Friday, January 31, 2014

Far out Friday - Days by Yoshida Yamada

When I came back to my tiny town in backabush Japan, I went to the bank. While there, this song came on the tv. (Hmm, do Western banks have tvs? I think all the Japanese banks do...)  The song is called Days. It's about all the ups and downs of love (and life) and it made me cry right there in the bank. I was in a translate-y mood last weekend, so I thought I'd make an English version. The NHK (tv station) animated version and the official music video are both below the lyrics.

First- two caveats. There are no plurals in Japanese, so some of the "days" might be plural, but I kept them all singular for the feel of repetition from the original. Second, Japanese hardly uses pronouns. So all the pronouns are my own doing. "He" could as easily have been "she" or "they". The bit at the end that's in quotation marks, I've written like the singers are sending a message to the audience, but it could be the grandfather or grandmother speaking to their other half.

That said, I give you "Days" by Yoshida Yamada.

Grandfather locks eyes with Grandmother, they hardly speak
They’ve passed the time cuddled together, but it hasn’t always been happy
Thick-lens glasses, wrinkly palms,
There are memories you can’t see in photos that make them laugh together

The day they met, the day they realised they were in love
The day they got married, the day they almost broke up
The day they first held their child, the day they let him go
Tears overflow
These are happy days

Grandfather never uses Grandmother’s name, even when he calls her
His angry face is his every day face, but he whistles when he’s happy
His favorite knit cap is one she knitted for him
Just like his childhood, he can’t find the words to say thanks

The day he made her cry, the day she left home
The day they embraced, the day they slept backing each other
The day he gave her hope, the day she hated him for it
The tears overflow
Frightfully up and down days
Grandfather gets sick, grandmother cries alone
“You have to tell him how you feel. Always. Everyday. Truly.”


Just count the tears.
Surely these are happy days.

NHK animated version.

Artist Official Music Video

What makes life happy, is that it's not always happy. Strangely beautiful concept.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Happiness Year - January

This last time coming back from home, I picked up a new book in Chicago. It's called The Happiness Project and it's by Gretchen Rubin. I've only read about 10 pages, since my life is stupid busy right now, but I've read enough to understand the basic concept.

Gretchen Rubin was happy. But she wasn't as happy as she figured she could be. So decided to take active steps towards seizing her happiness, but like most of us, she wasn't in a position to drop everything and Eat, Love, Pray her way across the world. And so she decided to make a happiness project. There's a lot more depth to it, I'm sure but, essentially she decided to spend each month for a year improving some facet of her life.

As I coincidentally picked up the book in January, that wonderful resolution-filled month, I thought it might be fun to try my own happiness project. Of course, then I promptly forgot, and got caught up in watching the Gatchaman (Live Action) movie on the in-flight entertainment system. Following that, I watched two more movies in Japanese. And as I'm not one to halfdo anything, it didn't stop when I got off the plane.

When I got home I watched the movies I bought for my birthday as well as the series I bought for Christmas. And then I watched the ones I bought last year. And now I'm working my way through rewatching the series from 2 years ago.

Here's a list of the Japanese movies and tv I've watched in January:

Gatchaman -movie
The Sunny Girl - movie
I need to buy new shoes - movie
Atashinchi no Danshi (My Boys - More than friends, less than lovers) - 11 episodes
Hentai Kamen - movie
Surely Someday - movie
Ikemen Desu Ne - 11 episodes
Sailor Moon (Live Action) 49 episodes

And so without even trying this month has become the month of on-screen Japanese.

But what exactly does that do for my happiness? Well, I'm a screen addict. Obviously. So massive amounts of DVD time always make me happy. Apart from that, watching Japanese products in Japan tends to mean no subtitles. It makes for incredible listening practise. Even though it was my 13th time watching Ikemen Desu Ne (yes, believe me, I know) I still heard new words and noticed new grammatical structures. So apart from the instant gratification that is burying myself in a cocoon of Japanese drama, there is an application for future happiness.

Also, I'm pretty sure I haven't mentioned it here, but I've decided to get into the entertainment industry in Japan. It will be quite a few years before I can do anything major towards that end, but in the mean time, all the time I spend watching DVDs is almost like an industry internship. Another application towards my future happiness.

