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.


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

The meow song – Nekomeshi

I recently came across a Japanese song which is too cute for words. The song imitates a cat talking to its owner. Not only is the song extremely catchy, a noble stranger has taken it upon him- or herself to illustrate the song with beautiful photos on YouTube. Check out the result:

The repeated ‘nya-nya’ means ‘meow’ in Japanese. The cat is talking about what it wants to eat for lunch and dinner, and it is urging its master to not work too much. Click here to read a translation of the complete lyrics.

This song appears on a single with music from the anime ‘Arakawa Under the Bridge’. The singer is Etsuko Yakushimaru.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be singing nya – nya nya – nya for the rest of the day.

Japanese singer Etsuko Yakushimaru

Japanese singer Etsuko Yakushimaru

Japanese New Year’s Eve TV show ‘Kōhaku Uta Gassen’

It was quite exciting to spend New Year in Japan. I was very curious about Japanese New Year rituals and we tried participating in as many as possible.

Our Japanese New Year experience began on New Year’s Eve with a popular TV show called ‘Kōhaku Uta Gassen’ (on the channel NHK). It features spectacular performances by Japan’s most famous music artists, as well as some guest appearances by foreign celebrities. It is a legendary tv show and last year was the 62nd edition.

NHK Kohaku presenters

NHK Kōhaku presenters

Jackie Chan on NHK Kohaku

Jackie Chan on NHK Kōhaku

Lady Gaga on NHK Kohaku

Lady Gaga on NHK Kōhaku (live from New York)

There were more traditional performances: (unfortunately blocked by YouTube I think)

Spectacular performances by J-Pop bands:

And even a male singer (at least I hope he/she is male) in a big golden dress:

I found out later that this singer is female (see comments). My apologies, whoever you are!

Even later I found out she is called Akiko Wada.

(Thank you for the infomation Yuko and Ayako.)

The rest of our Japanese New Year adventure is for another post!

Dancing in the streets at Oiden festival

Every last Saturday of July, Toyota City has its annual festival called Oiden. It is followed by the Toyota City Fireworks Display on Sunday.

They close off one of the main streets of Toyota City and set up a stage and some food stands. Thousands of people flock to the Toyota City Center to see the spectacle that is Oiden.

Oiden festival stage in Toyota City, July 30th 2011

Oiden festival stage

Toyota City near Toyotashi station

This is what the area usually looks like


So what is Oiden all about then? Oiden is a dance festival. Groups of people, dressed in the most colourful costumes they could come up with, gather in the street behind the stage.

Oiden Festival Toyota City performers

All waiting to perform

Each group has practiced a dance routine that they will perform over and over again to the Oiden song while slowly moving up and down the street in a long chain (making an ellipse so that they eventually come back to where they started and so that all spectators have seen all groups pass by).

A bit too abstract? Allow me to illustrate with a video.


Oiden is starting. First a countdown: ‘O-I-D-E-Oiden’, then the music starts and everyone starts dancing.


You have to admit it’s a catchy tune. In the video below you can hear the chorus and see another group dancing. It’s the same song every year.


These dancing people give a new meaning to the word energetic (genki in Japanese). I have never seen such enthusiasm over such a prolonged period of time, nor have I ever seen so many smiling faces in one place.

Oiden Toyota City festival energetic dancers

Could they be any more enthusiastic? Take into account that they have been dancing for two hours already. I'm impressed!

Admittedly Oiden seems a little over the top but all cynicism put aside, these loud, happy, sparkling people really made me feel good. Oiden is a festival with a very positive vibe. It’s all about having some good old-fashioned fun.

Oiden festival Toyota City smiley costumes

Smiles all around

Oiden Toyota City festival sparkly dancers

Sparkly and happy


When the festival is over, most of the crowd disperses in about 15 minutes. Although nobody throws garbage on the ground in Japan, a cleaning crew of about 20 people is on standby – just in case. When the street clears the crew immediately sets to work, picking up the smallest piece of paper or lost sequin by hand (!).

Clean up after Oiden, the Toyota City festival

Cleaning crew cleaning the already spotless street

Singing their hearts out

Near the Toyota City station, there is a covered walkway. It has some greenery and benches and overall it’s a nice area. In the evening all the commuters walk along this  walkway on their way home.

The covered walkway near Toyota City Station (up the stairs, underneat the metal structure)

The walkway near Toyota City Station (up the stairs, underneath the metal structure)

Sometimes amateur singers use this location to showcase their talents. In most cases this is for the enjoyment of the singers only. Which is another way of saying that they probably should not count on making it big one day. But every once in a while you run into a singer that makes you stop for a minute and listen to their music.

The band in the video is called ‘Chidori’. They were singing near Toyota station in the beginning of July 2011. I was very impressed with their performance. In my opinion they were even better than some (Japanese) singers with a record deal.

I apologize for the poor video and sound quality. It was made with my photo camera from some distance. Also, you might hear some other music in the background. That’s the station’s music. But I hope that despite the poor quality, you can get an impression of what they were like.