Tomokawa Kazuki – Within the Country of Falling Cherry Blossoms (友川かずき・桜の国の散る中を)

tomokawa-sakuranokuniAnother one of the sad and powerful songs of Tomokawa Kazuki (Wikipedia). The song Within the Country of Falling Cherry Blossoms which also gave the title of the album. A strange interlude between sweet children voices and more-than-normal crying like crazy Tomokawa. It (probably) recounts the story of a father going (nearly) crazy over the loss of a newborn.

I heard this song long time ago at the house of a friend in Shiga-ken, and since then tried to understand it. Most Japanese I asked for translation covered their ears, they didn’t want to hear this song at all. I was baffled – what can be so bad that I don’t want to hear it. I even went so far in buying a book of lyrics of Tomokawa Kazuki, only to find that this song is not included.

I finally found a Youtube video with the lyrics given, so I started to write them down, and also to put them into English words. Although not very poetic, it might allow non-Japanese speakers to understand the content.

The song, although 10min long, even after hearing it many times, never left me bored, it always gives me the shivers, and for long time I was pondering its meaning. I am not sure if this is the correct interpretation, but whatever it might be, it leaves an incredible impression on me. The feeling of the father as he runs around like a madman in the winterly scenery of Akita is so alive.

For Japanese text and my interpretation of translation, read on.

In the following I give the Japanese text and my translation parallel.

(子)
とがった闇に中で
へその緒を引っ張っているのは誰ですか
もうすぐ雪が降りますよ
雪が降って雪が降ってあたり一面真っ白ですよ。
さー、沢山の死を集めてお祈りしましょう。
生も死もひとつのブランコの分岐点において
ゆらゆらそのゆれをほほえんで見ているしかないのですね。
桜の国の散る中を生まれたばかりの無垢たちが
息をはずませて駆けてくる
(children)
Over there in that sharp darkness
pulling an umbilical cord, who is he?
Very soon snow will fall and fall and fall, and all around will be completely white.
Let us collect many death and pray,
life and death both meet on a single swing,
this slowly swinging back and forth we have to watch smilingly.
Within the country of falling cherry blossoms recently born immaculate ones
come running with racing breath
(男)
何ぼ喋ても
判らねものは判らねぇ
うたい潰しても潰れねものは
潰れねぇ
死にもの狂いで走って行った日に
口を明けて見ていたのは
あの空だ チキショウ!
(man)
whatever they are talking
I don’t understand, don’t understand
the murmuring, if I smash it, it still doesn’t stop
doesn’t stop
On a day that in deathlike confusion raced away
the open mouth staring up [at me]
What a void. Beast!
(子)
あわてて舞うのはどこの方
ザブンザブンと唸るのは
母なる海のざれる音
(children)
The confused dancing one, who is he
this groaning and moaning
amused sounds of Mother Sea
(男)
青天井の下でこんにちはばっかりを繰り返していると狂人になるでょ
逃げまどう町にて犬の魂のように澄みきっているのは
ありゃ孤独だ
(man)
Under the blue sky repeating that much “hello” means becoming a madman
getting clear and serene, like the soul of a dog running to escape in a town
aah, what loneliness
(子)
桜の国の散る中で死人の口がうたうたう
天国と地獄はよく似てる
(children)
In the land of falling cherry blossoms the mouths of corpses sing and sing
heaven and hell often resemble each other
(男)
それこそ妙な気分で夕焼ける東京タウアーを見ていたその時春
残念とまでは行かないが河のように血管を流れるのは
ああ波打つ叫びの霊
(man)
When – with this strange feeling – I saw the Tokyo Tower in burning sunset it was [my?] spring [prime?].
Not going as far as saying it is bad luck that my veins are streaming like rivers
aaa the spirits of fast beating screams
(子)
今しがた雪の降るように幾多の魂が目を覚ました。
怒りの日々の鮮やかさ
(children)
A moment ago a huge number of souls have awaken longing for falling snow.
Brilliant are those days of rage
(男)
雲の浮ついた行き先と気にしながら歩く覚悟の寂寥が今揃って火を噴く
足跡のない雲道を黒馬の群れが突き進んでゆくで
(man)
Restless, like the way of the clouds, caring for nothing, wandering in the loneliness of resignation, everything is spewing fire
leaving no footprints a flock of black horses plunge forward on the cloud way.
(子)
耳鳴り止まぬ真昼時
黄泉の国の狂いうた
知らぬは御身の成すところ
(children)
The ringing in the ears does not stop in broad daylight
crazy songs from the realm of the dead
the unknown formation of bodies [???]
(男)
あの時もあの時もあの時も
あの時も吹雪が吹いでいたで
吹いで来い吹いで来い
俺の中さ吹雪よ吹いで来い
(man)
At that time at that time at that time
at that time snow storms were blowing
come and blow, come and blow, come and blow,
right within me, come and blow snow storm!
(子)
夜は夜とてこの夜は
心配いりません私達
散る花の除
果てるらん
(children)
This evening, on this evening
worries are not necessary,
stop the falling of the blossoms
end of the orchids
(男)
泣いてごまかすのかや
笑ってごまかすのかや
そのまま黙ってごまかすのかや
告白のような海初恋のような空
他人のような山
(man)
crying is cheating,
laughing is cheating,
just remaining silent is cheating,
the sea appears like a confession, the sky like first love,
the mountains like someone else
(子)
桜の国の散る中の
桜の国の散る中の
。。。
(children)
In the land of the falling cherry blossoms
In the land of the falling cherry blossoms
(男)
三種の川にルルレンレン
白い雪が降るランラン
ハ郎潟にルルレンレン
白い雪が降るランラン
寒風山にルルレンレン
白い雪が降るランラン
。。。
そりゃ海であっても山であってもいい
駆け込んで行ってあやまりたいと思う時がある
(man)
Running around the Mitane river
white snow is falling,
running around the Hachiro-lake
white snow is falling,
running around Mount Kanpu
white snow is falling,