As I didn't mean for January to be the month of Japanese DVDs, I have no idea what February will bring. I'm going back and forth on a few things. Maybe I'll get back to my efforts to get in shape. Maybe I'll try to do something more tangible for my entertainment future, like intern at a radio station or something. Maybe I'll get back to my writing in English. Maybe I'll start writing in Japanese. Maybe I'll work more on my Japanese-English translation.

But I've come this far - even if accidentally - I might as well do something towards my future and my happiness next me. Looking forward to seeing what it will be.

PS, You guys are observant so I know you've noticed that the name of the book is The Happiness Project and the name of the post is The Happiness Year. The Happiness Year is actually the name of the year running from April 2013 forward when Tokyo Disney celebrates it's 30th anniversary.

Details can have an inverse effect on me, working as demotivation.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Moments - Monday on my Mind

I went home for Christmas. Well, I actually went for a wedding. My brother and his fiancee were also in the island for a different wedding. Barring being on two different coasts of North America in August, it was the first time in 6 years or more that my brother and I have been in the same country. Then randomly, my foster sister re-appeared. And close Canadian friends were also in. So my mother decided to have a gathering at our house. It was quite literally a group of people that had never been in the same place together.

I had a really great time. Reconnecting with my sister and meeting her family. Joking with my cousins. Showing off my banana bread - which came out even awesomer than usual having been baked in an oven and not a microwave with an semi-oven-function. I six-loved my Dad for the first time ever in dominoes. (Won six games to his none.) This is a really big thing because my Dad is a domino-aholic, he's been playing for years and has even managed the National Team!

Only the next day, did my mother point out that noone had remembered to take any photos. Seriously, an unprecented event and no pics. In the Facebook age of "pics-or-it-didn't-happen" this is pure, unadultered blasphemy.

For a while, I was quite disappointed. I mean, I'm 32 and my brother is 28, and I don't think there are any pictures of us together as adults. And I don't think there are any pictures of me and my sister in existence. So, it hit me hard for a minute that I hadn't thought to take pictures.

But then, it dawned on me why I don't have any pictures of that night. I was having way too much fun. It was one of the most amazing nights of my life. I was so full of love and happiness that I felt like I might burst. I'm still disappointed there are no pictures, but nothing compares to a moment that big.

As soon as I realised that, I could help wishing for more moments. Moments so mesmerising that I don't remember to take myself out of them to preserve them. Moments so deep all the oceans in the world can't hold them. Moments so big, they pierce the sky.

Because life - it isn't really about years or months or even days. It's about moments.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Far Out Friday - The spirit of Ganbaru

I live in Iwate, Japan, one of the three prefectures (the other two are Miyagi and Fukushima)  at the centre of the Great Northeast (Tohoku) Earthquake. One of the things I remember most about the days after the quake is that after there stopped being 100 quakes a day and life started settling into a new norm, was the "ganbatte" messages.

Ganbatte Iwate! Ganbatte Miyagi! Ganbatte Fukushima!

Ganbatte Tohoku!

Ganbatte is the imperative form of ganbaru. And ganbaru is a really difficult word to explain in English. Sometimes, there are words in one language for concepts that other languages don't have. (Like nekojita in Japanese- cat tongue- meaning that you have difficulty eating or drinking hot foods.) Ganbaru is one of those words. It's often translated into English as "fight," "do your best," and "hang in there." It's often used in situations where English speakers would say good luck, but ganbaru, unlike luck is all about you.

 For example, if your friend was playing in a football match, you'd say "Ganbaru" in Japanese or "Good luck" in English before the game. But if his team is down at half time, you can't really say "good luck," it sounds almost like you don't believe he can win. Ganbaru still applies. Maybe that's because ganbaru has an undertone of "no matter what situation you are faced with, keep your head up." Despite a disaster of an unprecedented magnitude, live each day as best you can.

