my heart is breaking a little

Don’t judge me. This makes me really sad.

Utada Hikaru is a Japanese pop star I’ve followed since I was 16. (She was 16 at the time, too – so my teenage self kind of saw her as a much cooler Japanese alter-ego.) I really do love her music – she has always struck me, at least, as a very creative songwriter and melodist, and since she was always my age she was always producing songs and albums that hit upon the exact angsts in my own life. The perfect pop conduit.

Besides pop-fanning, though, I should mention that she really taught me Japanese. She was a good entry point into Japanese music, since some of her songs contain lots of English and relatively simple Japanese – for example, “First Love,” her breakout, is in such simple Japanese I understood the whole thing the first time I heard it. I know it’s dorky, but there’s really no point in pretending I’m not a dork. I learned to speak Japanese almost entirely from memorizing and transcribing pop lyrics – first hers, then other bands like Yuzu (still pretty easy) and Mr. Children (getting harder there). Memorizing songs is a great way to build speaking confidence, since, well, you’ve already got the words memorized. Sure, you’ll sound like a romantic sap, and your vocabulary will favor topics like breakups, obsessions, melancholy in springtime, and tears mixing with the rain. But that’s just a speedbump in meaningful communication.You’d be surprised how much of your life can be summed up in that vocabulary.

Now I’m going to have to find some other artist to touch my life.

To celebrate the passing of this era of (one of) my (um, many) first love(s), please enjoy the sad sweet sounds of “First Love,” which I will transcribe dorkishly here for your further enjoyment. The real lyrics are boldface; my translation is underneath in parentheses.

First Love, Utada Hikaru

Saigo no kiss wa tabako no flavor ga shita
(Our last kiss tasted like tobacco)
Nigaku te setsunai kaori
(A bitter and sad flavor)

Ashita no ima goro ni wa
(This time tomorrow)
Anata wa doko ni irun darou?
(where will you be?)
Dare o omotterun darou?
(who will you be thinking about?)

You are always gonna be my love
Itsu ka dare ka to mata koi ni ochite mo
(Even if someday I fall in love again with someone else)
I’ll remember to love; you taught me how
You are always gonna be the one
Ima wa mada kanashii love song
(Right now, [I’m] still [singing] this sad love song)
Atarashii uta utaeru made
([I’ll keep singing it] until I can sing a new song)

Tachidomaru jikan ga ugoki dasou to shiteru
(Time has stopped, but I’ll have to move on soon)
Wasure takunai koto bakari
(There are so many things I don’t want to forget)

Ashita no ima goro ni wa
(Tomorrow at this time)
Watashi wa kitto naiteru
(I will probably be crying)
Anata o omotterun darou
(I will probably be thinking about you)

You will always be inside my heart
Itsu mo anata dake no basho ga aru kara
(There will always be a place only for you)
I hope that I have a place in your heart too
Now and forever you are still the one
Ima wa mada kanashii love song
(Right now, [I’m] still [singing] this sad love song)
Atarashii uta utaeru made
([I’ll keep singing it] until I can sing a new song)

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7 Responses to my heart is breaking a little

  1. That really is a lovely song, thanks for sharing it. Before now, I pretty much only knew of Ms. Utada as the singer of the Kingdom Hearts themes.

    And after a little Googling, I have to say that her respect for her fans — and for the integrity of her own work — is really admirable. Hope this hiatus is what she needs to keep doing her thing.

    • whaddayamean says:

      You know her!! Wow!! Yeah, she’s done a lot of English language/video game stuff – several of her English songs are very loose translations of her Japanese songs. I think the Kingdom Hearts song is “Simple and Clean,” right? If I’m right, that’s a song called “Hikari” in Japanese, which is her signature song since the title is the same as her name (“hikari” means “light,” “hikaru” means “to shine”).

      Anyway. I won’t bore you by rattling off more songs. I’m excited you’ve heard of her!

      • I’m really interested in video game concept writers, voice actors, composers, translators — all the creative/linguistic people behind the polygons. So I notice when a singer is prominently noted in the credits. Now I’ll have to go on a Google hunt to see where else Utada Hikaru has lent her work!

        Simple And Clean is from the first Kingdom Hearts game, yes. Interesting connection to the singer! The second game had the song Passion, which became Sanctuary when translated into English.

  2. JES says:

    I agree with Heidi: very, very nice song.

    I’m almost 100% ignorant of pop music in non-English languages; when I do recognize such a song, it’s almost always after multiple re-listens — and I’m pretty much always surprised by the translations of their lyrics, which are nothing like I’d imagined.

    The first time this happened was with the ’60s song “Sukiyaki,” as it was known in the West. How embarrassing to learn that the title had nothing to do with the song, but was simply invented because English-speaking audiences needed to know it by some familiar word(s) and that was what the record label and American DJs came up with. (I’d always imagined it had something to do with a wistful breakup over a bowl of Japanese food.)

    Now that I’ve exposed my utter cultural ignorance…

    Anyway, I’m sorry to hear about Utada Hikaru’s career change. OTOH, as Heidi notes, she seems to have her creative head screwed on pretty securely — I doubt you’ve heard or seen the last of her.

    Will you be able to see her farewell concert(s)?

    • whaddayamean says:

      Oo, I didn’t know there were any until you mentioned it! (See, I’m a fan with no initiative/common sense–guess that makes me only a 2nd tier fan 😉 It looks like they’ll be streaming online tomorrow. Thanks for drawing my attention 🙂

  3. Merry says:

    Lovely.

    Okay, so my thirteen year old’s not the only one. She loooooves Japanese music, that’s most of what she’s downloaded onto her nano. And she’s been reading this series of Japanese books – they’re almost like comics except full length… I’m not arguing, I got to buy her four books for Christmas that I know she’ll devour and they’re like 30-34 of the series, so yay, my 7th grader’s read 29 books for fun since the summer.

    I think it’s actually a rather cool side effect of this smaller world internet age – less barrier to learn about and enjoy other cultures.

  4. Oh, it’s so sad to say good bye to something you loved when you were that age!

    This post made me feel slightly less dorky for attempting to memorize the Japanese lyrics of theme songs in the anime I watch. I really wish I knew Japanese but it’s a little daunting to learn on my own.

    This song is familiar…I probably heard it at some point in a fan made video based on an anime I’ve seen or something. Pretty! I like Bonnie Pink, too (for what that’s worth).

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