Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yattsuke Shigoto

My friend Matt introduced me to a Japanese singer/songwriter named Shiina Ringo a few years back. I've taken quite a liking to her music, but one of her songs has really grown on me since I've been in Tokyo. It is a song called 「やっつけ仕事」(Yattsuke Shigoto), which means a job done half-assed. For me, the lyrics reflect the general feeling of apathy and soullessness that Tokyo seems to emanate. I guess it may be different for natives, but this song speaks to me. It speaks to me every time I get on the train and stair blankly off into the distance or pretend to sleep like everyone around me.

Feeling down today, I thought I would check to see if there were any English translations of the lyrics. All I could find was one terrible almost-literal translation that killed the voice of the song. So I whipped up a translation of my own (below).

I'm pretty confident that this translation captures the spirit of the song, even if I did stray from the literal translation by a wide margin on a couple of lines. The only line I'm not happy with is the one about the high-speed traffic jam. In Japan, if there is a traffic jam on a highway (which is literally called a "high-speed road"), they just say high-speed (road) traffic-jam, omitting the word "road". Hence producing the contradictory, "high-speed" traffic jam.

The only other part I'm not satisfied with at the pronouns. Japanese doesn't have pronouns and it isn't clear who is saying what in the song. I just assumed that everything was being said from a first-person perspective, since that is normally the case in most songs.

In case you are interested, the original Japanese lyrics are here. There are a couple versions of the song on iTunes also.


Yattsuke Shigoto - Shiina Ringo

Every day I'm assaulted by the ring of phones
I just want some peace and quiet

You call it a "high-speed" traffic jam, but isn't it slow?
I'm indifferent to reasoning contrary to reality

I can't think of anything good
But I'm not indignant about anything either
What day was it today?
I guess it doesn't much matter
Ah, all I want is something memorable

This consistency wears down my individuality
Maybe I'll just get an arranged marriage

Please control me
I hate boredom
When's the last Ginza-line train?
I guess it's not a big deal
Ah, I wish I could be a machine

Hey, what was "love" again?
I can't remember
I can't remember

I can't think of anything good
But I'm not indignant about anything either
What day was it today?
I guess it doesn't much matter
Ah, all I want is something memorable

Please control me
I hate boredom
When's the last Ginza-line train?
I guess it's not a big deal

I can't think of anything good
I can't think of anything good
I can't think of anything good

Hey, what was "love" again?

2 comments:

Kelly Yancey said...

Since I'm bound to get a comment criticizing my translation of 痛い思い as "something memorable", I'll go ahead and address that right now. Shiina Ringo has a habit of using different kanji in her lyric sheets. 痛い (itai) would normally mean something painful, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the song except that, I guess, that would at least be a sensation. I'm willing to bet that the intended meaning is 甚い (also pronounced itai) which has a meaning of something that really touches you deep down inside. So 甚い思い would be a memory that really sticks with you.

In my opinion, 甚い (itai) reflects the spirit of the song more so than 痛い (itai) so I'm willing to bet she meant 甚い but wrote 痛い since 痛 is a more familiar kanji. Hence my choice of translation.

titus said...

Come home :-)