with the crow

 

Explanation of the poem

Here is the second in our series looking at Japanese Death Poems. Today, we’re looking at a poem by Onitsura. Onitsura died in 1738 at the age of 78.

Like all of the poets we are looking at, Onitsura has a great name. Oni means Demon. It can also mean “super”, in its supernatural sense. Tsura can mean piercing through, it was also a unit of measurement.

So I’m not sure exactly what that the sense of this is meant to be. Perhaps it is of a “piercing demon”. Or maybe Onitsura was meant to be somebody was “piercing the demon” or

“has a demonic power that’s piercing”. Or perhaps someone that has a measure of supernatural power. I’m not sure. Somebody might be able to comment on that and shed some light.

Onitsura’s deaths poem goes:

 

夢返せ

からすのさます

霧の月

Yume kaese

Karasu no samasu

Kiri no tsuki

I’ve translated that as:

Give me back my dream

Misted moon

That wakes with the crow

In the the Hoffman translation he says:

Give my dream back,

Raven! The moon you woke me to

Is misted over.

Language Analysis

夢返せ

夢 Yume means dream and 返せ is the imperative form of to “return something” or  “give back”.

So this line is a demand “Give me my dream back!”

I think that’s a feeling that probably most people can identify with, that feeling of being asleep and then being rudely awakened. Indeed, we have the term “rudely awakened” in English talking about wanting to get back to some dream that you’ve been in. I think in this poem the “夢 Yume” has a has the dual meaning of the writer literally having been asleep at a moment close to death but also the idea that all of life is some kind of dream state, that you’re living out a story. I think of the line from the Edgar Allan Poe poem “all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream. This is a persistent idea through art, that the world is somehow a dream, in and of itself. 

The next line is 

からすのさます

さます is to awaken. It is the transitive version of the intransitive to wake 覚める. So here someone is being woken up. We have a からす crow, or a raven, or a black black bird and the poem ends with 霧の月.  I’m not a hundred percent clear whether the poet is being awoken by the cawing of the raven, or the cawing of the raven and the misty covered moon. Perhaps it is meant to be a combination of being awoken by that whole scene of a cawing raven and a mysterious moon and saying, “I just want to go back to sleep and get back to my dream, and maybe I want more time in my life to achieve the things that I wanted to achieve”. Apparently Onitsura did have some hardships as a poet, apparently, he was never given the standing or the title of a “Grand Master” poet. There is also some indication that he may have lived his poetic life somewhat in the shadow of the more famous Basho, who was 17 years his senior. Maybe he’s referring to the fact that he didn’t quite get to finish what he had started in his life.

An English Parallel

Now, to find a bit of a parallel in English, I’ve turned to the world of lyrics. As someone that’s very into songs and songwriting, I was thinking about how Bill Callahan often seems to talk about dream-like states. He has an amazing song called Eid Ma Clack Shaw, which is kind of a bit of gibberish verse. 

 

 

The words go: 

“I dreamed it was a dream that you were gone

I woke up feeling so ripped by reality

Love is the king of the beasts

And when it gets hungry it must kill to eat

Love is the king of the beasts

A lion walking down city streets

I fell back asleep some time later on

And I dreamed the perfect song

It held all the answers, like hands laid on

I woke halfway and scribbled it down

And in the morning what I wrote I read

It was hard to read at first but here’s what it said

Eid ma clack shaw

Zupoven del ba

Mertepy ven seinur

Cofally ragdah”

So, I think once again most people can identify with that idea of having a dream and feeling like you’ve had a major breakthrough, or you’ve had some kind of a revelation, that you figured something out and then you go to recall it, and it’s just on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t. It’s unattainable. Anyway, there’s just a little parallel for you. We will continue to look at more of these Japanese Death Poems.

Japanese poetry books

Graded Japanese Reading Practice
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Gurenge

Gurenge (Demon Slayer – Kimetsu No Yaiba Opening Song) Translated To English And Explained 鬼滅の刃OP紅蓮華の歌詞を英語に訳して解説 https://youtu.be/rFbA75b_rlA The opening song for Demon Slayer Kimetsu No Yaiba,

Read More »
Culture
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Japanese Band Musician Chat

Recently I had a chat with few of my favourite musicians from Japan: Saya from Tenniscoats, Yuko Ikema and Sota Tateishi from Jon No Son on the radio show “Kikeru Radio”.
テニスコーツのさや、池間由布子, 立石草太と「きけるラジオ」で話をしました。
Here’s a transcription in Japanese & English.
日本語と英語の文字起こしをつけました。

Transcript and pictures here:
https://japanoscope.com/japanese-band-musician-chat/

Original recording of chat appeared on Minna Kikeru Radio here:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:hAWdAge29r

Sayas – New Home
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:WtNBRiFevV

Ikema Yuko 池間由布子 Albums
https://minnakikeru.com/?q=ikema

Japanese music and Albums mentioned in the recording:
Kanako Numata –
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:IY3WS9UdJw

Kohost Sota Tateishi’s 立石草太 album with Jon No Son ジョンのサン:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:QmQAX2Cpth

Read More »
Songs In Translation
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Yumbo Onibi

Onibi, by Yumbo is such a wonderful song. I’ve done a translation of the lyrics and will post an English language version when I get

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 Death Poems 辞世 Translated and analysed

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 5th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Poetry, Death, Mortality, nature.

Text Type

Poem, Haiku

About Japanese Death Poems

Today we’re having a look at Japanese death poems. Now like the name suggests these are poems that people in Japan have written through the ages just before they die, or on their deathbed, and they’re fascinating little windows into a whole different world across time and space -windows on people reflecting on their lives in their final moments.
These poems have been around since around the 7th century.
I first came across these through this book Japanese death poems by Yoel Hoffman. It’s a fantastic little compendium of these poems and translations. So I thought I’d go through and introduce some of these but also give my own take. I’ll do some of my own translations, because there’s often quite a few different ways that these things can be done.

