Japanese immersion: listening to the film Only Yesterday on iBooks

I am very happy this week because I have listened to a lot of Japanese thanks to the film Only Yesterday directed by Isao TAKAHATA. I am a fan of Ghibli films and I have several of them on DVD. The problem is that I don’t always want to sit on the sofa for two hours and just watch a film I already know very well. I thought that it would be cool to have only the audio on my phone and be able to listen to it as if it were an audiobook. This is what I have done this week, and it worked like magic. First, I listened to it a lot, and secondly, I felt improvement!

My favourite Ghibli films to learn Japanese

From my experience and point of view, the film Whisper of the Heart directed by Yoshifumi KONDO is perfect to study Japanese through films, even for beginners. It is generally easy to understand what the characters say, they talk about daily life, school, books… personally, this film encouraged me a lot when I just started Japanese and was able to catch things I had just learned in the film.

I also like From up on Poppy Hill by Goro MIYAZAKI. I find that films dealing with daily life and not containing much action scenes are easier to understand. It will certainly be the next film I will convert into mp3.

I chose Only Yesterday because it is one of my favourite films and I find that the characters talk a lot. As I wanted to extract the audio from the film and only listen to it, it would not have made sense if too many scenes were only based on the action without dialogues. Only Yesterday also has a beautiful music with several folk songs from Eastern Europe that I like very much, so the scenes were nothing happens in terms of dialogue are pleasant to listen to.

How to extract audio from a DVD?

You can extract the audio from a DVD for free by using the VLC player. I just followed the steps I found on this site. It took me several attempts to extract the audio, but I have read somewhere else that this method did not always work. It worked eventually and I found myself with an mp3 of the film.

I followed my own instructions from some months ago to transfer this mp3 to my iBooks app (on iPhone) so that I can listen to it as if it were an audiobook. This allows me to easily jump in the audio (if I want to re-listen to something I did not understand), and the app remembers where I stopped the last time I listened to the file so that I can start from where I left.

I plan to repeat the same steps for the other Ghibli films I have (I don’t have any DVD in Japanese other than my Ghibli collection.)

My understanding improved!

By listening only to the audio, without watching the film, I was able to understand a lot more than I could before. I didn’t have to make special efforts or listen several times to the same passage. By just letting the audio run while doing other things, I realised that I understood things I never did before.

I guess that, since I don’t have to focus on what I see on the screen, all my attention is directed to what I hear. And of course, the more I listen to it, the more I understand. Dialogues which seemed out of reach before are now making more and more sense, to the point where I can almost repeat them or at least, identify the words used.

I wish I could also extract the Japanese subtitles from the DVD (it might be possible but I’m afraid it will need a little more work than just running VLC)… On the other hand, not having the subtitles script forces me to focus on listening and not jump to the script as soon as I cannot make out what is said. I think that I can reach a good understanding of all the dialogues by listening to them again and again. I want to see how much I can understand with this method before looking at the subtitles.


I am more than happy to have found something I like and don’t mind listening to several times. My problem with improving my listening is that, though I have tried a lot of things to listen to and found a lot I enjoyed, none of them would be so appealing to me that I would want to listen to it over and over again or come back to it as soon as I have time.

I plan to convert the other DVDs I have and make myself a collection of Ghibli to go on my phone.

This week’s Japanese immersion is a success! 😃

Japanese News: April week1

I have been checking the news to in Japanese to give an overview of what happened this week (including last weekend). Of course, I may have overlooked important information and I hope that I understood well the articles I have read. I did my best!

Let’s have a look! (all sources from NHK News Web):

Civil protest after Sagawa’s testimony

Last week, Sagawa testified before the Diet concerning the falsification of the documents relative to the Moritomo Gakuen scandal. However, he refused to answer the hottest questions because he could be subject to prosecution. On Friday evening, demonstrators in a massive protest asked for answers: 森友 国会前で大規模抗議デモ 佐川氏喚問後初の週末.

I would translate the title as such: “[Moritomo] Big protest before the National Diet building: first weekend after Sagawa’s testimony.

  • 大規模・だいきぼ: large-scale. Sadly, the article does not say how many people were there.
  • 抗議・こうぎ: a protest
  • 喚問・かんもん: a summons

The article says that people asked for clear explanations: “ちゃんと説明しろ”. The reporter interviewed two persons. What they say certainly reflects the sentiment of many people and is quite easy to understand in Japanese:


This man says that he cannot trust a government who easily falsifies documents and doesn’t give explanations. He says that now, he can’t but think that the government is lying and he asks for the truth.


This woman says that she finds it strange that Sagawa did not give any explanations. She asks: whereas Sagawa didn’t say a word about the process of the falsification, why did he state so clearly that neither Abe nor his wife was involved?

April Fool

I didn’t know, but the newspaper 東京新聞 publishes hoaxes every year for April fool since 2001! I understand that people may be against jokes in newspapers, but it makes me think of 19th Century Great Moon Hoax or Poe’s Balloon Hoax, and I find it exciting!