fine it would be meeting at the sea, at the mountains
At times I think I want to hurry to apologize.

Several interesting points that came to my mind while studying the text, trying to understand, creating my own image, discussing with my wife:

  • The images on the cover might depict Mizuko (or Jizo) statues (水子), Water child, standing for dead-born fetus or early infant dead. Since the 70ies a special funeral service has come into practice, the Mizuko kuyō. The bodhisattva that is normally related to this rites is Ksitigarbha.
  • While the title reads as 「桜の国の散る中を」 it is interesting that the 「散る」 to fall, to disintegrate, to disappear, is connected to the 「国」 country, instead of the sakura. While I agree that the most probably interpretation is that of a death of a new-born/fetus, I had also the feeling it could all be an allegory to Japan as a country. But considering the time when the song was written (1980), Japan was in quite good economic and social condition, so it sounds rather improbable.
  • Although the text was written by Tomokawa himself (as far as I know), the onomatopoeia in the text, like 「ルルレンレン」, reminded me of the famous 「 ゆあーん ゆよーん ゆやゆよん」 of Nakahara Chuya‘s Circus.
  • Rather at the end there is the line 「果てるらん」. Coincidentally, らん (ran) can also be the pronounciation of 卵 tamago, egg, which in 卵子 ranshi means ovum, again indicating in this direction.
  • All the place names mentioned: River Mitane (三種の川), Lake Hachiro (ハ郎潟, btw, according the Wikipedia the lowest point in Japan with -4m), and Mount Kanpu (寒風山) are located in the prefecture of Akita, where Tomokawa was born.

Well aware about the insufficiencies of my translation and understanding of the text, I still hope that some of those interested in non-standard music will appreciate the above, and I am looking forward to corrections and suggestions for improvements.

Related links I found in Japanese: http://koyoichi.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-34.html

Another link in English I recently found: Schwebeablaut

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