I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Yumi Arai -- Hitomi wo Tojite (瞳を閉じて)

I was looking over all of the "Kayo Kyoku Plus" entries for Yuming(ユーミン)and noticed that there hadn't been an article for one of her very early songs since February 2015 under the singer's maiden name of Yumi Arai(荒井由実). And since this particular article will end up being my 70th entry for the Queen of New Music, I think it's time to remedy the situation.

And I believe I have found the ideal song wrapped up in this heartwarming story of someone trying to help out a group of students. To explain, when Yuming was DJ'ing the late-night radio show "All Night Nippon" back in the early 1970s, there was a segment called "An Image Song Just For You" during which she read out a letter from a group of female students from the Naru Island branch of Nagasaki Prefectural Goto High School. The students requested an official song for their alma mater.

Initially, singer-songwriter Kazuhiko Kato(加藤和彦)was supposed to have created the song but his only recording somehow got lost, and so Arai took over the songwriting duties instead. And the result was "Hitomi wo Tojite" (Close Your Eyes) which she starts singing in the above video a little past the 1-minute mark. However, I was also quite happy to see the interview before the performance since it isn't everyday that I see Yuming give interviews especially so early in her career. If that video was made at around the time of the song's release, then she would have been close to 21 at the time. I'm not a profiler by any means, but looking at her back then, I could tell that she was already quite self-assured and knew where she was going.

The song was completed in October 1974 as a track on her 2nd album "Misslim". Hearing the original recorded version, there is something that is so Yumi Arai about it: mellow, breezy and calming...quite therapeutic, actually. And her lyrics made it sound like the ideal graduation song for the high school...get the tissues out.

Here is my translation of those lyrics:

When the wind dies down, let's take a ship out into the open waters
We'll bring the message in a glass bottle

To our friends who have gone far away
So that the sound of the ocean will reach them
Let's place it in the sea now

To our friends who have gone far away
So that the sound of the ocean will reach them
Let's place it in the sea now

When the fog lifts, let's stand on the small hill
Perhaps we'll be able to see the unknown islands

And if we're visited by small children
So that the blueness of the ocean will be relayed to them
Close your eyes now
Close your eyes now

I believe along with Yuming's mellower vocals back then, what sold the song to me were the keyboards which brought up images of seagulls flying off the coast of Naru Island.

A couple of years after the release of "Misslim", the school actually was split into two separate entities so that the island branch officially became Nagasaki Prefectural Naru High School. There was some consideration about whether to make "Hitomi wo Tojite" the official school song, and although it didn't become so, it has remained all these years as an aikouka(愛唱歌), or a beloved school song. In fact, an NHK documentary was filmed about the situation.

In 1988, the alumni of Naru High School donated money so that the lyrics of Yuming's ballad could be inscribed onto a monument. The singer herself came to the unveiling ceremony. The song was not only used indeed to commemorate the graduation ceremony, but it was also used whenever any of the island's citizens left port permanently or for an extended time. Finally just last year in 2015, Yuming returned to the island to join others in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the school's founding which culminated in a joint rendition of "Hitomi wo Tojite" with the students.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.