Anyway, そのうそ、本当? asks one article. Among other examples of jokes made by several brands, it cites last year’s hoax by 東京新聞. They said that the きんさんぎんさん姉妹 were in reality 三姉妹. Kin (金・きん) and Gin (銀・ぎん) are twin sisters known for their longevity. They died in 2000 and 2001 at the age of 107 and 108 years old. The article says that there was a third sister named Do (銅・どう).

In France, we stick a paper fish in other people’s back on April Fools’ Day (but the last time I did it, it was during primary school…)

New canvas

Emperor’s abdication planning

I see that there are discussions around the Emperor’s abdication but nothing really new. As this article’s title says 今後の焦点は元号に 政府 慎重に検討進める, the government is working on it. If you are interested in this matter, NHK has a very thorough dossier on the subject! I might read some parts of it later, to be up-to-date next year, when the transition takes place.

  • 焦点・しょうてん: a focal point, a central point
  • 元号・げんごう: an era name
  • 慎重・しんちょう: careful
  • 検討・けんとう: an examination

What I found very interesting is this article: 「平成」後の新元号 いつ変わる?どう決まる?. It is about how the new name of an era is chosen. Let’s have a look at the intertitles:

  • まず、有識者が2~5の案を提出: First, the persons in charge (?) will propose 2 to 5 names. These persons are specialists of literature and history.
  • 「漢字2文字」「書きやすい」など 政府内で数案に絞る: The government narrows down the propositions with the criteria “2 kanji”, “easy to write”. The name must also be easy to read and of course, must not have been used in the past.
    • 絞る・しぼる means “to squeeze” but it also means “to narrow down”. I often see the expression “容疑者を絞る” (narrow down the suspects) in Keigo HIGASHINO’s books.
  • 最後に、改元の政令を閣議決定: A Cabinet meeting session makes the final decision concerning the new era name.
    • 改元・かいげん: a change in era name
    • 政令・せいれい: a government ordinance, a cabinet order
    • 閣議・かくぎ: a cabinet meeting
  • 「いつ発表するかは白紙」首相: Abe said that the date of the public announcement of the new era name was still “白紙・はくし”. This word means “white paper” but can also mean “scratch” like in the expression “start from scratch”. I guess that what is meant here is that they still haven’t decided or even started to discuss the date (?)
  • 官房長官が記者会見で発表か: Abe said that, given that it was the Chief Cabinet Secretary who announced the new era name Heisei during a press conference at the time, it certainly will be Chief Cabinet Secretary this time too.

Gosho AOYAMA is back!

Gosho AOYAMA (青山剛昌・あおやまごうしょう) had taken some months of rest. The series Case Closed 「名探偵コナン」will make a return in the magazine「週刊少年サンデー」on April 11th, after 4 months of absence.

See the article: 漫画「名探偵コナン」連載再開へ 今月発売号から.

  • 連載・れんさい: serialization, serial publication

You can see a handwritten note by Gosho AOYAMA on the magazine site. He announces the return of Conan and says that, even if this note is published on April Fool, there is zero lie in it!

Japanese macaques relieve stress in hot springs?

Everything is in the title: 野生ニホンザル 温泉でストレス解消か 京大グループ

A research group at Kyoto University (京都大学) has observed that Japanese macaques ニホンザル tend to spend more time in the onsen in Winter than in Spring. The reason could be that they relieve the stress ストレス解消.

Tradition vs human life?

A shocking report came out on Thursday: 女性が土俵 相撲協会幹部「次元の違う話」緊急時対応を柔軟に

On Wednesday, during the grand sumo 大相撲 Spring tournaments 春巡業 in the city of Maizuru (舞鶴市), the mayor collapsed on the ring. The ring of Sumo tournaments is called Dohyo 土俵・どひょう, and it is traditionally forbidden to women.

  • 大相撲・おおすもう: a grand sumo tournament, professional sumo
  • 巡業・じゅんぎょう: a provincial tour, a tour of the provinces. Also: 地方巡業.

On the video, we can see that several men surround the unconscious mayor, but they don’t seem to be doing anything. Then a woman, who has medical knowledge, steps on the Dohyo and starts a heart massage. What is shocking is that we can hear an announcement saying that women should get out of the Dohyo: 「女性は土俵から下りてください」. This announcement was repeated three times.

The video in the article is relatively easy to understand. People asked on the street said saving a life comes first 最優先・さいゆうせん (highest priority). The doctor interviewed said that the woman’s reaction was right 正しい and that nothing should be done to prevent saving a life.

This other article 大相撲巡業 土俵上で倒れた舞鶴市長 くも膜下出血で入院 京都 cites an official who was on the Dohyo at the time. He said that he heard the woman say: 『看護師で心臓マッサージができる』. When the announcement asked women to step out of the Dohyo, she said 『人命救助をしているのになぜ』.

This other article 大相撲巡業 救命処置の女性に「土俵から下りて」とアナウンス says that while the video of the scene becomes viral on Twitter and Youtube, comments on the Internet were 「救命活動を止めろということか」 or 「非常識きわまりないアナウンスだ」.

