Happy Days is one of Oku Hanako’s more upbeat songs. It was included as the third track for her 2009 single Waratte Waratte / 笑って笑って, and again as an album mix version on BIRTHDAY.
Apart from the inclusion of the audience from a live concert at the end, I don’t know what the difference is betweeen the two versions. Because of that, I’m lumping both into one post, instead of having separate posts for each version.
It only takes one song to introduce you to and get you interested in Oku Hanako’s music. I’ve referenced my story multiple times, and for me, it was Garnet / ガーネット. In addition, appreciation of her works didn’t come without a struggle for me.
I’m sure many of you would have come to know her music through Garnet as well, but our stories are all different. How long was it since you first found out about Oku-san? Which song got you into her music? Did it come with a struggle or did you readily accept it? Tell us your story in the comments!
Garnet / GAANETTO / ガーネット: “Garnet“, as in the birthstone.
In two days, Thoughts on Oku Hanako will celebrate its one year anniversary. If my records are correct, on July 20, I claimed the address pltgokuhanako.wordpress.com. I figured it’d be appropriate to post the first song ever posted on this blog, which also happens to be the song that started it all for me (depending on how you look at it), and therefore the indirect reason why this blog exists.
After reading an interview last September, I realized why the song is called “Garnet”; after all, the word GAANETTO / ガーネット is never mentioned in the song. The title refers to the birthstone of January. As the poem says:
By her who in this month (January) is born
No gem save garnets should be worn;
They will ensure her constancy,
True friendship, and fidelity.
It’s a very fitting title as the song speaks of love from a friend. (A translation is available)
Kimi no Egao / 君の笑顔: “Your smiling face” or “your smile”
kimi / 君
no / の
A possessive particle indicating that the previous word modifies the next word (almost equivalent to “of”)
egao / 笑顔
“smile”, “happy face”
Those familiar with Oku Hanako’s albums may be more familiar with the album version of Kimi no Egao. This song was actually originally featured in her 2011 “best” compilation album of the same name. The album was a “concept album”, released after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, with a free live tour as part of the disaster relief (hence “smile selection”).
The album version is arranged and resung, but this original version is pure-crystal piano hikigatari. I would say it’s musically one of her best hikigatari pieces out of her whole discography, both in her playing and her singing. With her singing in particular, her voice comes out very clearly and she employs a some vibrato. Unfortunately, I can’t speak for the poetry because I can’t find a translation, but I’m sure it’s great, too.
Ahh, “Hanabi”: the prize of Oku Hanako’s indies career. This single, released in 2004 and re-released in 2009, is probably one of her better-known indies songs. The single is also the only indies release to feature arranged songs, including the arranged version I posted earlier this year.
The hikigatari version isn’t as light and smooth-sounding as the arranged version, but I find it to be more genuine-sounding and more emotionally moving. Again, this is probably because there’s nothing in the song to distract you from its core.
According to one source, the old name for this song was Gin’iro no Kisetsu / 銀色の季節 (“silver season”). According to my interpretation of the machine translation of the 16th history page, the original lyrics were gin’iro no kisetsu / 銀色の季節 (how that fit, I don’t know). The crowds replaced it with hanabi / 花火, and it stuck. Either that, or people just started calling it by the frequent word in the chorus as people do for many songs, and it stuck. I’m inclined to go with the latter.
I realized something recently: one of the reasons why the hikigatari versions often sound more powerful is because you don’t get any support from the nonexistent arrangement. To make it not boring, you have to compensate with your playing or your voice. Hanako-san does a great job of doing both.