First Love and Toson Shimazaki :Spring Dreams

島崎藤村『若菜集』詩「初恋」英語訳(English Translation)

Spring dreams are enchanting, whether they be reminiscence of good ol’ days or aspirations for days to come. This daydream-like poem has made Toson Shimazaki (1872-1943) a poet remembered by many Japanese people.

This poem, “First Love”, contains all we need to get connected with childhood memories, especially of puppy love. The change of hairdo marks a coming of age. A thrill comes by recognizing a slight change in the look of your love interest particularly when it indicates maturity. An act of giving and receiving strengthens intimacy.


The third stanza is quite unique for its sensual tone. It represents growth of love as the stanzas proceed. From an exchange of gaze to gifts, and now the physical distance doesn’t get in the way developing a closer bond.


This poem, First Love, is not just a poem of puppy love but has achieved Japanese phonetic and rhythmic perfection. Fixed number of syllables and phonetic repetition have made this poem  elegant and easy enough to recite, which is why this poem is remembered by so many people.


We can’t live in a daydream. We need to live this moment and live on our lives. Our lives, however, get hard and we sometimes feel disintegrated, fragmented and trapped in negativity. Daydream helps us reconnect with what we have deep down, which sustains us and helps us survive with its magic to unwind our strained thoughts and views on what surrounds us and to shed light on what we hoard in the back of our mind. Those colors of green and red of apple trees, those pain and joy, those bonds you created with someone you really care. All comes up into light when you are in a daydream.







First Love

There you were under the apple tree
You look grown up overnight with your hairdo
And that flowery pin, in the full bloom of beauty,
Just took my breath away

You reached your hand so fair
To give me an apple growing ripe and red
As a token of your love, I do care
But didn’t know what it was like to love somebody

When I’m totally carried away
I’m afraid you might feel my breath on your hair
If my love is like a glass
Your love fills me with intoxicating mellowness

Under the apple trees runs what we call
The path – you ask me, even when you know the answer,
It looks well beaten, but who made it after all?
Which makes me love you more

Catch The Wind and Happy End: Spring Dreams

はっぴいえんど、歌詞(Lyrics)『風をあつめて』(English Translation)

Spring dreams are magical in that they provide nostalgic reminiscences for those remembering good ol’ days. “Catch the Wind” by Happy End (1969-1972), one of the most important rock bands in Japanese rock history, is remembered by many for its lyrical uniqueness.

The lyric definitely refers to Tokyo, its metamorphose around the 1964 Olympic games. The city landscape changed drastically, many of the tram ways gone, places connected to childhood memories lost or replaced with tall buildings. With smaller spaces for free play and more convenience, children less often played outside and people forgot how to slow down. All these nostalgia and reminiscences sigh aloud through this lyric in a really intricate and sophisticated way. Let’s look into each unique usage of vocabulary.

“Senobi” means stretching up in the hope of looking taller and more competent. This refers physically to extended streets or high rising buildings, figuratively urban people desperate to look sophisticated to impress people. “Tainted haze” refers to hazardous smogs as a result of hurried urban development. The tramway is referred to as a symbol of good old Tokyo. There were fewer and fewer spaces or services in Tokyo that people associated with a simple, slow and laid-back attitude towards life. This perception leads you to see a mirage with tramway cars crossing the sea, allowing you to feel connected to something lost. From the phrase, “an out-of-the-bed tramway”, you might feel the coolness and silence of the morning and see the mist, through which tramway cars make their way. Even the whole city blurs and get dissolved into the morning mist.


The city is an amalgam of different aspirations and experiences. We hope the city provides us with encounters and affluence which would hopefully make our life richer, but we sometimes dream about escaping from urban hustle-bustle. It’s described as an escape “into the blue sky” by means of the city “with crimson sails.” Contrast continues by comparing two different textures: “cracked glass” and “rustling of the skyscrapers.” All of these urban memories and frustration push us to catch something real. There comes the wind to have in our hands.


“Catch The Wind” is definitely one of the most important lyric works in Japanese modern rock history. With its well-crafted layout of familiar imagery and highlighted contrast, we can easily relate to this uniquely constructed world of magical words. This song was used in a 2004 movie, “Lost in Translation”, and there is much lost in translation when it comes to a song like this.


Catch The Wind

On the street run-down and pretentious
I was talking a walk
Through the tarnished draperies of haze
I saw an out-of-the-bed tramway crossing the sea
Well, that made me think of
Catching the wind, catching the wind
Taking wing into the sky
Into the sky

Through the morning glow
I was making my way
Over the dreary breakwater
I saw a city at anchor
With crimson sails set
Well, that made me think of
Catching the wind, catching the wind
Taking wing into the sky
Into the sky

At a coffee shop empty in the morning
I was sipping my cup empty
Through the cracked glass
I saw rustling of the skyscrapers
Surging over the pavements
Well, that made me think of
Catching the wind, catching the wind
Taking wing into the sky
Into the sky