  • 救命・きゅうめい: lifesaving
  • 非常識・ひじょうしき: absurdity, lack of common sense
  • きわまりない: extremely

Isao TAKAHATA died on Thursday

Isao TAKAHATA 高畑勲(たかはた・いさお)died at the age of 82 on Thursday (5th). He co-founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao MIYAZAKI and directed, to name a few, The grave of the fireflies「火垂るの墓」, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya「かぐや姫の物語」and Only Yesterday「おもひでぽろぽろ」which is one of my favourite Ghibli films.

Further reading: アニメ作家 高畑勲さん死去 「火垂るの墓」などの作品

Japanese News April week1 3

The log of GSDF in Iraq

The context:

GSDF is an acronym for Japan Ground Self-Defense Force or in Japanese 陸上自衛隊・りくじょうじえいたい. The GSDF has operated in Iraq from 2004 to 2006. The Self-Defense Forces participate in peacemaking operations overseas.

Last year, there has been a cover-up scandal that led to the demission of Defense Minister Inada. This scandal concerned the operation of the GSDF in South Sudan. To summarise the case, although the GSDF was there to reconstruct infrastructures and provide humanitarian aid, information leaked that they were facing combats. Under the accusation that the ministry knew but tried to conceal the real situation that was facing its soldiers in South Sudan, Inada resigned.

At this occasion, a large-scale investigation has been made concerning documents of the Defense Ministry. It concerned, among others, the daily activity log of the GSDF in Iraq. At the time of the investigation, the Defense Ministry said that the daily activity log “does not exist”.

And what happened on Monday (2nd)? Defense Minister announced that they had found the log: 「存在しない」イラク派遣の陸自日報が見つかる 防衛相が陳謝

The title of this article can be translated as such: “the daily activity log of the SDF operation in Iraq that “does not exist” has been found: Defense Minister apologises.”

  • 派遣・はけん: dispatch, deployment
  • 陸自・りくじ: abbreviation for 陸上自衛隊・りくじょうじえいたい GSDF
  • 日報・にっぽう: a daily report
  • 防衛相・ぼうえいしょう: Minister of Defense. Also: 防衛大臣・ぼうえいだいじん.
  • 陳謝・ちんしゃ: an official apology.

Let’s go through some parts of the article:

Let’s look at the first paragraph that summarises the issue:


  • 陸上自衛隊・りくじょうじえいたい Ground Self-Defense Force GSDF
  • 防衛省・ぼうせいしょう: Ministry of Defense
  • 小野寺防衛大臣: Actual Minister of Defense Itsunori ONODERA
    • 小野寺五典(おのでら・いつのり)
  • 陸上幕僚監部・りくじょうばくりょうかんぶ: Ground Staff Office

The article further insists that the ministry once said that this log “does not exist”: イラクでの活動の日報について、防衛省は、これまで国会の資料請求や質疑に対し「存在しない」と回答していました。

  • 資料請求・しりょうせいきゅう: asking (a request) for information
  • 質疑・しつぎ: a question, an inquiry

To explain the response of the time, the Minister said that they only searched for the log at one place and that they didn’t find it there.


  • Concerning why they explained that the daily log (of the GSDF’s dispatching to Iraq)  hadn’t been kept,
  • the Ministry of Defense announced that (防衛省は…と明らかにしました)
  • it was because they didn’t find it when they checked at the quarters in charge of the operation
    • 部署・ぶしょ: one’s quarters
    • 運用・うんよう: operation
  • last February
  • when the members of the Diet asked for verification

I am slowly getting used to this kind of long sentences. Another article states clearly that they didn’t check other places than these quarters: 陸自のイラク派遣日報 当初は部隊運用部署しか調査せず 防衛省. We have the use of the grammar “しか…ない”.

Japanese News April week11

The core of the problem is here. Instead of saying that they couldn’t find the log, they said that it no longer existed. This leads to some questioning. The article cites opposition members at the end. Someone said that if the Ministry intentionally hid the log, it would be a big deal:「故意に隠していたら大問題だ」.

To spice the revelation, it seems that the log had been found in January of this year. It took three months before the person who found it (from the GSDF) report it to Defense Minister: 日報問題 防衛相への報告まで3か月 管理適切か検証へ:


On Wednesday, however, a new revelation came out: the existence of the log had been confirmed in March 2017 but has been deliberately concealed until now: 陸自 日報問題 去年3月に存在確認も大臣らに報告せず.

This title encompasses a lot of information in a very condensed way: “the GSDF, concerning the problem of the daily activity log, even though they (the GSDF) had confirmation of its (the log) existence, didn’t report it to the Defense Minister and others”.

Let’s have a look at the first paragraph:


  • Concerning the problem of the discovery of the daily log (about GSDF dispatching to Iraq)
  • Minister of Defense Onodera announced that (this is the last part of the sentence in Japanese)
  • in reality, in March of last year,
  • although the existence of the log had been confirmed
    • we have this N2 grammar: にもかかわらず: although…, in spite of…
  • the GSDF
  • did not report the fact of the discovery to Inada, who was Defense Minister at the time, and others.

