Translating -- the Song "Sayonara", by Off Course

Today's English programs on NHK included a segment on an English language version of a popular Japanese song called "Sayonara", by the band Off Course. I have a copy of it in my record collection back in the States, but not here. I think my wife has a copy in her smaller record collection stored at her parents' house. Anyway, I looked it up on the 'net.

Off Course was a Japanese folk rock band, active from the late 1960s to the 1980s. When I returned to the US after my two years as a missionary in Japan, some of their songs were among the music I took back with me.

(Their name was something of a pun in Japan, since -- especially at the time -- "of course" tended to be pronounced the same as "off course": "ofu kōsu".

Oh, here they are on Wikipedia, and here in Japanese.)

"Sayonara" was one of their bigger hits. People here who have never heard of the band will likely know the song.

It's tempting to post the Japanese lyrics, but I'll refrain. You can find them by searching the web, and I don't have permission to post them.

Translations are also supposed to trip over the current international copyright regime, but I do not feel all that bound by all of the vain imaginations of the so-called artists' associations that want to use copyright to establish their minor tyrannies and monopolies. Translation is creative work, and work that has entered the public milieu by way of copyright claims must have boundaries.

So here's my rough translation of the Japanese lyrics:

original lyrics by Kazumasa Oda,
new translation from Japanese by Joel Rees

Now, the end has come, and you look so small to me.
I have this unthinking urge to take you in my arms again.
Go! Leave me alone, I am not going to cry.
I look at your cheeks, wet by the tears that fall.
We are free, is what we used to say,
As if today was a day we would never think of.

Goodbye, farewell, sayonara!
Outside white winter comes.
I am sure it was only you I loved,
Only you the way you are.

Love is such a pitiful thing. Instead of mine
Tonight you may lie in someone else's arms.
I blush easily, so we'd find a hidden path
To walk along on those cold days you liked so much.

Goodbye, farewell, sayonara!
Outside white winter comes.
I am sure it was only you I loved,
Only you the way you are.

Today again outside, it's rain, and it will shortly turn to snow
That will, in our hearts fall and pile deep --
Fall, and pile deep.

I could work harder to fit it to the rhythm and rhyme, but I won't. I could also try harder to connect the stanzas through cultural interpolation, but I'll refrain from that as well.

There are limits to my time, and there is an English version which is pretty fully interpolated and carefully fit to the tune, anyway. Kantner, Balin, and Casady covered it in 1986 as the KBC Band, if you want to find it and listen to it.

After some search, I haven't been able to find out for sure who wrote the original English lyrics. They are definitely interpolated and much more detailed than my translation, probably trying to fill in cultural details [JMR201701131157: with the extra verse ].

The English language Wikipedia page on the KBC Band Album only references Oda, with no details. (I think it odd that they don't reference the band, since the Japanese page credits the band along with Oda on the music.)

The Japanese Wikipedia page on the song simply indicates that the KBC Band used the lyrics from a promotional video that Off Course put together in 1983 with the intent to try to break into the English language markets. [JMR201701131157: So I can't say who did that translation. I have the impression it might have been Oda himself, with the help with a native English speaking friend. ]

My father was not the only one who ever told me that you can't fully enjoy foreign language literary works unless you can enjoy them in the original language. I think it's true. [JMR201701131157: I also think someone raised outside the culture will still miss much of the symbolism and many of the references. ]

But I think we can try to appreciate them to a limited extent in translation, especially if we can find translations by different people. [JMR201701131157: So, having taken time I didn't really have to take a stab at it, I thought I'd share the results. ]

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