Tegami / 手紙

Tegami / 手紙: “letter” (written note). Made of the kanji te / 手 (“hand”) and kami / 紙 (“paper”; pronounced “gami” / がみ due to rendaku)

“Tegami” is Oku Hanako’s single from 2008. For once, I don’t have anything to say; the song is… just there.

I’ll leave the floor open to all of you to voice your opinions and fill in the gap.

Hanako Oku – Tegami [JPopsuki]

To be honest, it’s a good song, but I don’t find it to be anything too special. Perhaps I’ll appreciate it more once I read a proper translation. Denny Sinnoh has just brought one to my attention, and it seems that it has only marginally increased my appreciation for the song. I still think it’s a good song, though.

Lyrics →

Utakata / 泡沫

Utakata / 泡沫: “bubble” (on the surface of a liquid), “foam”. May also be “ephemeral” or “transient”. More commonly pronounced as houmatsu / ほうまつ.

To avoid ambiguity between the album and the song, I will use Utakata / うたかた to refer to the album and Utakata / 泡沫 to refer to the song. This is how they’re listed in her discography.

Here we have the opening and title track of Oku Hanako’s 2010 album, Utakata / 泡沫. It’s a very strong opening, but also a very different one. If you’re completely new to Oku Hanako, you may want to consider listening to another song first.

I’ve always considered Utakata / うたかた as somewhat of an album of experiments, and Utakata / 泡沫 is a good summary of the album (quite fitting, isn’t it?). It’s heavily arranged, has a solo piano bit, and plays around with low tones.

Overall, this song is quite powerful and it’s definitely one of my favourites.

Listen carefully during the interlude (~2:51); you’re in for a treat.

泡沫/奥華子(歌詞付き) by Milly Holic

If my speakers were any louder, I’d damage my eardrums.

Lyrics →

Translation for Chiisana Hoshi / 小さな星

Chiisana Hoshi / 小さな星: “tiny star”

Finally, the wait is over! One of Oku Hanako’s best indies songs, Chiisana Hoshi / 小さな星, now has a translation.

My friend Rosanne agreed to do a translation for us, and I specifically asked her to do this song because I know a lot of you have been itching for one. Even better, she’s also fluent in English, so we can get a translation that’s a little more on the poetic side, which this one aims to be.

Thanks, Rosanne!



I’m sure I was weak
For thinking, if only for a moment,
that I would not have fallen in love with you
Had I known that love was this sad

Look, the sunset is turning crimson
Continuing on to your neighbourhood
Even today, even tomorrow

We are becoming closer and closer
Even though we become further and further apart
We are connected
Don’t forget me, wherever you are
We are becoming closer and closer
Always, surely, even more
I want to become gentler
Even on nights we can’t be together
Your heart will be by my side

A kiss over the phone,
A promise at the end of a month;
Even though it feels like I can be strengthened by just those things,
Since I was unable to hold down the uneasy feelings,
I selfishly let the tears fall

In the night sky, the tiny stars
Continue to bind you and me
Even today, even tomorrow

We are becoming closer and closer
Even though we become further and further apart
Even though it’s heart-wrenching
Even though it’s painful
I will be thinking only of you
We are becoming closer and closer
Always, surely, even more
I want to protect you
Even on nights we can’t be together
My heart will be by your side

To what extent should I line up my words
So that they’ll reach you?
Never let me go
So that we won’t lose to the distance that gets in the way of two people

We are becoming closer and closer
Even though we become further and further apart
We are connected
Don’t forget me, wherever you are
We are becoming closer and closer
Always, surely, even more
I want to become gentler
Even on nights we can’t be together
Your heart will be by my side

Translation by Rosanne

Waratte Waratte / 笑って笑って [vol.best]

Waratte Waratte / 笑って笑って : “Laughing, smiling”

waratte / 笑って
“laughing” or “smiling”. This is the conjunctive form of the root warau / 笑う (“to smile” or “to laugh”).

The 2009 single version of “Waratte Waratte” was not the original; back in her indies days, Oku Hanako recorded this song hikigatari and released it on vol.4 as the opening track, then later included it on vol.best.