Of course, they will make an investigation to understand the process and the motive of the concealment. イラク派遣日報 防衛省 詳しい経緯や動機などの解明急ぐ方針.

  • 経緯・いきさつ: the circumstances, course of events
  • 動機・どうき: the motive

Japanese News April week1 2

The labour reform

Deliberations are going on in the Diet about the Labour reform. Especially, they are discussing the「高度プロフェッショナル制度」. What I know (or think that I know) is that there were two major features in this reform project: the so-called discretionary system 裁量労働制 and the 高度プロフェッショナル制度 (how do you translate this in English?). Abe had to give up the first one because the data given to support it were flawed. So now, we are focusing on the second system.

I will swot up on the labour reform and come back with more information next week!


The less that I can say is that reading the news in Japanese is anything but boring! On top of the falsified documents scandal, they now have a concealed documents scandal! Is it okay??

As for me, I feel more and more at ease to read articles and their long sentences. Also, following the same issue over several days has the advantage that I already know the keywords, so reading becomes easier and easier. However, when a new issue appears (like the labour reform) I need to roll up my sleeves and get to work!

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!



This is the ending song of Howl’s moving castle. The song is sung by 倍賞千恵子・ばいしょうちえこ Baisho Chieko who is a Japanese actress and singer. She also gave her voice to Sophie in the film and interprets both young and old Sophie (two different actresses made the English version). That’s funny because it never occurred to me that the singer who sings the ending song was the actress who gave her voice to Sophie. To me, she has a very different voice when she speaks and when she sings.

Howl’s moving castle is far from being my favourite Ghibli film but it has a fantastic music. I find the ending song very sad, it leaves me with the same melancholy than the ending song of Spirited Away and From up on Poppy Hill.


  • 涙・なみだ tears
  • 奥・おく inside, interior
  • ゆらぐ to swing, to sway
  • ほほえみ・微笑み smile (the verb is 微笑む・ほほえむ to smile)
  • 約束・やくそく promise


  • 生まれ・うまれ birth (the verb “to be born” is 生まれる・うまれる)
  • きらめくto glitter, to glisten
  • Noun+のように means “like”, “similar to”


  • 想い出・おもいで memories
  • うち inside
  • そよかぜ・そよかぜ gentle breeze, soft wind
  • I am not sure about “~となる” but I guess it is used together to say “to become”, instead of “~になる”.
  • 頬・ほほ cheek
  • 触れる・ふれる to touch. It is used with the grammar ~てくる which indicates a direction: the gentle breeze comes and touches the cheek.


  • 木漏れ日・こもれび sunlight filtering through the trees.
  • 別れ・わかれ parting, separation, farewell
  • 決して・けっして never, by no means
  • 終わる・おわる to end. Here in the negative form 終わらない・おわらない


  • 限りない・かぎりない endless, boundless, unlimited
  • 教える・おしえる means “to teach”, it is used with the grammar ~てくれる which means that the action made was made for the speaker, I don’t think that it can be translated directly into English.
  • ひそむ to be hidden, to lie dormant
  • 優しい・やさしい means “kind”, “gentle”. By replacing the ending い by さ it transforms the adjective into a noun: the kindness.


  • せせらぎ small stream
  • 香り・かおり aroma, fragrance
  • いつまでも forever, eternally
  • 生きて・いきて this grammar form is an imperative form but I wonder if it’s not better to understand it as 生きている with the grammar ~ている that describes a state.


いのちのなまえ is the vocal version of the famous theme あの夏へ・あのなつへ from Spirited Away. Composed by Joe Hisaishi, the vocal version is sung by 平原綾香・ひらはらあやか Hirahara Ayaka. Music takes such an important place in Miyasaki’s film and Joe Hisaishi’s compositions confer to the story its emotional colours that make every film unique and so full of affecting echoes.


ずっとどこまでも ずっと続いてく

  • 青空・あおぞら blue sky
  • 線・せん line
  • 引く・ひく which first sense is “to pull” also means “to draw” (a line).
  • 飛行機・ひこうき here written in hiragana is “a plane”
  • 雲・くも cloud
  • 白さ・しろさ comes from the adjective 白い. By replacing the い ending by さ, the adjective is nominalized: the whiteness.
  • ずっと means “continuously for a long distance”, “throughout”, “all along”.
  • 続く・つづく means “to continue” and is here in the form “ていく”, the い being omitted: it continues and goes away.
  • 明日・あす note that she uses the other pronunciation of あした.
  • 知っていた・しっていた simply here the form “ている” which means “to be doing sth”, “to be in a state of” in the past tense.
  • みたい like, similar to, as if.

熱い頬 さました風も おぼえてる

  • 胸・むね chest, breast
  • 浅く・あさく comes from the adjective 浅い・あさい which means “shallow”. By replacing the い ending by く you change the adjective into an adverb.
  • 息をする・いきをする to breathe. Here again, the grammar ている which means “to be doing sth” in the past tense. The い is omitted, it should be: していた
  • 頬・ほお cheek
  • 冷ます・さます to cool, to let cool, to dampen. Past tense: the wind that cooled my hot cheeks.
  • 覚える・おぼえる means “to memorise” but in the form ている, it means “to be in the state of having memorised” i.e: to remember. Here again, the い is omitted. The ending “て” is just the form to say “and”, I think.

