Monday, May 30, 2011

Time Goes Around

Miyuki Nakajima - Time Goes Around (1975)
Music/Lyric: Miyuki Nakajima

I love Miyuki Nakajima. Hands down my favorite singer-songwriter ever, Japanese or otherwise. I could think of a couple dozen really great songs she's written just off the top of my head, and there are probably a couple dozen more that I'm forgetting or haven't heard yet.

Nakajima's been writing and recording songs for over 35 years now, with 37 studio albums released to date. Whereas many songwriters kind of start phoning it in after the first 5-10 years, she still delivers the goods. For example, she had a pretty big hit a few years ago with "Once in a Lifetime," and more recently "Airship," which she wrote for the band Tokio.

"Time Goes Around" was Nakajima's second single and her first really big hit, winning first prize in the Yamaha Popular Song Contest, and also the World Popular Song Festival. Since then it's been covered many times, most notably by Hiroko Yakushimaru in 1988. There was even an English version by Al Jarreau called "Great Circle Song", though I can't say I care much for it. A bit too frenetic for my tastes; I prefer the calmer, more reflective arrangement of the original.

Anyway, on to the lyric. Note that the intro is intentionally overdramatic and not really representative of the rest of the song, so don't give up on it based on the first thirty seconds or so.
Ima wa konna ni kanashikute
Namida mo karehatete
Mou nido to egao ni wa
Narisou mo nai kedo
Now I am so sad
That my tears have run dry.
I don't think I will ever
Be able to smile again, but...
Sonna jidai mo atta ne to
Itsuka hanaseru hi ga kuru wa
Anna jidai mo atta ne to
Kitta waratte hanaseru wa
Da kara kyou wa kuyokuyo shinai de
Kyou no kaze ni fukaremashou
A day will come when I am able to say,
"There were times like that."
Surely I will say with a smile,
"There were times like that."
So let us not despair today,
But let the winds of time blow as they will.
Mawaru mawaru yo jidai wa mawaru
Yorokobi kanashimi kurikaeshi
Kyou wa wakareta koibitotachi mo
Umarekawatte meguriau yo
Around and around, time goes around,
Repeating joys and sorrows.
Even lovers who are parted today
Will be reborn and find each other once more.
Tabi o tsudzukeru hitobito wa
Itsuka kokyou ni deau hi o
Tatoe konya wa taorete mo
Kitto shinjite doa o deru
Tatoe kyou wa hateshi mo naku
Tsumetai ame ga futte ite mo
Those who go on traveling
Set out believing in their hearts
That even if they should fall tonight,
They will one day return home.
Even if today icy rain should fall without end.
Chorus 2:
Meguru meguru yo jidai wa meguru
Wakare to deai o kurikaeshi
Kyou wa taoreta tabibitotachi mo
Umarekawatte arukidasu yo
Around and around, time goes around
Repeating partings and meetings.
Even travelers who have fallen today
Will be reborn and set out once more.
[Repeat chorus 2 twice, substituting mawaru for meguru]
Although the official English title is "Time Goes Around," the Japanese title is simply Jidai. Jidai means period or era in a broad sense. It can refer to historical eras or dynasties, cultural trends, or, in this case, a stage in one's life. There's no good one-word translation for jidai, though, because it's used in two different senses in the song ("There were times like that" and "Time goes around"), so neither "Time" nor "Times" would work.

Notes on translation: I'm not sure what semantic significance, if any, there is to the use of めぐる rather than まわる in the second chorus. As far as I can tell, the words are more or less interchangeable, so I suspect that it was just thrown in for the sake of variety.

The precise meaning of the verse beginning with 旅を続ける人々は has eluded me for some time, due to the sentence's convoluted structure. In particular, I'd never quite been able to figure out what was meant by ドアを出る. I think now that it refers to the traveler leaving the place where he has taken lodging for the night during his journey. I'm still not 100% certain on that point, but it makes sense.

Update: Another English cover by New Zealand singer Hayley Westenra here.

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