Every time I'm in the West, I notice the differences from Japan. I mean I spend most of my time surrounded by Eastern mentality. And this time, one thing I noticed was the lack of ganbaru spirit. People have problems everywhere in the world -that's a given- and I don't think that you can really say that one person's hardship is greater than another. Different types of hardship hurt different people in different ways. And yet, here in the West, or at least in my little corner of it, people just accept their lot in life.

I've lost a leg so I can't go out.
The economy sucks so I got a paycheck so I'm going to spend all my time sobbing about it.
A part of my house got destroyed in this weather system so my life sucks.

I'm not saying that these things aren't terrible problems, because they are. If a guy who's lost his leg goes on to be a paralympic athlete it's impressive, because he triumphed over this huge issue. But it's kind of a norm in Japan. You're kind of expected to ganbaru. Instead of "Poor me" it's more of " So I've lost a leg. How can I deal with this, even use it to my advantage?" So when there's a disaster and people show a certain strength of character and the rest of the world is amazed at how there's no looting, it's kind of a "like DUH!" for Japan.

It's kind of the flipside of Hakuna Matata. Bad things happen. You can't change that. All you can do is play the hand you're dealt. And whether you complain about it or not, the hand is not going to change. I admit Japanese people sometimes "ganbaru" too hard and push themselves past the breaking point. But I also think that Westerners could learn a lot from the ganbaru spirit.

Because all we can ever do is make the best of what we can have.

Where you do fall on the ganbaru scale? Do you push yourselves despite all obstacles? Give up at the first sign of trouble? Somewhere in between?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 - Sunny Bonds

Hello luvvies!

Happy Year of the Horsie! I hope you all have a stupendous 2014 filled with amazing things that you can't even begin to imagine.

I tend not to make New Year's Resolutions as they're notorious for getting broken and I generally have the attention span of a fruit fly. BUT I do like to start my year out with some goals (which I would theoretically look back on and see how I've grown over the year, but never actually do) and/or themes (previously there's been the Year of Living Write and the Year of the Sparkle Dragon).

Theme 1: Sunny

This one isn't quite about 2014. My birthday is December 15, and I also like to theme each year of my life. It almost coincides with the start of the year, so I've decided to mention it in this post. Why sunny? It's from Japanese. I'm 32. 3 is san. 2 is ni. Put that together and it sounds like sunny. And so I've decided to make 32 the year of sunny. I'm going to try to look on the bright side even more, to keep smiling, to keep trying to make myself the best me I can be and therefore make the world a better place.

Plus it's the Year of the Horse in the Chinese Zodiac. When better to ride off into the sunset?

Theme 2: Bonds

This is going to be my main theme for the year. In the Year of Living Write was about my need to develop my writing, the Year of the Sparkle Dragon arose out of it being the Year of the Dragon. I was trying to decide what I should with 2014 when it decided for itself. On January 1st, my brother arrived at the airport here. This is a big deal because my brother and I have always been like two seperate planets orbiting around our parents. But even moreso because I can't remember the last time I'd seen my brother. He lives in a different country and I live in a different hemisphere, so we kind of play musical countries.

If it had been just my brother, I might not have heard what 2014 was trying to tell me. But then my sister came into play. Biologically, there are just the two of us, my brother and I, but years and years and years ago, I had a sister. A foster sister. Things were probably complicated, but I was little and I didn't understand, and I don't really want to ask the tough questions now, so I have no explanations. But for whatever reason my foster sister disappeared out of my life.Then on New Year's Day, after about 20 years, she found me on Facebook. I can't say that I was traumatised to lose her as a kid - my memory sucks - but I was ecstatic to reconnect as an adult.

For these two things to suddenly occur on the same day; it wasn't something I could ignore. 2014 is about bonds. I'm even getting a new sister-in-law, and I hadn't met her before. I hadn't thought about it until until after January 1, but that's a bond as well. I want to build a better bond with my brother and a new bond with my sister. And I want to extend this bond-building and development to everybody in my life. Who knows, maybe I'll even develop better bonds with you guys!

Plus, I caught the bouquet at my best friend's wedding. I suppose I should develop the bond with my boyfriend... when I find him.

What about you guys? What are your resolutions, goals and themes for 2014?