叫びたいほど なつかしいのは
あなたの肩に 揺れていた木漏れ日

  • 未来・みらい the future
  • すくむ to cower, to be cramped
  • 手足・てあし hands and feet
  • ほどく means “to unfasten”, “to untie”. ほどかれる is the passive form of the verb ほどく: to be unfastened. The subject that is unfastened is “the hands and feet that were cramped, tied, bound” and they are unfastened by (に) a calm voice.
  • 叫ぶ・さけぶ means “to shout”, “to cry” and is here in the form masu-たい which means “to want to”.
  • ほど means “extend”, “to the extent”. Here it means that sth is so… that…/to the extent that…, and more precisely: it is so missed and desired that I want to cry.
  • 懐かしい・なつかしい desired, missed, it is used to express the nostalgy felt when thinking of the past.
  • ひとつ “one” when counting things
  • 命・いのち life
  • 真夏・まなつ Midsummer
  • 肩・かた shoulder
  • 揺れる・ゆれる to shake, to sway. Here again, the form ている in the past tense.
  • 木漏れ日・こもれび sunlight filtering through trees.

ふたつを浮かべて 見えない川は

  • つぶれる to be smashed, to become useless
  • 散らす・ちらす to scatter, to disperse, to spread
  • 花びら・はなびら flower petals
  • ふたつ “two” when counting things
  • 浮かべる・うかべる to float
  • 見える・みえる to be seen, to be in sight, here in the negative form.
  • 川・かわ river
  • 歌う・うたう means “to sing” and is here in the form “masu+ながら” which means “while”, meaning that two actions are done at the same time.
  • 流れる・ながれる means “to stream”, “to flow”. The form ていく with the い omitted conveys the idea that it flows away.

宇宙が生んだ神さまの 子供たち

  • 秘密・ひみつ secret
  • 嘘・うそ lie
  • 喜び・よろこび joy
  • 宇宙・うちゅう universe, the cosmos
  • 生む・うむ to give birth, to produce
  • 神さま・かみさま god

叫びたいほど いとおしいのは
わたしの指に 消えない夏の日

  • いつか sometime, someday, one day
  • 思い出す・おもいだす to recall, to remember
  • いとおしい sweet, precious, lovely
  • 帰り着く・かえりつく to arrive home, to return
  • 場所・ばしょ place, location
  • 指・ゆび finger
  • 消える・きえる to vanish, to disappear


いつもなんどでも・いつもなんどでも is the ending song of Spirited Away. It is sung by 木村弓・きむらゆみ Kimura Yumi. It is certainly one of the most beautiful songs that appear in Ghibli films. The melody as much as the lyrics embody the melancholy that lingers at the end of Spirited Away, the feeling that you left the magic behind.


呼んでいる 胸のどこか奥で
いつも心踊る 夢を見たい

  • 呼ぶ・よぶ to call, here in the form ~て いる, meaning “calling”
  • 胸・むね chest
  • どこか means “somewhere”
  • 奥・おく inside
  • 心躍る・こころおどる which literally means “the heart dances” means “to be excited”.
  • 夢を見る・ゆめをみる means “to dream”, literally “to see a dream”. Here it is used in the form “masu-たい” which means “to want to”.

悲しみは 数えきれないけれど
その向こうできっと あなたに会える

  • 悲しみ・かなしみ sadness, sorrow
  • 数える・かぞえる to count, to enumerate. It is used with the grammar “masu- きれない” which means “being too much or too many to finish or complete”.
  • 向こう・むこう opposite side, other side, over there, far away
  • きっと almost certainly
  • 会う・あう means “to meet” and 会える is the potential form meaning “being able to meet”.

繰り返すあやまちの そのたびひとは
ただ青い空の 青さを知る
果てしなく 道は続いて見えるけれど
この両手は 光を抱ける

  • 繰り返す・くりかえす to repeat, to do something over again
  • あやまち fault, error, faux pas
  • そのたび each time
  • ただ only, merely, just, simply
  • 青さ・あおさ the -さ ending is used to nominalize the adjective 青い.
  • 果てしなく・はてしなく eternally, interminably
  • 続いて・つずいて comes from the verb 続く・つずく to continue. I think it means that the road looks like it continues eternally.
  • 両手・りょうて both hands
  • 抱ける・だける is the potential form of 抱く・だく to embrace, to hold in the arms.

