A song for the Tohoku disaster victims, by Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi

Two years ago, on March 11 2011, a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami destroyed the Tōhoku region in northern Japan. Although two years have passed, the tragedy is still very much alive in Japan. Rebuilding the region, and more importantly, people’s lives, will take many more years.

In memory of that fateful day, I would like to introduce you to the song ひとつ (‘hitotsu’, or in English ‘one’) by Japanese artist Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi. He wrote this song in 2011 to express his feelings about the disaster. I think many people all over the world will be able to relate to this song, since it talks about living with sadness and losing a loved one.

Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi - Stay Alive album cover

Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi – Stay Alive album cover

I first heard this song on the annual Japanese New Year’s Eve show ‘Kōhaku Uta Gassen’ in 2011. Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi performed the song live on location in Tōhoku, in the Kadonowaki Primary School in Miyagi prefecture. The emotions coming through in his singing made a big impression on me. Of course the dramatic location and the beautiful light-up of the scene further enhance this effect. Please have a look for yourself:

I couldn’t find an English translation of the lyrics, so I had a go at it myself. I have to warn everyone: my Japanese is not that good. I apologize in advance for any mistakes I may have made. If you find a mistake, please post it in the comments section and I will correct it.

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Hitotsu (ひとつ) by Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi (長渕 剛)
Lyrics in Japanese and in English

Hitotsu One
Hitoribocchi ni sasete gomen ne
Mou nido to
Hanasani hanarenai hanashitakunai
I am so sorry for having left you alone
Never again
I won’t let you go, I won’t leave you, I don’t want to leave you
Kimi ni yorisoi soba ni ikiru yo
Mou nido to
Wasurenai wasuresasenai wasuretakunai
Being close to you, living by your side
Never again
I won’t forget you, don’t let me forget you, I don’t want to forget you
Kanashimi wa dokoka yatte kite
Kanashimi wa doko he yukundarou
Ikura kangaete mo wakaranai kara
Boku wa kanashimi wo dakishimeyou to kimeta
Where does sadness come from
Where does sadness go to
No matter how much I think about it, I still don’t know the answer
So instead I decided to embrace the sorrow
Hitotsu ni natte
Zutto issho ni tomo ni ikiru
Hitotsu ni natte
Kimi to ikiru tomo ni ikiru
Becoming one
Forever together, we live together
Becoming one
I live with you, we live together
Hoshi no shizuku ga namida ni yurete
Umi ni hikaru
Aitakute aienakute soredemo boku wa sagashita
Hoshi ga furu yoru kimi wo omoi
Zuutto aruita yo
Ashita kitto ashita kitto shiawase ni nareru ne
My tears make the stars flicker
And the sea glisten
Longing for you, unable to find you, I still kept searching
On a starry night, thinking of you
I kept walking on and on
Surely tomorrow, surely tomorrow we shall find happiness
Eien no shiawase wa dokokara yatte kite
Eien no shiawase wa doko he yuku ndarou
Ikura kangaete mo wakaranai kara
Boku wa kanashimi wo dakishimeyou to kimeta
Where does eternal happiness come from Where does eternal happiness go to
No matter how much I think about it, I still don’t know the answer
So instead I decided to embrace the sorrow
Hitotsu ni natte
Zutto issho ni tomo ni ikiru
Hitotsu ni natte
Kimi to ikiru tomo ni ikiru
Becoming one
Forever together, we live together
Becoming one
I live with you, we live together
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16 thoughts on “A song for the Tohoku disaster victims, by Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi

  1. Tsuyoshi is the best live performer ever ! His songs touch my heart and the soul of most japanese people. I have been to 4 of his concerts and I am going to his second ( after Kagoshima 10 years ago ) All night concert in August at the foot of Mount Fuji. Every time I fly from the US to attend his concerts in Japan . His concert at Mount Fuji is gonna last from 9 pm to 6 am ! 9 hours of live music from him for less than $150 , with 100,000 other folks ! I know of nobody else in the world who would do that.

    • Wow, you are such a dedicated fan. Impressive! I got to know Tsuyoshi through Kohaku Uta Gassen (New Year’s Eve show) and he made a big impression on me. His performance was so charismatic and heartfelt. I am sure it must be amazing to see him performing live!

  2. I like Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi’s vocal. I remember I’ve heard his songs first time when I was on Okinawa, in some kind of an old-style bar. Very beautiful and heart-touching music.

    • When I was researching this article, I found out that Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi put a lot of hard work into getting his voice to sound like that. His idol is Bob Dylan and in order to get the same hoarse sound, he would gargle shōchū every day.

  3. Just came across with your blog… I was searching for things related to life in Japan and found your blog and the first post I see is about an earthquake – which is another thing I was looking for the other day. I really enjoyed reading this post and listening to the song. Thank you for translating it and allow us not only to feel emotions by watching the video but also to understand the lyrics.

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