The Other Side of Lost in Translation


What is really Enka?

Shinjuku no Onna(Woman of Shinjuku) Keiko Fuji

Even if I could transform myself to a man
I would stick to being a woman
For a butterfly who lives in a town of neon lights
Those words were too sweet to resist
What a fool
What a fool I am
To be tricked like that
This night is too chilly
I'm a woman of Shinjuku

How many times did I cry over you?
Yet, I was still stuck on you
'Cos I believed someday you would understand me
If I kept devoting myself
What a fool
What a fool I am
To be tricked like that
This night is too chilly
I'm a woman of Shinjuku

Being teary as I dreamed of You
Sitting by the lonesome bar counter in late night
Even you are the guy who just threw me away like a beer tap
What a fool
What a fool I am
To be tricked like that
This night is too chilly
I'm a woman of Shinjuku

*Shinjuku is one of the biggest night life districts of Tokyo,
and they got tons of bars, cabarets, clubs
and many different types of establishments
where women provide some sort of sexual services.

"A butterfly who lives in a town of neon lights"
means a woman who works in a night life industry,
which is called "Mizu Shoubai(水商売 Water Business)."
She is most likely a Bar maid or a Bar hostess,
or can be a prostitute as well.
Generally speaking, women who work in night life districts
are considered to be the lowest rank of the society.

This is the first big hit of Keiko Fuji
who was a very popular Enka singer in early '70s,
and now she is also known to be
a mother of very popular J-pop singer, Hikaru Utada.
Enka is a traditional Japanese popular song,
most of them are sad ballads lamenting over lost love,
in which a woman almost always have to endure
the egoism of men, the sadness of love-relationship
and the hardships of life in general.

When I was a kid, I hated Enka
as musically and lyricwise they were too old fashioned for me.
Whenever Enka singer appeared on TV,
I wished he/she/they would have finished
his/her/their song as soon as possible.

But now as I have grown older
I can dig this song and understand
why Japanese have supported songs like this
for a long time even I still do not like Enka much.

After War, Japanese economy recovered in a miraculous pace,
and within 30 years, Japan's GNP became #2 in the world,
only second to U.S.
How could they do that?
Everybody was starving and all major cities were burned down
to the ruins at the end of War.
Well, men who had been educated
to be loyal soldiers to their country
became a soldier-like workers for their employers,
and for the Japanese economy in general.
What they had to do was to suppress themselves as a individual
and devote themselves to their employers
by working harder and longer as they could.
And after a long day's work, they went to small bars
where women welcomed them to have a couple of drinks
and lament over their lives like a beast of burden.
Those men loved Enka.

I think the reason that most of Enka songs were
about a woman having a hardships was
that men were supposed not to cry
or even rant about their hardships.
When men listened to Enka,
they could relate themselves
as people with small, insecure, hard and exploited lives.
In a traditional male-oriented society like Japan,
women were always exploited.
Yet, men felt they were exploited too,
and unlike women, they even could not cry.
Enka provided an emotional outlet for those Japanese men,
small soldiers of the economic war.
I think I can say Enka was a blues for Japanese until like '80s.

The very first two lines of the lyric of "Shinjuku no Onna",

"Even if I could transform myself to a man
I would stick to being a woman"

This means that
I do not want to be a man,
even though I know a woman have to be exploited
and have to endure a hard life in this society,
because I still do have a pride as a small human.

This pride was what Japanese called "Iji(意地)."
Many Japanese tried to be stuck on this IJI
whenver they felt they were overwhelmed by their own lives.
And that small pride kept many Japanese alive.

Many Enka singers told their own hardships to their audience.
I remember the story I read about Keiko Fuji
on the kids' magazine when I was like 10 years old.
As she had many siblings
and her parents were traveling entertainers,
they usually left some rice and some money to kids
before they took off to their travel.
So kids cooked rice everyday
and bought something like croquets from stores near by.
However, money always went out before parents came home,
and after that kids had to put some soy sauce over rice
and that was their meals for the last few days to few weeks.

I remember I gasped when I read this story.
My family was not wealthy
but still the life like that was unthinkable to me.

As I grew older and have learned
one or two of hardships of life,
Enka sounds more familier to me now.

What a fool
What a fool am I
To be tricked like that
This night is too chilly
For a stray cat like me in New York

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2 件のコメント:

  • I've been reading some of your older posts about blacks/gaijin in Japan and I thought it was good information and very interesting. I also live in NYC and I'm sorry by the way that you've had a hard time from time to time with blacks and spanish people treating you badly. Anyway try and enjoy the "Fall" more before it REALLY gets cold next month! Ganbare~

    Blogger Michelle さんのコメント, 2009年10月22日 0:29 に投稿  

  • Thanks for your kind comment, Michelle.
    However, if I gave you a wrong impression, I have to apologize.
    Yes, it is true that I did have some unpleasant experiences with Blacks and Hispanic people, but I think the main reason was that some of them were under-educated.
    Middle class, educated Blacks and Hispanics behave pretty much same as middle class Whites do.
    And I really do not think Blacks and Hispanics are more racistic than others.
    But unfortunately they are less educated in this city in general. So if they happen to be racistic against Asians, they show it in very obvious ways.
    On the other hand, sometimes I really can not tell about White people. Even if they seems to be very nice to me, that does not always means he/she is not racistic against Asians.

    Though Asians who speak English with accent are not treated very well in this society, It is not like I have been tormented all the time. Actually Asians who are having real hard times are poor immigrants who are living in poor Black or Hospanic areas.
    The other day I saw PBS documentary about poor Laotian family who was living in a small apartment in the poor Brooklyn Black neighborhood. They had a hard time.

    Thanks again and take care!

    Blogger blue さんのコメント, 2009年10月22日 16:07 に投稿  


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