I’m going to give you a choice this time. You can either listen to the song as it was released on the album…

奥華子 笑って笑って.flv by nokia972000的頻道 [YouTube]

… or sung live for the purportedly official music video…

[PV] Oku Hanako (奥 華子) – Waratte Waratte (笑って笑って) (Official Music Video) by Koon Jimmy Channel

… or even both. They’re both more or less the same, though.

Comparing this with the single version, I might have to say that this is one of those rare songs in which the new arranged version might be overall better. That is not to say that this indies version isn’t any good—it’s very good—but she sings better in the single version and the arrangement enhances the song (with further appreciation after listening to the backing track). But as reader Andreas Straub pointed out, “[The hikigatari versions] force you to listen closely and get involved much more directly. They are the pure extract of her work.” This indies version is not an exception.

Lyrics →

Taiyou no Shita de / 太陽の下で

Taiyou no Shita de / 太陽の下で: “under the sun”

taiyou / 太陽
“sun”. Breaking down the kanji, I think it is literally “great light” (太: “great”, “big”; 陽: “sun”, “light”)
shita / 下
“under”, “below”
de / で
“indicates being at a location” (Wiktionary)

“Taiyou no Shita de” was one of the first few songs I found while scouring through YouTube in the few weeks after watching The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. I thought it was really good, but I ignored it afterwards because I didn’t know where it was from. After all, the only thing I had to go from was the list of her singles on Wikipedia.

Months later, I came across it again when I found the Generasia wiki.

I was having yet another struggle with “The Predicament” because my Oku Hanako songs were slowly outnumbering my Peter Cetera songs. This is the song which I claimed at the time “cured me of The Predicament”: after hearing it, I no longer cared about how different her music was compared to the rest of my library and that it’s technically J-pop. (I had a small bout about it later on, but that’s another story).

奥華子 ♪太陽の下でin蕨小中学校閉校式にて by NPO shimabito

To add a little trivia, Taiyou no Shita de is the “image song” of Sun Street Hamakita[jp].

I love it! Her singing, her playing, the instrumentation, it’s all beautiful. And that trumpet in the interlude: oh, it makes me close my eyes and forget that I ever had a problem with Oku Hanako. I’m somewhat partial to horns because of Peter Cetera and Chicago. I wonder if it’s Hanako-san herself playing the trumpet bit; after all, she does play the trumpet, too.

I find this song to be a precursor of sorts to the style of her next “era” of songs (again, when I get around to posting my “theory of threes”, this will make more sense). As an example, compare it to Ashita Saku Hana / 明日咲く花.

All in all, it’s a very pleasing song to listen to. Too bad we don’t hear too many of these in her discography.

Lyrics →

Karaoke Battles Special 2014

Oku Hanako recently posted about a karaoke battle that she took part in. I was a little surprised, because I hadn’t read that she would take part in such a competition.

Anyway, I’m subscribed to the Oku Hanako YouTube search results RSS feed, and I noticed a video with “PIECE OF MY WISH” in the title. I really liked her rendition from her radio show, so I went to take a look, hoping that she sang the whole song.

【カラオケバトル6/4】⑬ PIECE OF MY WISH(今井美樹)/奥華子(CMソング)【92.650点】 by mitukunsp05

Augh! Yet again, she didn’t sing the whole song. In fact, she sang about as much as the radio version, except that the radio version repeated the last line.

Her 92.650 wasn’t enough to make it into the standings, and I knew it as soon as I saw the scores for the other contestants (the 92 was posted on her blog post). Oh well, I kept rooting for her, anyway.

Comparing the two renditions, her singing technique has definitely improved. She falls flat in a few places, but it doesn’t detract too much from the song. Funny, though, I don’t hear her being flat in the radio version, but then again, I don’t quite have perfect pitch. Quite noticeably, she’s got the hang of vibrato, something I’ve noticed in her latest album. My opinion is split on her use of vibrato: it shows that she’s improved her singing technique, but she loses that child-like sound that we all love.

Sigh… It’s good, but not in the same way as the radio version. When I get around to posting my “theory of threes”, things will piece together.

Oh, and don’t worry, I’ll still be posting a song later. This video was just posted today on YouTube and I wanted to share it. Don’t expect it to be up for very long.