exist†trace – Umi no Shizuku

Photo showing infant stars in the Orion Nebula as taken by the Hubble Space Telescope
Photo showing infant stars in the Orion Nebula as taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. [Source]
Happy March Igu Day! And Happy Birthday to Omi, as it’s already the 20th in Japan! Well, it’ll probably be the 20th here as well by the time I finish proofreading this and post it. (^o^;) Talk about cutting it close…

Anyway, when I finished the songs on Twin Gate, I was excited to start on the songs from Ambivalent Symphony that are only on that release. Fittingly enough, the first track was written and composed by the birthday girl.

Note: Long intro is long. Click here to jump to lyrics.

The theme of “reminiscences” comes up explicitly in the chorus and implicitly in one of the verses, the latter via rosemary which is associated with reminiscence and memories in the language of flowers. But I couldn’t help but wonder if there’s another implicit reference to the past in the lyrics 季節の中で (kisetsu no naka de) and 雪の幻想 (yuki no gensou). Both phrases happen to be titles of other musical pieces. The former is a hit pop song from 1986 by Chiharu Matsuyama, which lyrically has some similarities to this one (a “you” who is described as traveling in the passage of time, the sea, a distant sky). The latter is the title of a composition by Katsuko Chikushi (1904-1984; birth name Katsuno Sakamoto), a prolific composer of music for the koto (“Japanese harp”) who founded the koto association Chikushikai. Coincidentally for me, the current main center of the Chikushikai is in Fukuoka City, which of course makes me reminisce as well. (苦笑) But this composer is probably not a household name outside of koto-playing households; she doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, though she does have an entry in the dictionary compendium Kotobank.

Realistically, this is probably a coincidence. Though “yuki no gensou” isn’t a particularly common thing to say, “kisetsu no naka de” is a fairly common idiomatic phrase. Also, I don’t know how old the members of exist†trace are, but if they’re around my age (late 30s) then these references are probably too old for them. Not that people can’t find and enjoy music from before their time. Or maybe Omi just liked the titles? It’s fun to speculate, but ultimately, who knows? (Besides Omi and the band, that is.)

What I could find for sure about this song on Omi’s blog boils down to the following:

In this post from May 10, 2011, Omi writes that when she was little, she thought stars were eternal; she was quite shocked when she learned that stars also eventually die; and she was thinking about this when she wrote this song. She also writes that although it’s painful that the lyrics in part were like the then-current situation, she often plays the song by herself on acoustic guitar. The painful part is in reference to the lyric about someone getting swallowed by waves; this post was barely two months after the 2011 Touhoku disaster. Indeed, in this other post, from April 4, 2014, Omi writes that they had stopped performing this song because of that. This same post also mentions that this song is from so long ago that the demo is on cassette tape, and that it was the #1 requested song for the concert event “19’z Premium Party.03”.

Anyway, lyrics in Japanese can be found here on Rock Lyric.

Umi no Shizuku

You had to be in fortune
There is no mean to live…without you.

itetsuita hana wa chiriyuku
kisetsu no naka de  mada itoshii yume miteiru

harisaketa kodoku no kizu iyasezu
yuganda sora aoi tsuki no shita de

furisosogu hikari nami ni nomare ano ko wa
owari naki toki no suna ni kieta

tsuioku wo mune ni idaki mawaritsuzukeru story
tada negau no wa hitotsu dake
You had to be in fortune
There is no mean to live…without you.

toketeyuku yuki no gensou okisari no yakusoku
ima wa ima wa mou nanimo mienai

umarehorobiyuku hoshi no you ni anata wa
ikutsu mo no toki wo doko e yuku no

tsuioku wo mune ni idaki mawaritsuzukeru story
tada negau no wa hitotsu dake
You had to be in fortune
There is no mean to live…without you.

kurikaesu higeki wa ima tsumetai namida ni kawari
tada shiritai dake na no ni
Why are you crying? Missing?
Innocent rosemary…tell me why.
kienai shizuku ga

Drops of the Ocean

You had to be my destiny
There’s no meaning to life without you
I keep on sleeping1

Frozen flowers scatter
Through the passing seasons, I keep on watching that beloved dream

Unable to heal the festering wound of loneliness2
The warped sky, Beneath the blue moon

Light shining down
She’s swallowed by the waves,
Disappearing into the sands of endless time3

Holding reminiscences close in my heart
The story that keeps going round and round
There’s just one thing I wish for
You had to be my destiny
There’s no meaning to life without you
I keep on sleeping

The melting fantasy of snow, the promise left behind
Now… Now I can’t see anything

You’re like the stars being born and dying out,
Traveling unknown paths within the grand flow of Time4

