Arashi and the Hyakunin Isshu

Lately, I’ve been enjoying a certain Arashi single called “Dear Snow” quite a bit. You can see a video for it here among other places on the Intertubes. It’s quite a good song. My wife said it was used as the theme for a certain popular drama or movie at the time, I think. Anyhow, the song of course is a love song,1 but for all you JLPT language students, it’s also a good exposure to vocabulary and grammar that’s useful in an everyday context, in a way that’s a lot more exciting than textbooks. :)

One of my favorite lines of the song is:

雪はただ静かに Yuki wa tada shizuka ni
まるであなたのように marude anata no yō ni
この肩に舞い降りて kono kata ni mairiorite
そっと微笑む sotto hohoemu

This struck me as very poetic. If I can offer a very amateur translation, it’s something like “The snow lands, so much like you, quietly on my shoulder, smiling softly.” I appreciate feedback on a better translation if you know it. :)

Anyhow, as I heard that line, somehow, I got reminded of the love poetry found in the ancient Hyakunin Isshu poem anthology, which I frequently write about (and even started a separate blog for). Around the 35th to 45th poems, you see a lot of expressions of love. Often these were written for poetry contests at the time, to fit a certain theme, but not always. Either way, some of them are quite brilliant.

Poem 42 is one excellent example:

契りきな chigirikina
かたみに袖を katami ni sode wo
しぼりつつ shiboritsutsu
末の松山 sue no matsuyama
波越さじとは nami kosaji to wa

Which as Porter translated:

OUR sleeves, all wet with tears, attest
That you and I agree
That to each other we’ll be true,
Till Pine-tree Hill shall be
Sunk far beneath the sea.

Although this poem and the band Arashi have little in common (both are Japanese at least ;) ), somehow I find it interesting that even though they are 800 years apart, poetic expressions of undying love are still just as relevant as ever. The medium of that expression has changed, but really humans haven’t changed much at all over time.

Just something I was thinking about today.

P.S. If you can, do get your hands on the Arashi single above. It’s very nice. While you’re at it, get a copy of the Hyakunin Isshu too. :)

1 Arashi has a lot of male fans too, and they’re about my age, so I like their music in general. I know some Japanophiles like other groups like AKB48 or other young “girl groups”. I understand the appeal, but since I am in my 30′s and a family man, I just avoid that stuff. (もう、おっさんになっちゃった :p ). If you’re looking for other good Japanese music for adults, I also highly recommend Hirai Ken who really has a great voice.

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