Midnight Diner Theme Song Omoide by Tsunekichi Suzuki Translated and Explained

Here I present my translation into English of the opening theme song from Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories (Shinya Shokudo) soundtrack, Omoide, by Tsunekichi Suzuki. You’ll find a pretty extensive background on Suzuki and the composition process behind the song below.

If you want to see a complete list of the songs used in the Tokyo Stories soundtrack go here.

I’ve also done English translations for the Midnight Diner Closing Theme by Magic Party, Believe In Paradise, translations of songs used in Midnight Diner by Kimie Fukuhara and the wonderful Ikataribattari by Suemarr.

But first thing’s first…

Who sings the opening 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.

Omoide Meaning

Omoide means “memory”, “recollection” or “reminiscence”. It can also mean a “keepsake” in certain circumstances. 

In the song Omoide, the hiragana used to spell out the song name use an archaic form 思ひで rather than 思い出, giving the title a sense of nostalgia and whimsical longing for the past.

Where Can I Buy Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories Soundtrack & Theme Song?

The Midnight Diner Opening Theme Song Omoide first appeared on Tsunekichi Suzuki’s album Zeigo. You can find it on Amazon here:

There is a soundtrack album that goes by the name “Shinya Shokudou No Uta”, which means “The Songs of Midnight Diner”, which includes the opening song Omoide:

Tsunekichi also released a live album, Always Lucky, featuring live versions of his most popular songs, including Omoide.

Zeigo and a Midnight Diner Soundtrack are also available from Amazon’s Japanese site:

Zeigo Tsunekichi Suzuki Album
Midnight Diner Soundtrack

Approx Japanese level

Themes

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.  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:

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.

Like Current Japanese Culture? I translate Japanese Social Media:

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

Interested in Japan right now? Japanese social media translated:

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。

Translating Kiyoshiro Imawano’s Slow Ballad

Kiyoshiro Imawano, King of Japanese Rock

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

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

 

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

Approx Japanese level

Themes

About RC Succession's "Slow Ballad"

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

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

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

 

 

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

Lyrics

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

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

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

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

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

 

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。

Castle In The Sky Laputa: Analysis and Theme Song Kimi Wo Nosete Translation

To commemorate the new availability of Hayao Miyazaki & Studio Ghibli films on streaming services, we present an analysis of the movie Castle In The Sky and the theme song Kimi Ni Nosete.

We do a monthly segment on the Vital Bits program on Radio RRR in Melbourne where we present Japanese Songs In Translation.
We’ve also got galleries of Studio Ghibli Posters, Plushies
and socks.



Kimi ni nosete Japanese Version

Kimi Ni Nosete English Translated Version

Live version on RRR radio
MP3 Version of song
MP3 version of full radio segment

About the Movie

I’m going to assume you’ve seen the movie already. And that you know that it is about a girl from a mysterious race of people trying to get back to a mysterious world in the sky, Laputa, with the help of a peasant boy, whose father was also looking for the same mysterious land. So much mysterious.
I won’t go into detail recounting the whole adventure and each of the sprawling cast of diabolical, larger than life characters. But let me touch on a few of the things I think are interesting.

Hayao Miyazaki

Image by Thomas: https://www.flickr.com/photos/t_p_s/

Movie Themes

Flight

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tranquangdinhtue/

Laputa is one of many of writer/director Miyazaki Hayao’s films that deal with flight. There’s probably not a film of his where someone doesn’t take to the sky at some point. If you don’t believe me, watch this cut-up of flying scenes from Miyazaki films put together by Fandor:

In the video, you also see footage of Miyazaki playing with model airplanes. It’s nice to see that this notorious workaholic, who creates fantastic worlds for children, really is a kid at heart. Included in the models is the (in)famous Mitsubishi Zero (a 零戦 Reisen in Japanese). These planes struck fear into the hearts of many allied citizens and soldiers, not least of which when these flying machines were used as Kamikaze suicide bombs. 

Mitshubishi Zero

Martial heland / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Hayao Miyazaki’s father was an engineer who worked on the Zero fighters.
You can see how the aeroplane, and flight more generally, has influenced his work and become such a major motif. 
In the Fandor video above, there is an excerpt of Miyazaki talking about his own, his family’s, and indeed humanity at large’s, relationship with the aeroplane. Flying machines were, and are, a symbol of humanity’s ability to transcend its surroundings. Bill Bryson vividly describes in his fantastic book One Sumer: America 1927 how, when Charles Lindbergh completed the first transatlantic flight from New York to Paris, he was greeted by no less than 100,000 parisians. It was as if an alien hand touched down from Mars.
In the Fandor video, Miyazaki also talks about how the technology of flight, developed by those with noble intent, inevitably gets swept up in the prevailing winds of the time and ends up being used for evil. Evil, like the aeroplanes that his dad worked on were used for. 

