Japanese songs
Comment 1

カントリー・ロード, Japanese Version

This song is a Japanese version of the famous Take me Home, Country Roads by John Denver. It appears in the Ghibli Studio film Whisper of the Heart, directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. The protagonist Shizuku, a 14-year-old girl, has to translate the original version into Japanese for her school. The song then becomes an essential element in the story.

Whisper of the Heart is my favourite Ghibli film. It may not have the magic and fascinating elements contained in Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, but it is one of the most inspiring movies I have seen. I wish I had seen it when I was the same age as Shizuku, it may have encouraged me to follow my own way. It is a film about working hard to achieve one’s dream and finally find oneself. I feel empowered every time I watch it.

Contrary to other lyrics I have studied until now, I will focus more on translation and less on grammar and vocabulary.

ひとりぼっち おそれずに
生きようと 夢みてた
さみしさ 押し込めて
強い自分を 守っていこ

  • ひとりぽっち means “being on one’s own”
  • 押し込める・おしこめる can have several meanings. I think that the most appropriate one is “to shut up”, “to lock up”

I was dreaming of living all alone without fear. Let’s put the loneliness aside and preserve my determination.

この道 ずっとゆけば
あの街に つづいてる
気がする カントリー・ロード

I knew the word 続く・つづく which means “to continue” but I was puzzled to see it with the particle “に”. By searching the dictionary, I learned that “Aに続く” means “to lead to A”, which naturally makes sense in these lyrics.

Country Road, I feel that if I kept following that road, it would lead me to that town.

歩き疲れ たたずむと
浮かんで来る 故郷の街
丘をまく 坂の道
そんな僕を 叱っている

  • 佇む・たたずむ stand still for a while, stop, linger
  • 浮かぶ・うかぶ I know this verb mainly as either “to float” or “come to mind”. I think that “come to mind” fit here.
  • 丘・おか a hill
  • 坂・さか a hill

To understand the difference between 丘 and 坂, let’s have a look at a Japanese definition:

  • 丘・おか: 土地の小高い所。低い山。小山
  • 坂・さか:一方は高く一方は低く、傾斜している道

丘 is used to describe the hill in itself, as a high place or a small mountain. 坂 is used to describe the inclination of the hill, the slope.

If I stand for a while, tired of walking, my hometown comes to my mind and the inclined path turning around the hill watches me reproachfully. 

I understand this passage as such: Every time “he” stops for a while, the souvenir of his home country haunts him and the “country road”, the path that leads to his home, reproaches him to walk away instead of following it to come back home.

この道 ずっとゆけば
あの街に つづいてる
気がする カントリー・ロード

Country Road, I feel that if I kept following that road, it would lead me to that town.

決して 涙は見せないで
心なしか 歩調が速くなっていく
思い出 消すため

  • 挫ける・くじける be depressed, lose heart, be discouraged
  • 心なしか・こころなしか somehow or other, I somehow felt, I somehow get the impression
  • 歩調・ほちょう the pace at which one walks

Even in the most disheartened times, by no means will I let my tears show. Somehow or other, I start to walk faster, to leave the memories behind. 

この道 故郷へつづいても
僕は 行かないさ
行けない カントリー・ロード

Country road, even if this path leads to my home, I won’t follow it, I can’t follow it.

明日は いつもの僕さ
帰りたい 帰れない
さよなら カントリー・ロード

Country road, tomorrow, as usual, I will want to return, I can’t return. Farewell, country road.

I am surprised to see that Shizuku totally transformed the meaning of the original song. When John Denver sang about returning home, Shizuku evokes, on the contrary, someone leaving his home behind and walking away, resisting the temptation to follow the “country road” that leads to his hometown.

It is much more natural for a 14-year-old girl who is thinking about her life, to wish to go away instead of “returning home”. That’s why I find the Japanese version of the lyrics so meaningful for the film. It also accentuates the bitterness she feels when Seiji goes to Italia, feeling that he fulfils the contents of her song and she doesn’t. She still has to learn that one doesn’t necessarily have to “leave” to follow one’s route.

These lyrics are the final translation of “Take me home, country roads” by Shizuku. But before completing the final version of her translation, she first wrote a first one and showed it to her friend Yuko. This is the extract Yuko sings in the film (with a rough translation):

白い雲わく丘を まいてのぼる 坂の街
古い部屋 ちいさな窓 帰り待つ 老いた犬

An inclined path that goes up around a hill surrounded by white clouds. The old dog is waiting for my return behind the small window of my old room.

はるかなる 故郷へ つづく道
母なる山 なつかしい わが街

Country roads, the road that leads to my home, in the distance. West Virginia, mountain mama, old sweet home.

As we can see, Shizuku evolved a lot between the two translations. In the first one, she more or less stuck to the original version and the overall meaning of the song. In the final version, she gave a personal interpretation of the song. Having no experience herself about missing one’s home country, she wrote about what she felt, as she explains in the film. The new version is much more personal and very far from the original version, too. I never realised that the difference between the two translations of Shizuku was also a way to express how Shizuku’s personality develops and she slowly becomes herself. I can say that I discovered a new element of the film with today’s post!


1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s