The Banana Guide to Asian Entertainment: It’s All About Japan: Part IV

Voices, letters, the seasons, and lyrics.

My favorite element in Japanese music, however, is the themes in some of their lyrics. I love LOVE Latin and country music because of their dramatic lyrics about a love lost and the broken heart. The more dramatic the better.

In Japanese music, however, it’s all about love (lost love or newly found love) through the seasons, meeting a lover under the sakura tree, and possibly my favorite topic: family tragic stories.

There’s for example, Haruyo, Koi (春よ、来い), a song by Yumi Matsutoya (松任谷 由実) that talks about a love that’s far away and you long to have with lyrics that go:

The spring, the still far-off spring.
If I close my eyes, there you are,
the one who gives me love.

Your voice I long to hear rings out.
My heart, which I gave to you
is waiting for a reply even now
No matter how long it takes for the day to come
I’ll wait, I’ll wait no matter what

Lyric translation credits.

Moreover, there’s a number of songs that reference the sakura tree, with Ikimonogakari’s SAKURA [MV] [lyrics], Kobukuro’s Sakura (桜) [MV] [lyrics] , and there’s Mika Nakashima’s (中島 美嘉) When the Color of Cherry Blossoms Fills the Air (桜色舞うころ) [MV] [lyrics].

And speaking of Mika Nakashima, who at first sight might give you a sense of a really moody emo singer, her style of music is actually kind of impressive. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes pop rock, she has got to have one of my favorite ballads of 2010 with The Most Beautiful Me (一番绮丽な私を) [MV]… a song about, you guessed it, long lost love and the passing of the seasons.

If I hadn’t met you that spring,
Would I have seen the falling petals as nothing more than white?
If we hadn’t spent that summer together,
Would the fireworks have simply disappeared, leaving no trace of their shine?

You were the one who held the most beautiful me,
Spending those precious seasons together must have been fate.
If I could go back to that fall,
Would I have shown you even the tears I tried to hide?
If I had believed you that winter,
Would we be nestled close to each other, having come this far?

You were the one who held the most beautiful me,
The memory of those unfading tears is what people call fate.
Do you think of me, too?
And of the time we can never run back to?

You were the one who held the most beautiful me.
On that day my heart was trembling, but now it’s overflowing.
You were the one who held the most beautiful me.
There must be more than love to these feelings that cross over time.
The most beautiful me.

What about family tragic stories, you Banana?” Well, the primest example of this would probably be the massive Kana Uemura (植村花菜) hit, Toilet God (トイレの神様, a.k.a. Toilet no Kamisama). Now, I know what you are thinking. “Amy, REALLY? A SONG ABOUT A TOILET?” Please, this massive 10-minute song is about the tragic relationship between Uemura and her grandmother describing their close relationship when Uemura was a child, going through puberty, their fall out, and culminates with her grandmother falling ill.

To fully enjoy the song — cry a river, Kleenex and all — I guess you gotta get the subtitled version of the video. However, I’m only able to find a Brazilian Portuguese translation [clip] and a Spanish translation [clip], so you’re going to have to read the English translation separate from the music video.

And then there’s, of course, Ikuzo Yoshi’s (吉幾三) single simply titled To Mother (かあさんへ, Kaasan he) [clip], in which Ikuzo Yoshi addresses his mother with heartbreaking phrases, asking his mother if she was happy or if she was worried about him. That she shouldn’t be lonely because she should know of her preciousness.

It’s even better when he performed it on NHK’s Nihon no Uta (日本のうた) [clip].

Which brings me to my next topic…


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

11 Responses

  1. Camiele says:

    As with most non-Japanese (most non-Asian, for that matter), my first introduction to Japanese music was through anime. However, it wasn’t the grandiose rock productions of something like Pegasus Fantasy. I was first interested and impressed by Japanese music through Yoko Kanno. Her work with Cowboy Bebop just rocked my world. From then on, I was hooked on Japanese music. In fact, I didn’t even SEE Korean music until last year because I was so wrapped up in Japanese music. Mostly, I was really into J-jazz and J-rock: the Seatbelts, the Pillows, Hiromi Uehara… loved it! Still do!

