島人ぬ宝

The title of this song, “Shimanchu nu Takara”, in the dialect of the people of Okinawa, means “Treasures of the Island People”.  Sung by the Japanese band, BEGIN, the song tells a wonderful story of youth leaving Okinawa to forge a new life on the mainland, but for whom the distinctive culture and language of the islands is important.  It is, no doubt, a song that is based on the bands own experience, having started to achieve national acclaim when the song was released in 2002.

Shimanchu nu Takara is one of my favorite Japanese songs, because it is one that not only celebrates local cultures and cultural heritage, but also for its eloquent portrayal of someone who has chosen to leave his homeland and yet maintains strong bonds to his upbringing.  For me, it echoes in both ears.  I left my own upbringing in California, where I still call home.  On the other hand, I came to Japan in 1987 to discover the roots of my ancestors and, in that sense, my cultural heritage.  I feel like someone who is caught between two islands, both of which are home and where I have cultural and linguistic roots.

The lyrics to the song are followed, line by line, with a brief translation.

Boku ga umareta kono shima no sora o  (Looking up at the sky of the Islands here where I was born)
Boku wa dore kurai shite iru n darou  (and I wonder how much I know about the sky)
Kagayaku hoshi mo nagareru kumo mo  (shining stars and billowing clouds)
Namae o hikaretemo wakaranai  (I have no idea what they are called…)
Demo dare yori dare yori mo shitte iru  (Still, I know more than anybody else)
Kanashii toki mo ureshii toki mo  (in sadness and in happiness)
Nando mo miagete ita kono sora o  (the sky I’ve looked up upon so many times)
Kyoukashou ni kaite aru koto dake ja wakaranai  (There is no way to comprehend by just reading textbooks)
Taisetsu na mono ga kitto koko ni aru hazu sa  (There must be something invaluable here)
Sore ga shimanchu nu takara  (That is the Treasure of the Island People)
Boku ga umareta kono shima no umi o  (Looking below at the oceans of the islands here where I was born)
Boku wa dore kurai shitte iru n darou  (and I wonder how much I know about the ocean)
Yogereteku sango mo hette yuku sakana mo  (the dirty coral and the disappearing fish populations)
Doushitara ii noka wakaranai  (I have no idea what to do about that)
Demo dare yori dare yori mo shitte iru  (Still, I know more than anyone)
Suna ni mamirete nami ni yurarete  (covered in sand and rocked by waves)
Sukoshi zutsukawatte yuku kono umi o  (the ocean that is slowly changing)
Terebi de wa utsusenai rajio demo nagasenai  (It cannot be shown on television or heard on the radio)
Taisetsu na mono ga kitto koko ni aru hazu sa  (There must be something invaluable here)
Sore ga shimanchu nu takara  (That is the Treasure of the Island People)
Boku ga umareta kono shima no uta o  (The music of the Islands here where I was born)
Boku wa dore kurai shitte iru n darou  (How much do I know them?)
Tubarama mo densaa bushi mo  (Tubarama and densaa bushi)
Kotoba no imi sae wakaranai  (I have no idea even what the words mean)
Demo dare yori dare yori mo shitte iru  (Still, I know more than anyone)
Iwai no yoru mo matsuri no asa mo  (the night of celebrations and the morning of festivals)
Doko kara ga kikoete kuru kono uta o  (the songs that can be heard everywhere)
Itsu no hi ka kono shima o hanareteku sono hi made  (until that day – someday – when I must leave the Islands)
Taisetsu na mono motto fukaku shite itai  (I want to really know and understand deeply the important things)
Sore ga shimanchu nu takara  (these are the Treasures of the Island People)

Advertisements