Japanese Song of the Day – “ii hi tabidachi (Departure on a Lovely Day)” by Momoe Yamaguchi

I’ve mentioned Ms. Yamaguchi before, as the songwriter for “LA SAISON” by Ann Lewis. She didn’t write this song, but it’s a track that to me exemplifies Japanese pop music in many, many ways.

Musically and lyrically, this song is what Japanese pop is all about for me: nostalgia, and optimism in the face of sadness & longing. The arrangement is a calm, atmospheric one set against a sort of tango rhythm, but the song is still rather dynamic – when the “Ah”s of the refrain begin, the music swells just enough as Momoe sings about how someone is out there waiting for her. Then her resolve returns, the music calms again, and she sings about the songs from her childhood that she’s bringing on her journey with her. The whole thing is very effective.

Commercially, guess what? This song was just another commercial tie-in. The song was written as an advertisement for Japan Rail, trying to appeal to people’s nostalgic & romantic natures to encourage tourism all over Japan. (From what I understand, it worked.) Music is unashamedly a commercial enterprise in Japan – TV commercials and music work to promote each other there in a way that’s very looked down upon here in the states.

Here’s the song:

The song has been covered a few times, and singer Chihiro Onitsuka even created a “sequel” of sorts with new lyrics in the verses, “ii hi tabidachi – nishi e (Departure on a Lovely Day – Heading West)” in 2003.

Here’s her very lovely take on the song, just for kicks! 🙂

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