Translation for Hanabi / 花火

Hanabi / 花火: “fireworks”.

This translation is just in time for the summer, and for Oku Hanako’s 10th anniversary re-release of the same song. The lyrics of this song capture that wistful feeling of a lost summer’s love quite well (especially that last line!). One of the strongest and most poignant parts is the following few lines (direct translations in parentheses):

待ち合わせ 浴衣姿の君
Machiawase (a rendezvous) yukata-sugata no kimi (you, in the figure of a yukata)
(in embarrassment/awkwardness) nani mo ienakatta (can’t say anything)

You may have noticed that the lines above are almost entirely composed of just predicates. Aside from leaving out explicit pronouns, Japanese songs also tend to leave out prepositions and conjunctions (e.g. the Japanese particles for “at”, “in”, “and”). It’s both a cultural and a musical thing—if you think about it, many English songs also leave out those little connector words. Without these particles, it was a little tough to figure out what the song was actually trying to convey. Using the context, however, the lyrics could be interpreted as: “We met up (as planned), and you were in a yukata. (This time) It felt awkward, though, and so I wasn’t able to say anything.”

What do you think?



The summer’s day I fell in love with you,
Hearing the sound of ocean waves on the way home
That was the first time we kissed, wasn’t it?
We were always making promises to each other
Quietly sneaking out in the middle of the night, we searched for stars together

That day’s scribbles written on the sand
Still haven’t vanished from my heart, even now

The fireworks we saw as we looked up at the summer night sky
Burned in my heart until it hurt
You tried to reach for them on tiptoe countless times, and laughed
With your tears, and my weakness—I believed we would have the same future
I hid away into the night sky the feelings that threatened to spill out

If I had been more affectionate,
If I hadn’t been hesitant,
Would I have been able to take you far away?

We met up, you clad in a yukata
But in my awkwardness, I was unable to say anything

The fireworks we saw as we looked up at the summer night sky
Burned in my heart until it hurt
Colliding with a surging crowd and trying to cut through,
We were looking for a place to be alone by ourselves
I believed that the answer was on the other side of the passing breeze
I gripped your hand tightly so that our interlocked hands wouldn’t break apart

I love you,
I love you!
I shouted it out but my voice didn’t carry
The fireworks we saw as we looked up at the summer night sky
Burned in my heart until it hurt
I believed that the answer was on the other side of the passing breeze
I clung on tightly to the feelings that threatened to spill out

The summer’s day you were there

Translation by Rosanne


8 thoughts on “Translation for Hanabi / 花火

  1. Pingback: Kimi ga Kureta Natsu | Oku Hanako - Chinese to English
  2. Pingback: Hanabi / 花火 (2015) | Thoughts on Oku Hanako
  3. Nice work, Rosanne. For that first line you highlighted, based on the English words you provided I suggest an alternative interpretation could be “You wore a yukata to our meeting (or date, if machiawase can be used that way)”.

    Also, thanks for your reply to my translation of Kimi no Egao on this blog. I (almost instantly) forgot to check for replies to the comment I made. I only just read your comment and the others today. From your comment and this post, I’ll be really exercising my ability to interpret sentence fragments.

  4. Pingback: Hanabi (Arranged Version) / 花火(アレンジバージョン) | Thoughts on Oku Hanako
  5. I’m inclined to think this is written from the guy’s point of view (ignoring Denny’s theory that Oku Hanako is gay), given the boku / 僕 pronoun and the mention of the other in a yukata. It could still go either way, though, because I’ve heard girls are now using boku to refer to themselves more, and because there’s a yukata for men.

    Thanks, Rosanne!

  6. Isn’t it amazing, how perfectly the music and the lyrics fit? What for me was the most surprising part of this, that the song transported the content of the song just using the music and the voice. So even without knowing the words, it generated exactly the feelings it was supposed to. Thanks a lot for your work, Rosanne – very much appreciated!

    • I’ve made a couple of songs myself in collaboration with other lyricists and I prefer to have the lyrics first because it’s much easier and more effective to convey the emotion of the words in the music rather than trying to convey the emotion of the music, if any, in the words. It’s also easier to make the music flow with the words rather than the other way around, and doing so makes it sound more natural. The core is in the words; the music is just there to enhance them.
      I like to think that my piece “I Don’t Know” (lyrics in the description) does a good job of it.

      For Oku Hanako’s songs, I’ve come across some that sound like the music came first (I can’t think of one in particular, but it was one I’ve posted), but I think most of them are written with the lyrics first. If so, that’s one of the reasons why her songs can be so moving.

  7. Pingback: Hanabi (Piano Hikigatari) / 花火(ピアノ弾き語り) | Thoughts on Oku Hanako

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