Ajisai / 紫陽花

Ajisai / 紫陽花: “hydrangea“. (紫: “violet”; 陽: “sun”; 花: “flower”).

2014-11-27: Added translation

Yes, I know I’ve posted this before, but I’m a little pressed this week and this song needs a proper post. Besides, it seemed to go well after Watashi no Migigawa / 私の右側, and it’s my last chance this year to exploit “… bring May flowers”.

The title contains a single word, but it’s packed with a lot of meaning. Just as Garnet is a symbolic birthstone, the hydrangea carries some symbolism. Hydrangeas can change colours depending on the acidity of the soil it’s in, so it’s often used to represent a fickle heart, and indeed, the song is a sad one because of a change of heart. The song also mentions rain many times; hydrangeas appear after Japan’s rainy season, and they’re thought to look best when wet.

I won’t deny that Ajisai is one of Oku Hanako’s slower songs. Even so, it’s often her slower songs that are more moving and have a greater impact, and Ajisai is one of those. That’s probably one of the reasons why I picked it for the announcement about Picasso.

Just close your eyes and let the song carry you away…

【宇治】紫陽花【三室戸寺】 by renaissa1218

She sings sincerely well, the arrangement isn’t distracting, and the interlude is a treat.

It’s touching; that’s what it is. Music sure has a way of speaking to you.

Lyrics →


Watashi no Migigawa / 私の右側

Watashi no Migigawa / 私の右側: “my right side”

watashi / 私
“I”, “me”
no / の
A possessive particle indicating that the previous word modifies the next word (almost equivalent to “of”)
migigawa / 右側
“right side”. migi / 右: “right”; gawa / 側: “side”

Based on the comments last week (to which I still mean to respond), I’ve decided to step into a little Oku Hanako history today.

“Watashi no Migigawa” is a song from early in her discography, so early that it has never been re-released in her major career, including vol.best. The only time it has appeared was on vol.2 (in full Jishu Seisaku Oku Hanako vol.2 / 自主制作 奥華子 vol.2), track 3.

Jishu Seisaku Oku Hanako vol.2

Cover art for vol.2

Unless you were lucky enough to catch those YouTube videos which featured all four of Oku-san’s indies volumes before they were taken down, or if you’ve run into it somewhere else (like Nico Nico Douga), this song will likely be new to you.

I think this is easily one of her best indies songs, if not the best.

奥華子 私の右側 by BURN [Nico Nico Douga]

Amazing. Even this early in her discography, she’s put out a really good song. She has apparently sung it live a few times, and has featured it on her radio show, Kame Kame House / カメカメハウス, twice: once in 2006, and another in 2007. Too bad she hasn’t sung it live recently; I’d love to hear it again.

Lyrics →

Harukaze / 春風

Harukaze / 春風: “spring breeze”

haru / 春
“Spring” (season)
kaze / 風

“Harukaze”: one of the songs that reminds me of why I’m not ashamed of liking Oku Hanako (given that she is a really big outlier in my music library). It’s beautiful, both musically and lyrically.

The prominent instrument heard in the song is an acoustic guitar, giving it a bit of a folksy feel (although not to the extent of Hane / 羽). Of course, this is Oku Hanako, so the piano still plays an important role in the arrangement. As for her singing, it’s just what I expect from Oku Hanako, and I say that in a good way. Some might find it a little “nasally”, but I don’t, and I think it suits the song quite well. Her singing here reminds me of her style in her newest album; rather, I should say that her style in the new album reminds me of that in this song.

The lyrics tell of a girl riding her bike around her new town, thinking of the boy a friend she left behind when she moved. Too bad I can’t fully appreciate the lyrics due to my lack of knowledge of Japanese, but reading the translation, however tough it may be, gives me a sense that it’s simple, yet there’s a lot packed into it (no pun intended).

Oku Hanako 春風 with English Lines by mokade3

My eyes roll back at the bridge as I’m reminded of why I like this lady, and by the time the song ends, I’m left there, awestruck. It puts a smile on my face every time.