Death Poem byHiroshi Kuroshiki

A translation of an Instagram post from the artist

智輪

Chi-rin

Died 24 Dec. 1794

The first poem is by a poet called Chirin. All these poets have really fantastic names. 智 Chi means insight or wisdom, which comes from the Sanskrit, I believe, word prajna. So it’s a Buddhist Buddhist concept. 輪 Rin is like a circle, so this is this person’s name is actually a circle of prana insight

天地に

ちりなき雪の

麓かな

 

Ametsuchi ni

Chiri naki yuki no

Fumoto kana

 

Across the sky and land

Not a speck of dust

Behold the snow on the foothills!

 

Explanation of the poem

あめ in modern Japanese usually means rain but here it’s referring to the sky 天, to the heavens and has a different character to 雨

つち usually literally means dirt, but here it’s got a broader meaning of “land” and then ちりなき 

 

Literally means dust. I think both dust or chiri are very interesting words in either Japanese or English. There’s kind of this association between dust and garbage or rubbish. Probably people that have studied Japanese for a while probably would have come across people saying, you know, get some chiri officer off the floor it’s meaning that it’s dirty & dusty. Even in English we have this word “dustbin”. We don’t put generally don’t put dust in a bin. It’s more like rubbish that we’re putting in there. So there’s this association between things that are dirt or dirty and rubbish.

So ちりなき means ちりがない.

For my translation, I’ve gone with:

 

Across the sky land land 

not a speck of dust and the

 

But the other interesting thing about ちりなき is that we said that the poet’s name was chirin, so there’s actually a play on words, and this is something you find in a lot of these death poems. Often the poet will take their name and sort of try and work it into the actual poem either through the sound or through the meaning. So there’s this interesting play that they do, looking at the idea of their self and how that idea exists in the world. So chiri naki has a double meaning of no dust, but also no chirin, as in, he himself has disappeared. Or he’s about to disappear.

And then it comes to 

雪のふもとかな

Now this word かな is interesting as well. 

In modern japanese if you say kana it usually means that you’re not sure about something or you’re wondering about something.  So you might say come on 買い物行こうかな, I think I might go down to the shops. Or somebody might say to you そうかな if you’ve said something and now they’re doubting you. 

But you find in it’s poetic context it has a slightly different meaning. 

Here it’s used as a 切れ字 Kireji.

切る means to cut and 字 is a letter or a word. So these are special words that are put in either to divide up a section or phrase, or at the end to give a sense of finality.  “Kana” is usually expressing some kind of wonder, some sense of the numinous. When you think about it, even the modern idea of wondering about things, we wonder at the world, we wonder what’s happening. There is that connection in the same way that we said that ちり and dust and rubbish and garbage have this strange connection. There’s a connection between wondering in a numinous way and in a more prosaic way. 

So, the reason I put in “behold” the snow on this foothill is that I was trying to get that sense of wonder.  “Behold” I know is a very old sounding English word, but this is a poem from 1794, so I think that’s valid to say, “behold the snow in the foothills”

In Hoffman’s translation he went with:

In the earth and the sky

No grain of dust-

Snow on the foothills

So Hoffman hasn’t worried about putting the “behold” in. The かな gets lost in that translation but really there’s not really any great way of getting around that anyway.

Now, just a way as a way of finding a parallel between this poem and the world of English poetry I was thinking about poets that look at nature, appreciating snow and appreciating the natural world as it is in it in its “suchness”, to use a Buddhist term. 

So I was thinking about Robert Frost, because he does a lot of that sort of poetry and he’s got a famous one Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. 

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

And then it goes on from there. You get this sense of somebody by themselves in nature just appreciating snow. This makes me think of that famous koan that’s come into popular culture
“If a tree falls in the forest, and no one saw it fall, and no one heard it fall, did it really fall?”
Which is about just appreciating the suchness of things, and the fact that you can’t really explain the nature of reality in words.

Robert Frost also has another poem which refers to both dust and snow as well.

It’s called Dust of Snow:

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Japanese poetry books

Graded Japanese Reading Practice
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Gurenge

Gurenge (Demon Slayer – Kimetsu No Yaiba Opening Song) Translated To English And Explained 鬼滅の刃OP紅蓮華の歌詞を英語に訳して解説 https://youtu.be/rFbA75b_rlA The opening song for Demon Slayer Kimetsu No Yaiba,

Read More »
Culture
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Japanese Band Musician Chat

Recently I had a chat with few of my favourite musicians from Japan: Saya from Tenniscoats, Yuko Ikema and Sota Tateishi from Jon No Son on the radio show “Kikeru Radio”.
テニスコーツのさや、池間由布子, 立石草太と「きけるラジオ」で話をしました。
Here’s a transcription in Japanese & English.
日本語と英語の文字起こしをつけました。

Transcript and pictures here:
https://japanoscope.com/japanese-band-musician-chat/

Original recording of chat appeared on Minna Kikeru Radio here:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:hAWdAge29r

Sayas – New Home
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:WtNBRiFevV

Ikema Yuko 池間由布子 Albums
https://minnakikeru.com/?q=ikema

Japanese music and Albums mentioned in the recording:
Kanako Numata –
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:IY3WS9UdJw

Kohost Sota Tateishi’s 立石草太 album with Jon No Son ジョンのサン:
https://minnakikeru.com/item/al:QmQAX2Cpth

Read More »
Songs In Translation
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Yumbo Onibi

Onibi, by Yumbo is such a wonderful song. I’ve done a translation of the lyrics and will post an English language version when I get

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。