For the Miyazaki, the struggle between innate human ingenuity and human depravity is personal. 

This yin-yang style dark and light human coexistence is perhaps even parralled by the darker, Nazi sympathising tendencies of global aviation hero Lindbergh himself.

So in Castle In The Sky Laputa, as in many of his films, flight becomes a symbol both of man’s ability to transcend his mortal surroundings, and of technology’s shocking abilities to unleash man’s basest violent instincts.

Filial Piety

Image of Filiel Piety by Kan no buntei

This family connection leads into another major theme in Castle In The Sky, the relationship between child and parent. The idea of filial piety, which wikipedia defines as a virtue of respect for one’s parents, elders, and ancestors is seen in the loving affection that main characters Pazu and Sheeta hold for their deceased parents. Indeed, Pazu is driven by the desire to vindicate his father’s life mission, to prove the existence of the mythical land of Laputa. Pazu is out to redeem his father’s honour in the eyes of the world. 
Sheeta’s memories revolve strongly around the teachings of her mother and the desire to do right in her eyes. The idea of a mythic people who are guardians of a magical other world is connected to the Confusian ideals of respect, even deification, of ancestors. The ancestors even have a magical stone that they pass down through the generations that functions as a special ticket to their exclusive world. How does it get you there? Through the medium of flight of course, this time pure and unadulterated by the need for mechanical devices, technology or gadgetry.
The ticket only works if you have the right blood though. Ancestors, families, look after their own.

Mothers

Motherly figure of Nausicaa, inspiration for Miyazaki’s first film

By Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton – Art Renewal Center – description, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1669517

Castle in the Sky Laputa was released around two years after the death of Miyazaki’s mother. Maternal themes and mother figures permeate the film. It is hard to imagine that Miyazaki wasn’t using his art to work through his own personal loss at this time.
Take a look at the character of the boss-mother of the pirate gange in Castle in the Sky. How much of Miyazaki’s own mother’s character can be found here? Captain Dola, is strong and commanding, but also compassionate and warm. 
Miyazaki’s mother is said to have been of weak constitution, and had spinal tuberculosis in the post-war years 1947-55. This means Hayao’s mother was gravely ill for much of his formative childhood years. Perhaps it is not surprising that orphan characters feature prominently in this and other of his films. Hayao has first-hand experience of the fear of being a motherless child from a young age.
Through this prism, we can perhaps start to see Castle In The Sky as being something of an elegy to his long suffering and recently departed mother. 

Environment

The environmental themes that feature strongly in this film and other Miyazaki themes also delve into the concept of Mother-Earth. Miyazaki seems to be mourning not just for his own mother’s loss, but for the loss of the innocence of the world. I’m reminded of the sentiment in songs such as Bill Callahan’s “Oh do I feel like the mother of the world, with two children fighting”. Would Miyazaki agree with Bill when he drops “God is a word, and the argument ends there”?

There is a not-so-subtle reference to the ultimate symbol of man’s unhealthy obsession with technology, the nuclear bomb. Towards the end of the film we see a mushroom cloud that has tremendous cultural and historic resonance and power for a people the victim of two atomic bomb attacks. In this way, Miyazaki continues a strong tradition of referencing, unpacking and analysing nuclear and apocalyptic themes in Japanese films and storytelling. Godzilla was created by nuclear testing in the oceans, Akira features an apocalyptic explosion destroying Tokyo and Tezuka Osamu returned to themes of war and technology throughout his career.

About the song Kimi wo nosete 君をのせて 

Translation

Original Lyrics Literal Translation Singing Translation
あの地平線 輝くのは
どこかに君をかくしているから
The reason the horizon shines is that it hides you out there somewhere. Out on the horizon
There’s something shining bright
In the place you try to hide
In someplace and in sometime
たくさんの灯がなつかしいのは
あのどれかひとつに 君がいるから
The reason the lights are nostalgic is that you are there There are so many lights
And the warmth I feel inside
Is there because there’s one
Out there that’s yours alone
さあ でかけよう ひときれのパン
ナイフ ランプ かばんにつめこんで
Put a piece of bread, a knife and a lamp in your bag and let’s depart. Put into your bag
A knife and put a lamp
A piece of bread, I’ll meet you there
It’s time for us to go

父さんが残した 熱い想い
母さんがくれた あのまなざし

The burning thought left by the father.
The look the mother gave.