    Now, as you know, I’ve been CONSUMED by Kpop and K-indie; however, my haert will always go back to J-jazz, my introduction to all things Asian, really. Although Cowboy Bebop was the first anime I fell in love with, I fell in love with it because of Yoko Kanno’s music.

    • amy says:

      @Camiele, I know a lot of Japan looks down on being famous because of anime… but, we’ve all gotten into something because of it, non?

      To be honest, I miss the days you weren’t Konsumed. xD

      • Camiele says:

        @amy, HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Has my Korean love become too much for you? Mianhe :P I’ve tried to keep the K-everythingness to a minimum on YAM, I suppose it just gets in there despite my best efforts DX

        But, yeah. I suppose it makes sense that a lot of Japanese would kinda look down on the fact that so much of the western world only knows about their culture because of anime… but anime in America is a relatively new thing, thus anything having to do with Japan being relatively new. I believe anime came to America in the late 80s with Akira? But as more and more people get into anime, they get more into the music, the films, the food, etc. I think any means to expand the world is a good thing (and I don’t mean that in a Manifest Destiny/Western Imperialism kind of way). I think we all need to just get to know and embrace as many cultures as possible. No matter how one was introduced, I think if they embrace it that’s all the better, right?

        • amy says:

          @Camiele, I think it’s a lot easier to consume Korean goods for accessibility reasons. One usually needs to hope for English subtitles on Japan movie releases, not even taking into account Jdrama releases since they’re never released with subtitles.

          And music… well, Japan has gotten better, but it’s hard to find official uploads of their music videos. At least they’re doing short versions now, though Sony Japan still has its content region-blocked.

          Then again, I’m leaving Korea for the last lag of my Banana Guide.

  2. Camiele says:

    @amy, You make a good point. It seems (and I’m not sure about this, but you seem to know more about it than I do) that at least South Korea is more open to making their goods more accessible to the western masses — well, at least in terms of dramas, as you said. For my part, I’ve never actually watched a Jdrama, that I can think of. Unless your talking live-action versions of anime… HaHA (in all fairness, something like Great Teacher Onizuka was originally a live-action that got turned into an anime… so there’s that).

    It’s a shame, though. Because so much Japanese music is just so good. Why would they make it so hard for other countries to get into? I mean, until BoA and DBSK went over to Japan, foreigners couldn’t even get RECOGNIZED over there (unless they were, you know, Michael Jackson… whom EVERY country on EVERY continent wanted, but I digress).

    Dude, once you talk about Korea… I feel like there’ll be THOUSANDS more people commenting on it than just me and you… HaHA! Korean culture is just THAT deep on YAM. How did that happen?

    • amy says:

      @Camiele, the difference is that Korea wants the market… many factors come into consideration. However, the main one is that Korea is a relatively small market, and they don’t want to depend on the Japanese market to sustain them – which they do now.

      Japan’s home market is their own… I don’t think they’re going to see any anti-Japanese music in Japan. Japanese music outsells Lady Gaga. They don’t need to expand their market, because they’re already the 2nd music market in the world…

      It’s like… I think the Japanese industry knows that they have good music out there and that people that like it will still be able to consume their goods one way or the other. Some of the labels I follow, though, are already giving information in English and are more open to uploading full-length MVs

      The big labels are the problem… big labels ARE ALWAYS the problem.

      Also… easier access makes it easier to discuss.

  3. Mirella Snape says:

    Yeah, I still only know Japanese music because of anime… but anime music can be so different! There’s metal, rap, pop, rock, alternative, jazz, blues, electronic and even weird latin-like music in anime songs :D

    • amy says:

      @Mirella Snape, favorite anime song? xD

      • Mirella says:

        @amy, That’s so so difficult… but I won’t deny my all time fav anime soundtrack is Rurouni Kenshin’s.

        • Camiele says:

          @Mirella, Kenshin’s soundtrack is stunning. I’m gonna have to go with Cowboy Bebop. I pretty much fangirl Yoko Kanno with great vigour… HaHa.

          I know that there’s so much music that I’m missing. The opening theme for Elfin Leid is INCREDIBLE… but I’m all about recommendations (especially with finding new and good anime).

  1. September 1, 2012

    […] along with a detailed guide to J-anything fangirling – all four articles of it. (Links: 1, 2, 3, 4) Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeOne blogger likes […]

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