Ever heard a Japanese song and wondered what it meant? Listening to Japanese songs is a great way to begin learning this fascinating language. You’ll not only expand your vocabulary, but you’ll come to appreciate a rich culture and history at the same time.
Japan’s culture is a fusion of traditional and modern. This is especially evident in the music scene, which includes a vast array of artists who perform everything from J-Pop and J-Punk, to traditional and folk-style Japanese songs.
For some examples, check out this playlist of five famous Japanese songs.
5 Famous Japanese Songs
1. “Tegami (Haikei Jūgo no Kimi e)“
“Letter: Greetings to a 15 Year Old” was written and performed by Angela Aki. The lyrics are instructions to a 15 year old about how to appreciate and make the most of life.
This Japanese song urges the teenager to believe in herself during hard times. It tells her that, since there’s no running from sorrow, she should smile and live in the present.
Its final lyric, Shiawase na koto wo negaimasu, means “I wish you happiness.”
SEE ALSO: 10 Famous Japanese Expressions
2. “Yuki no Hana“
“Snow Flower” by Mika Nakashima is often covered by karaoke artists in Japan, and has been remade by many artists around the globe.
The lyrics of this Japanese song are quite sentimental as they describe how one might feel watching the first snowfall with a loved one.
3. “Minna Yume no Naka“
The lyrics in Kyoko Takada’s calming ballad are about being gracious over a lost love. The song reflects the Japanese aesthetic of yugen, which expresses that life is boring when everything is known.
Loosely translated as “mysterious,” this Japanese song implies that some things should be held back.
4. “Ringo Oiwake“
This famous enka song (Japanese folk song) has been performed by many artists, with Hibari Misora’s version being the most famous.
The song tells of a girl from Tsugaru who experiences a sad farewell on an evening when apple blossoms fell. It’s later revealed that the goodbye was with her mother, and this is the reason for the girl’s melancholy every year when the blossoms drop.
Many famous Japanese songs reflect shibui (subtleness), and this is a great example.
5. “Nanatsu no Ko“
The lyrics to this popular kindergarten song were written by Ujō Noguchi, one of Japan’s preeminent nursery rhyme authors. The melody was composed by Nagayo Motoori. Its simple lyrics are translated:
“Mother crow, why do you cry so?
‘Because I have seven cute children
high on the mountain.’
‘Kawai kawai’ this mother crow cries.
‘Kawai kawai’ cries the mother crow.
You should behold the old nest
on the mountain. And there you’ll see such
round-eyed, good children.”
Did you know the Japanese word for music, ongaku, is a combination of the words for “sound” and “enjoyment”? We hope you enjoyed listening to these famous Japanese songs.
Add them to your own playlist to broaden your musical horizons. And remember, if you’d like to learn more about what the lyrics mean, try taking Japanese lessons to build your vocabulary even more.
Which Japanese song is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo by Dennis Amith