Young, Reckless and Kandagawa: Spring in your Step

南こうせつとかぐや姫、歌詞(Lyrics)『神田川』(English Translation)

Lyrics stand out when they convey the feel of a certain generation. Kandagawa (1973) by Minami Kosetsu & Kaguyahime is one of the best songs of that kind. The imagery throughout the song is nothing but a young couple spending a certain period of time together, leading a humble, intimate life that simplicity and frugality made possible and eventually breaking up. All the details of lifestyle depicted in this song could be relatable to people of a certain age group as well as modern listeners who know of what it used to be like.

One of the mysteries this song left is the meaning of its lines from the chorus: I was young and reckless, full of conceit/But when you were simply nice and sweet/It felt too mellow/I got cold feet. To put it simply, you feel intimidated when your partner is simply nice and sweet. To explore this meaning, let’s get back to the days when this song was written, days when people always had something to question, challenge and stand up to.


Tadashi Kitajo, a writer of this song, started wading into social activism when he was young. He got home, exhausted after one long day and saw his partner cooking at the kitchen in a calm, homely manner, which struck him alarming because it was something that could pull him out of furious, frantic and frenzied activism and lure him into a rustic, safeguarded and peaceful nest. He was intimidated at what seemed to be too mellow, or a simple way of life, contrary to what he devoted himself to..


Is this because of youth or because of devotion to a great cause at the expense of simple, if not naïve, happiness one could enjoy? The change of seasons never withers the luminosity of a truly relatable song that arouses particular images the moment a certain word comes out. That is why this song really stands the test of time.



Do you remember
With a red towel instead of a scarf to wear
Going to a bath around the corner
Saying you wouldn’t come out any later
But all too often it was me to wait outside
And got a chill with my hair undried
A small piece of soap clattering in the pail
Holding close my shoulder that turned pale
And you said “Don’t you feel cold?”

I was young and reckless, full of conceit
But when you were simply nice and sweet
It felt too mellow and I got cold feet

Do you remember
Crayons in 24 colors you got somewhere
My portraits you promised to draw perfect
Never as good as I could expect
Under the window ran the Kandagawa
My place small as a sheltered bower
With only one single room to equip
Turning your gaze at my fingertip
And you said “Are you feeling sad?”

I was young and reckless, full of conceit
But when you were simply nice and sweet
It felt too mellow and I got cold feet


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