She doesn’t really do these kinds of songs anymore. Harukaze is on her first album as a major artist, Yasashii Hana no Saku Basho / やさしい花の咲く場所, released in 2006, and if you compare this with her other works, there’s an apparent contrast between the songs from the start of her career with her more recent works. I find the songs of this era are somewhat warmer, simpler, and more personal. It’s like she lost something along the way; perhaps it’s innocence or other child-like qualities, or maybe it’s just that she started experimenting and it has taken her to where she is now. Don’t get me wrong, I think her later works are great, too, but there’s something in her early works that I miss in her later works. Oh well, we’ll always have songs like Harukaze to reminisce with.

Lyrics and a review →

Posting instrumentals

Oku Hanako often puts instrumental versions of songs on her singles to add to their value (otherwise, you could just wait until it appeared on the next album). They’re tracks in her discography just like any of her other songs, but without her voice, you might feel gypped if I posted it for the weekly song.

So, what do you think? Should I post them as any other song, or should I keep them as bonus material?

Garasu no Hana

Garasu no Hana (Hikigatari ver.) / ガラスの花 (弾き語り ver.)

Garasu no Hana (Hikigatari ver.) / ガラスの花 (弾き語り ver.) : “glass flower” (solo piano version)

glass / GARASU / ガラス
Transliteration of “glass”. In some track listings, the title will be shown as “Glass no Hana” because of this, but since it’s a single and it was actually written out as “garasu”, I prefer to keep the roumaji.
no / の
A particle indicating that the previous word modifies the next word (almost equivalent to “of”)
hana / 花
hikigatari / 弾き語り
“singing to one’s own accompaniment”. With Oku Hanako, the accompanying instrument is a piano.

This version of Garasu no Hana / ガラスの花 can be somewhat hard to find, since it was only included on the limited “Tales” edition.

For a song that sounded impressive because of the arrangement, I was a little skeptical about how Oku Hanako would manage to pull off a hikigatari version without making it boring. Granted, this was before I really knew what she was capable of, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering it. Solarblade thinks it’s boring (as expected), but I disagree. Take a listen and see if you do, too.

ガラスの花 (弾き語り ver.) [music.163.com]

To say the least, I’m impressed. Not everyone can pull off something like this. The reason why she can pull off making a hikigatari version sound so good, apart from being such a talented artist, is because she writes songs to perform them live (if I’m interpreting her history pages correctly). This is why it doesn’t sound empty when she performs her heavily-arranged songs live and hikigatari.

This hikigatari version has this emotion and “closeness” to it that the arranged version doesn’t have. I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two versions because although it’s the same song, they’re better suited for different moods. They’re both really well done.

Lyrics →

Ashita Saku Hana / 明日咲く花

Ashita Saku Hana / 明日咲く花: “Flower that blooms tomorrow”

2015-05-14: Added translation

ashita / 明日
“tomorrow”. Notice the first character, 明 , contains 日, meaning “sun”, and 月, meaning “moon”. So, “sun” “moon” “sun”: “tomorrow”.
saku / 咲く
hana / 花

Clever, isn’t it? “April showers bring May flowers”. Don’t be surprised if you see another song or two related to flowers this month.

“Ashita Saku Hana” is Oku Hanako’s seventh single, released in 2008, and is the theme song to NHK‘s Sekai isshuu! Chikyuu ni fureru. Eko dai kikou / 世界一周! 地球に触れる・エコ大紀行 (“Around the World! Touch the Earth Eco-Travelogue”).

I think the best way to describe this song is, quite fittingly, “flowery”, especially the opening. It’s strongly, yet gently sung; there’s a sense of control and command in the song. I’d say this song is fairly representative of her style at this point in her career: the other songs might not be so extravagantly arranged, but starting here, she has started to experiment with fuller arrangements and her songs become more diverse. In her previous albums, Koi Tegami / 恋手紙 and TIME NOTE, there was arguably not much variation in the songs (whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to interpretation). The next album, BIRTHDAY, had a broader range in style.

Oku Hanako – Hashita Saku Hana by babyscorpion1986 [YouTube]

The drum line that comes in at the second chorus bothered me for a while because it sounded uncannily familiar. About a month or two later, I realized I had heard it in Spandau Ballet’s Through the Barricades, although I’m sure it’s a fairly common drum line.

Lyrics →