Holding reminiscences close in my heart
The story that keeps going round and round
There’s just one thing I wish for
You had to be my destiny
There’s no meaning to life without you

Now the repeating tragedy changes into cold tears
Even though I just want to know
Why are you crying? Missing?
Innocent rosemary…tell me why.
The teardrops that won’t disappear—5

1. This note is for this whole verse.

First: Sometimes, when I see grammatically incorrect English in Japanese media, I translate back into Japanese to try to figure out what it was the Japanese writer had looked up. In this case, I’m willing to bet Omi looked up 運命 (unmei) which is usually translated to “fate” or “destiny” but can also be translated to “fortune” (but not in the money sense). That also makes the next line make sense. At first I thought, well, maybe she meant “I don’t have the means to live without you,” which would be a rather materialistic thing to say that clashes with the rest of the song. So it makes more sense to me that she meant “There is no meaning to life / to living without you.”

Second: The subject is left unstated here, so this could be “I / you / we / they / etc keep on sleeping.” But looking at the whole song, in context I’m pretty sure that “you” is dead (or missing) and it is “I” who, in a deep depression, is doing nothing but sleeping.

Then again, near the end of the song, “you” is crying, which “you” wouldn’t do if they were dead. Unless they’re crying from the great beyond I guess. Or, maybe the “you” who is crying at the end is actually “rosemary,” meaning the memories of the person who is still alive.

TL;DR make the subject of this line about sleeping whoever makes sense to you but I’m going with “I.”

2. The wound isn’t described as “festering,” rather it’s described literally as “burst,” though we can also understand that idiomatically as “emotionally overwhelming.” I just think “festering” works best in context though.

3. “The warped sky, Beneath the blue moon,” — The way I interpret this line is that the “beneath the blue moon” part introduces the next line rather than serving as a continuation of this line. The image is of the waves and sands of endless time rolling beneath the light shining down from the blue moon. I suppose another possible way to interpret this line is that the warped sky is “beneath the moon” because we’re looking down from outer space, which would fit well with the line further down about dying stars.

Note that “blue moon” is a literal translation here; this is a moon that is blue not the second full moon in one month.

What I’ve translated as “she” was literally “that girl” in Japanese, but I think this sounds better, because in English “that girl” has a coldness that the Japanese does not.

Well, technically, it literally said “that child,” but “child” is often used to mean “girl” or “young woman.” Guess I assumed it meant “girl” not child because I’m reading this as a story of the loss of a lover, but come to think of it, save for possibly maybe the bit about loneliness, there’s nothing in the lyrics that would preclude this from being about the death of a child. Hmm…

4. I find this line very beautiful in Japanese but the only way I could make it sound equally beautiful in English was to take quite an artistic liberty. A literal translation would be “You, like the stars being born and dying out, where do you go within so much time?”

This was probably heavily influenced by Omi’s blog posts, but the imagery this line 生まれ滅びゆく星 (umarehorobiyuku hoshi) creates in my mind is of the whole of the cosmos, where there are stars at all stages of their life. So it’s not that stars are being born and going through their life together then all dying together, it’s that while some stars are being born others are at all stages of life including dying, and all of these things are happening simultaneously over and over in infinite cycles. It’s like a round, just that instead of a sequence of singers coming in with the same verse a few bars after the previous singer, the first singer finishing before the others, a star is coming into the world (the universe) while others are at their respective points in the sequence of life.

(I hate having to use so many words for what I can see in images so clearly in my mind. LOL)

The other thing I don’t like about the literal translation is that it loses the nuance of 時 (time) being used more like “space-time”—note the verb “where” and the particle を—but saying “so much space-time” sounds weird. So I went with “within the grand flow of time.”

5. This line ends with the particle が, implying that something is being left unstated, most likely an intransitive verb. I imagine what follows might be something like 「海となる」(umi to naru, “become the sea/ocean”), thus circling back to the title. Of course, it could be something else, or several other something elses. Side note: When I first posted this I translated the title to “Drops of the Sea,” though I had been thinking of going with “ocean” instead. “Umi” can mean “sea” or “ocean.” I decided to change to ocean after all for a more expansive feel that matches the outer space imagery that is also in the song.

6 thoughts on “exist†trace – Umi no Shizuku

  1. silphion

    Nice job! This is my favorite Omi tune, so I’m glad to finally have a poetic translation. And I agree, it’s such a bother trying to convey the mind pictures – Telepathy NOW! 🙂

    1. Thanks! And I definitely badly wanted to be able to just upload my mental image when I was writing this! LOL

      Have you watched the Omi birthday concert? I was wondering if they played this one. It’s one of Omi’s most popular tracks so I imagine they did.

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