さよならのときの 静かな胸
ゼロになるからだが 耳をすませる

  • 静かな・しずかな quiet, calm
  • からだ means “body” but I wonder if it could not be understood as “soul” here.
  • 耳をすます・みみをすます to listen carefully. Here again, we have the potential form “すませる” of the verb “すます”

生きている不思議 死んでいく不思議
花も風も街も みんなおなじ

  • 生きている・いきている is the form “ている” which means “to be doing something” or describes a state.
  • 死んでいく・しんでいく uses the grammar “ていく” which is hard to explain but includes some kind of movement away from the speaker. Like “dying away”?
  • 不思議・ふしぎ can mean “wonder”, “miracle”, “mystery”.
  • 街・まち can mean “town” and “street”
  • おなじ means “same”, “identical” and is usually written 同じ・おなじ


呼んでいる 胸のどこか奥で
いつも何度でも 夢を描こう

  • 何度でも・なんどでも means “several times”, “again and again”
  • 描く・かく to draw. The ending おう means “let’s…”

悲しみの数を 言い尽くすより
同じくちびるで そっとうたおう

  • 数・かず number, amount
  • 言い尽くす・いいつくす to tell all, to give a full account
  • より here it means “instead of”
  • くちびる lips, the kanji is 唇
  • そっと softly, gently, quietly
  • うたおう here again, the おう ending of the verb 歌う・うたう to sing, express the will to do something, the act of willing, and can be translated as “let’s…”

閉じていく思い出の そのなかにいつも
忘れたくない ささやきを聞く
こなごなに砕かれた 鏡の上にも
新しい景色が 映される

  • 閉じる・とじる to close. Here again, we find the grammar ていく. I must admit that the meaning is hard to grasp, at least to me. Maybe, if memories (想い出・おもいで) are closed, they get away from me, they tend to fly away?
  • 想い出・おもいで memories
  • 忘れる・わすれる to forget. It is here in the form 忘れたい which means “to want to” (masu- たい) but in the negative form. The negative form of this grammar is the same as an i- adjective. Just drop the “i” and add くない for casual form. 忘れたいくない means “don’t want to forget”.
  • ささやき means “whisper”, “murmur”.

It confirms, I think, the idea that the memories are “closing away”, fading away because they are closed, meaning that they are past memories that nothing reactivate, that don’t come to life anymore. But inside those fading away memories, there is this whisper the singer hears and don’t want to forget.

Maybe I am giving too much meaning to the grammar ていく, maybe it does convey the idea of moving away from the narrator…

  • こなごな砕く・こなこなにくだく “to smash to pieces”. “こなごな means “in very small pieces” and 砕く・くだく “to break”, “to smash”. Here, the verb 砕く・くだく is in the passive form: 砕かれる・くだかれる: to be smashed (to pieces), in the past tense.
  • 鏡・かがみ mirror
  • 景色・けしき scenery
  • 映す・うつす to project, to reflect. Here again, it is the passive form 映される・うつされる that we have: to be reflected.

はじまりの朝の 静かな窓
ゼロになるからだ 充たされてゆけ

  • はじまり beginning, origin
  • 朝・あさ morning
  • 窓・まど window
  • 充たす・みたす means “to fill”. Here again, the passive form: 充たされる・みたされる “to be filled”. As for the ending “てゆけ”, I am not sure, but my guess is that we have the grammar “ていく” once again, but the “い” is pronounced “ゆ”. The ending in “え” is certainly the imperative form. So, we would have something like “be filled (again) and go away”, meaning that her empty body (that became “zero”) will be filled again and go on living, go on with life. (?)

海の彼方には もう探さない
輝くものは いつもここに
わたしのなかに 見つけられたから

  • 彼方・かなた beyond, across, the other side
  • もう used with a negative verb means “not anymore”
  • 探す・さがす to search, to look for. In the negative form.
  • 輝く・かがやくto shine, to glitter, to sparkle
  • 見付ける・みつける to discover, to find. Here in the passive form 見つけられる・みつけられる “to be discovered”.


ひょっこりひょうたん島~じま is a television program for kids broadcasted by NHK every evening from 1964 to 1969. In the film Only Yesterday, we can see the protagonist watching this TV show at home. Later, she starts singing in the street the TV program’s song that she knows well. She puts her frustration in this performance after having suffered an injustice and I really like this scene as much as I like this song, even if it’s a song for children 😁


波を ちゃぷちゃぷ
ちゃぷちゃぷ かきわけて
(ちゃぷ ちゃぷ ちゃぷ)

  • 波・なみ wave
  • ちゃぷちゃぷ splish-splash
  • かきわける to push one’s way through

雲を すいすい
すいすい 追い抜いて
(すい すい すい)

  • 雲・くも cloud
  • すいすい smoothly, unhindered
  • 追い抜く・おいぬく to pass

ひょうたん島は どこへ行く
ぼくらを乗せて どこへ行く
ウーー ウーー

  • ひょうたん島・ひょうたんじま is the name of the island where the character of the program evolves
  • ぼくら means “we”, used by men.
  • 乗せる・のせる to pick up, to help on board, to take on board
  • 行く is pronounced ゆく as in most songs.