The burning love
That your father left
That gentle gaze, shows your mother is not dead

地球はまわる 君をかくして
輝く瞳 きらめく灯

The Earth turns and hides you
The shining eye, the twinkling light

The world it turns around
It hides you from me now
The shining of your eyes
In the sparkling of the lights

地球はまわる 君をのせて
いつかきっと出会う ぼくらをのせて

The Earth turns around and carries you.
It will carry us, who will one day certainly be united.

The world it turns around
You ride it through the night
Sometime we’ll meet again
And we’ll ride together

さあ でかけよう ひときれのパン
ナイフ ランプ かばんにつめこんで

Put a piece of bread, a knife and a lamp in your bag and let’s depart. Put into your bag
A knife and put a lamp
A piece of bread, I’ll meet you there
It’s time for us to go

父さんが残した 熱い想い
母さんがくれた あのまなざし

The burning thought left by the father.
The look the mother gave.

The burning love
That your father left
That gentle gaze, shows your mother is not dead

地球はまわる 君をかくして
輝く瞳 きらめく灯
地球はまわる 君をのせて
いつかきっと出会う ぼくらをのせて

The Earth turns and hides you
The shining eye, the twinkling light
The turns around and carrys you.
It will carry us, who will one day certainly be united.

The world it turns around
It hides you from me now
The shining of your eyes
In the sparkling of the lights

The world it turns around
You ride it through the night
Sometime we’ll meet again
And we’ll ride together

Castle In The Sky Producer Isao Takahata

Boungawa / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Background to Kimi Wo Nosete

So if we are going to see the film Castle In The Sky as ode to a dearly departed mother, it makes sense to analyse the song Kimi Wo Nosete through the same prism.

Kimi Wo Nosete Lyrics Writing Process


Producer of the film and long time Miyazaki collaborator Isao Takahata has said that the song lyrics were made when he and composer Joe Hisaishi asked Miyazaki to give them some rough notes on what the song was about:
“When we looked over the scrawled notes, we were amazed to find the words seemed to just fit with the music we had”. And even though the composer and producer did some nipping and tucking of the words here and there, the lyric credit goes to Miyazaki himself. We can assume that the words are something of a personal, direct expression of what Miyazaki wanted to express in the film overall.

Relationship Between Kimi Wo Nosete Lyrics and Miyazaki’s Parents

So, on one level, the song is about two characters in the Laputa film, Pazu and Sheeta, and how Pazu is trying to find Sheeta somewhere out there to bring her to safety.
But on another level you could interpret the song as Laputa creator Miyazaki Hayao singing to his recently deceased mother.
Castle in the Sky Laputa was released around two years after the death of Miyazaki’s mother. Maternal themes and mother figures permeate the film. It is hard to imagine that Miyazaki wasn’t using his art to work through his own personal loss at this time. Indeed, he would return to similar themes pretty frequently, most notably in the character of the bedridden mother in Totoro.
Take a look at the character of the boss-mother of the pirate gang in Castle in the Sky. How much of Miyazaki’s own mother’s character can be found here? Captain Dola is strong and commanding, but also compassionate and warm.
Miyazaki’s mother is said to have been of weak constitution, and had spinal tuberculosis in the post-war years 1947-55. This means Hayao’s mother was gravely ill for much of his formative childhood years. Perhaps it is not surprising that orphan characters feature prominently in this and other of his films. Hayao has first-hand experience of the fear of being a motherless child from a young age.
Through this prism, we can perhaps start to see Castle In The Sky as being something of an elegy to his long suffering and recently departed mother.

 

Ambiguity of language Kimi Wo Nosete 

One of the challenges of deciphering the words to the song is the ambiguous nature of Japanese expression. The Japanese language, as a matter of everyday usage, leaves out subjects and objects, vital bits of information, in a way that is inconceivable in English. Usually, this is information that is obvious from context. To give a simple everyday example:
熱いね Atsui ne would be translated as It’s hot.
More literally though, this sentence would be translated as “Hot, eh?”
What’s hot? You, me, that thing over there, this thing here? No, the weather is hot. Which is obvious from the context. 
Yet this same inherent ambiguity can be exploited for artistic means. How many times have you heard a songwriter say “it’s open to interpretation”?  The phrase is a cliche. 
Kimi Ni Nosete leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
First of all, it’s not clear whose perspective the song is written from and two, who are the singer and singee in songwriting parlance. 