丸い地球の 水平線に
何かがきっと 待っている

  • 丸い・まるい round, circular
  • 地球・ちきゅう the earth, the globe
  • 水平線・すいへいせん Horizon
  • きっと surely, undoubtedly, almost certainly
  • 待つ・まつ to wait

苦しいことも あるだろさ
悲しいことも あるだろさ

  • 苦しい・くるしい painful, difficult
  • ~だろさ expresses the probability, possibility that something occurs. “There is/will be probably painful moments…” This grammar is usually written “だろう”
  • 悲しい・かなしい sad

だけど ぼくらは くじけない
泣くのはいやだ 笑っちゃおう

  • だけど but, however
  • くじける to be crushed, to be broken
  • 泣く・なく to cry
  • いやだ means “detestable” and is used to say that you hate doing something
  • 笑う・わらう to laugh. It is used with the grammar ~てしまう:わらってしまう which is contracted into わらっちゃう and means “doing something completely”. The ending is “おう” which means “let’s do…”. The formal way of writing this verb would be: 笑ってしまおう but the contraction form is 笑っちゃおう.
  • 進める・すすめる means “to advance” and is used here in the imperative form.







This is the theme song and ending song of From up on Poppy hill. The name of the song, さよならの夏・さよならのなつ means Summer of goodbye and it is sang by 手嶌葵・てしまあおい Teshima Aoi.

Appearing at the end of the film, this song conveys a touch of sadness, echoing with some aspects of the film. It also shows how well the Ghibli films depict the complexity of emotions, when happiness and sadness sometimes coexist and melancholy is often inexplicable.

It’s not only a beautiful melody with a beautiful voice, the lyrics are also very beautiful. I found this live version and found it even more touching than the original version of the film:

光る海に かすむ船は
さよならの汽笛 のこします
ゆるい坂を おりてゆけば
夏色の風に あえるかしら

  • かすむ・霞む to grow hazy, to be misty, to get blurry
  • 汽笛・きてき steam whistle
  • ゆるい gentle (for a curve, a slope)
  • 坂・さか slope, hill
  • おりる・おりる means to descend (a mountain), to go down. Here we have おりてゆけば which is the form: 降りていく (the grammar ~ていくgiving direction) + the ~ば grammar, meaning “if”. In songs, the pronunciation ゆく for the verb 行く is often preferred than the usual pronunciation いく.
  • あえる is the potential form of 合う・あう “be able to meet”
  • かしら means “I wonder if…” She wonders whether she will be able to meet the spring-coloured wind, or the wind of the colour of summer.

わたしの愛 それはメロディー
たかく ひくく 歌うの
わたしの愛 それはカモメ
たかく ひくく 飛ぶの
夕陽のなか 呼んでみたら
やさしいあなたに 逢えるかしら

  • たかく and ひくく are both the adverbial form of the adjectives 高い・たかい and 低い・ひくい meaning “singing high and low”
  • かもめ is a seagull
  • 夕陽・ゆうひ it can also be written 夕日. It means, “evening sun”, “setting sun”.
  • 呼んでみたら is the form ~てみる (meaning “try to do”) attached to the verb 呼ぶ・よぶ to call + the grammar ~たら meaning “if”.
  • 逢う・あう means “to meet”. It is another way of writing 合う・あう

だれかが弾く ピアノの音
海鳴りみたいに きこえます
おそい午後を 行き交うひと
夏色の夢を はこぶかしら

  • 誰か means “someone”.
  • 海鳴り・うみなり rumbling of the sea.
  • みたい is a grammar point that means “to look like”, “to be similar to”
  • 聞こえる・きこえる means “to be heard”
  • 行き交う・いきかう to come and go. Here again, she pronounces “ゆく” instead of “いく”
  • はこぶ・運ぶ to carry

わたしの愛 それはダイアリー
日々のページ つづるの
わたしの愛 それは小舟
夕陽のなか 降り返れば
あなたはわたしを 探すかしら

  • つづる to compose, to frame, to write, to bind together (pages)
  • 小舟・こぶね small boat

散歩道に ゆれる木々は
さよならの影を おとします
古いチャペル 風見の鶏(とり)
夏色の街は みえるかしら
きのうの愛 それは涙
やがて かわき 消えるの

  • ゆれる to shake, to sway
  • おとす・落とす to drop, to lose, to let fall.
  • 風見・かざみ weather vane
  • とり is usually written 鳥 while 鶏 is usually pronounced にわとり and means “domestic chicken”. Here , it describes the shape of the weather vane.
  • やがて can have several meanings, but I guess that here it means “eventually”, “finally”, “in the end”.
  • かわく means “to get dry”. So, tears eventually get dry and disappear.

あしたの愛 それはルフラン
夕陽のなか めぐり逢えば
あなたはわたしを 抱くかしら

  • ルフラン is “refrain”, from French.
  • 巡り合う・めぐりあう which is written: めぐり逢う means “to meet fortuitously”, “to meet by chance”
  • 抱く・だく to embrace, to hold in one’s arms.

都はるみ ~愛は花、君はその種子

The song “愛は花、君はその種子” sung by 都はるみ・みやこはるみ appears at the end of the Ghibli film “Only Yesterday”, directed by Isao Takahata. It is a Japanese cover of “The Rose” by Amanda McBroom.

I don’t know if I would have loved that song so much, hadn’t I seen the film. It’s only the ending film song but it accompanies a very moving scene that retrospectively gives a new dimension to the whole film. The emotion conveyed in this last scene only proves the great quality of Ghibli films that make them so different from any other anime films, in my opinion.

It is very hard, if not impossible, to find the original version (I mean, the version of the film) on YouTube. I have to link to a cover then… If you haven’t seen “Only Yesterday”, I hope you will have a chance to watch it and listen to the ending song!


やさしさを 押し流す
愛 それは川
魂を 切り裂く
愛 それはナイフ
とめどない 渇きが
愛だと いうけれど
愛は花 生命の花
君は その種子
  • やさしい means “tender”, “kind”. the “さ” ending nominalize it to “tenderness”
  • 押し流す・おしながす to wash away
  • 魂・たましい soul, spirit
  • 切り裂く・きりさく to cut off, to cut up, to tear to pieces
  • とめどない endless, ceaseless
  • 渇き・かわき thirst
  • 生命・いのち life. It is usually written 命・いのち
  • 種子・たね seed. Again, I think it is usually written 種・たね
挫けるのを 恐れて
躍らない きみのこころ
醒めるのを 恐れて
チャンス逃す きみの夢
奪われるのが 嫌さに
与えない こころ
死ぬのを 恐れて
生きることが 出来ない
  • 挫ける・くじける to be crushed, to be broken
  • 恐れる・おそれる to fear, to be afraid of
  • 躍る・おどる to pound (one’s heart)
  • 醒める・さめる to wake
  • 逃す・のがす to miss (an occasion)
  • 奪われる・うばわれる is the passive form of 奪う・うばう to snatch away, to dispossess, to steal
  • 与える・あたえる to give
長い夜 ただひとり
遠い道 ただひとり
愛なんて 来やしない
そう おもうときには
思い出してごらん 冬
雪に 埋もれていても
種子は春 おひさまの
愛で 花ひらく
  • 来やしない・きやしない ”やしない” is an emphatic negative form used after -masu stem
  • ~てごらん ”ごらん” is used after -te form of a verb to say “please, try to…”
  • 埋もれる・うもれる to be buried, to be covered, hidden
  • おひさま the sun
  • ひらく to spread out, to open up (for a flower)

The translation is very close to the original English one… I tend to like this version better but I am sure that I am influenced by the film which is one of my favourite Ghibli films.


This is the song 風になる from the singer つじあやの. It’s the song from the Ghibli film The cat returns. 

The lyrics:

忘れていた目を閉じて 取り戻せ 恋のうた
青空に隠れている 手を伸ばしてもう一度

  • 取り戻す・とりもどす to take back, to regain, to get back, to recover
  • 青空・あおそら blue sky
  • 隠れる・かくれる to be hidden
  • 伸ばす・のばす to reach out, to straighten

忘れないで すぐそばに僕がいる いつの日も
星空を眺めている 一人きりの夜明けも

  • 星空・ほしぞら starry sky
  • 眺める・ながめる to view, to gaze at
  • 夜明け・よあけ dawn, daybreak (note the pronunciation)

たった一つの心 悲しみに暮れないで
君のためいきなんて 春風に変えてやる

  • たった only, merely, no more than
  • 暮れる・くれる to be sunk (in despair), to be lost
  • なんて such a thing as, things like
  • 春風・はるかぜ spring breeze

陽のあたる坂道を 自転車で駆け上る

  • 陽・ひ sun, sunshine, sunlight
  • 坂道・さかみち hill road
  • 駆け上る・かけのぼる to run up (hill, stairs)
  • 失くす・なくす to lose something
  • 乗せる・のせる to give … a ride, to give a lift, to place on

ラララララ 口ずさむ くちびるを染めて行く
君と見つけた幸せ 花のように

  • 口ずさむ・くちずさむ to hum, to sing to oneself
  • くちびる lips, the kanji is 唇
  • 染める・そめる to dye, to colour
  • 幸せ・しあわせ happiness

忘れていた窓開けて 走り出せ恋のうた
青空に託している 手をかざしてもう一度

  • 走り出す・はしりだす to begin to run, to start running
  • 託す・たくす to entrust
  • かざす to hold ons’s hands out

忘れないよ すぐそばに君がいる いつの日も
星空に輝いてる 涙揺れる明日も

  • 輝く・かがやく to shine, to glitter, to sparkle
  • 揺れる・ゆれる to shake, to sway

たった一つの言葉 この胸に抱きしめて
君のため僕は今 春風に吹かれてる

  • 胸・むね chest
  • 抱きしめる・だきしめる to hold someone close, tight, to embrace closely

陽のあたる坂道を 自転車で駆け上る

  • 誓う・ちかう to swear, to vow

ラララララ 口ずさむ くちびるを染めて行く
君と出会えた幸せ 祈るように

  • 出会う・であう to meet by chance, to run across, to encounter
  • 祈る・いのる to pray

陽のあたる坂道を 自転車で駆け上る

ラララララ 口ずさむ くちびるを染めて行く
君と出会えた幸せ 祈るように

君と出会えた幸せ 祈るように