The chorus is impossible to translate into English exactly as it is written in Japanese.

Fathers and Mothers in Kimi Wo Nosete

父さんが残した 熱い想い
母さんがくれた あのまなざし

Even a rendering such as this:

The burning thought left by the father.
The look the mother gave.

Says too much. We don’t know if it’s Your father, my father, our father, their father, the father or a father. The Japanese language doesn’t force us to specify, and the lyric chooses not to. Ditto the mother.

Given the context of the song with the film, I think it is safe to say that the main suggested perspective for the song is of Pazu singing to Sheeta. Which still leaves open possibilities for interpreting the father and mother of the chorus being those of either of the two main characters. Or perhaps one of each? Given the highlighted relationships in the film, it would seem valid to say that the “burning thought” in question is Pazu’s father dream of proving the existence of Laputa and that the “look the mother gave” is the watchful gaze of Sheeta’s mother looking down from the heavens.
Yet there are other interpretations. If we are saying that the film is Miyazaki’s ode to his parents, and especially his mother, then we could take it that the father and mother of the chorus are his own. Or we could go more universal and link in with the environmental message of the film. Perhaps the father and mother are the elemental father and mother of the world?
I like to think that it is a combination of all these things rolled into one. Even if the songwriters didn’t write it that way, it is possible for songs to take on extra layers of meanings as they unfold, especially as they intertwine and interact with the melody and harmony of the music.

Light

There is a strong Light motif running through the song. That’s “Light motif” rather than “leitmotif” for you music boffins. Kanji with fire radicals appear in the song several times. We’ve got the loan word for “Lamp” in there. We’ve got words meaning shining, sparkling and burning.

We’ve got 輝く瞳 きらめく灯 “the shining pupil and the sparkling lamp”. Almost every line has a kanji related to light, shining or fire in some way.
Even the chorus
父さんが残した 熱い想い
母さんがくれた あのまなざし

The burning thought left by the father.
The look the mother gave.

Is on fire.


The light theme in the song highlights similar, perhaps less prominent, themes in the movie. We have the shining flight stone, beams of light crossing the sky showing the way to the promised land, the devastating beams of light let forth by the fallen robot of Laputa, the fires caused by the battle between the robot and the forces of humanity. The film itself is drawn in bright, summery tones. But the song seems to be all the more luminescent in its imagery. Was Miyazaki trying to bring out the brightness of the film using music? Perhaps he felt it wasn’t shining enough? It is interesting to note how bright the mise-en-scene is really, considering some of the themes of loss and lonesomeness the film addresses.
We’ve written more about Japanese lighting here

Castle In The Sky Laputa Robot. Image: Peter Head  https://japanoscope.com https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

Image: Peter Head  https://japanoscope.com https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

The song takes a bird’s eye, perhaps god’s eye view, of the film. Whoever is singing the song is looking at the horizon, the turning of the earth, the lights of the world. What better perspective is there to bring to a conclusion a film with such universal themes. 

Who wrote and sang Castle In The Sky Laputa’s theme song Kimi Ni Nosete?

Joe Hisaishi

Hayao Miyasaki

Azumi inoue

The music for Kimi Ni Nosete was written by Hisaishi Joe to words by Hayao Miyazaki and was sung by Azumi Inoue. Azumi also sang classic Ghibli songs such as the theme and walking songs from the My Neighbour Totoro and Meguru Kisetsu from Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Hisaishi Joe is a classically trained composer, conductor and producer. Watch this video of him playing the Kimi Ni Nosete with a choir of 800 voices and try not to feel a lump in your throat:

 

Castle In The Sky Merch

There’s some pretty cool Ghibli stuff around the place. Here’s a few that the dedicated fan might need…
We’ve also got a whole page devoted to our favourite Studio Ghibli Posters here.

 

If you are interested in anime music, check out our translation and arrangement of the LiSA’s Demon Slayer Theme Gurenge.

Studio Ghibli Socks

Massive gallery of Studio Ghibli Socks with links to merchants. Life’s too short for boring lower legs. So get some anime on your ankle already.

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Studio Ghibli Posters

Welcome to our gallery of Studio Ghibli posters! These posters have been put together after scouring the web and online stores for the best selections available.
To make all of this a bit easier to navigate, we’ve searched across outlets and arranged what we’ve found by movie catogories, store. They are also generally arranged from higher end to lower end items.

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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 doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1). I’ve written songs in Japanese and have released several albums through Tokyo label Majikick Records.

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