Isshi's Road Through History: the way of Kagura
Part 4: "Utakata"

It's like the flame of a candle that suddenly goes out. Or maybe, it's like bubbles on the water's surface that vanish without leaving a trace. Even the instant life comes to an end is a transient time. We have to face it sooner or later, that's reality. As for our wishes, they're in an endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
In this irregular series, "Isshi's Road Through History: the way of Kagura" the theme for part four is Kagrra's newest single Utakata which is released on November 22nd.
Mortal life, it's such a transient thing isn't it~

The topic this time is the title track of your latest single Utakata if I'm right. Until now for this serial column, you talked a lot about your previous songs didn't you?

Isshi: Or perhaps, we should say that it's something I haven't spoken of yet: how I got inspiration for this recent single. We already spoke about how we made the song, but we didn't talk a bit about the lyrics.

Come to think of it, you're right. Because if I remember correctly, Isshi, in the interview last month you said "Actually, they're lyrics I wrote based on a real life experience, in a time of very sad thoughts," right? I caught that comment, and wasn't quite sure how far we could delve into that talk so I hesitated about it somewhat. I thought it wouldn't be so good to touch on that one.

Isshi: So that was it. Me, well, I have pet dogs right? So at the time of the live talk, I spoke of it for the first time to you, but the truth is my second son, Vivienne, had died. On June 18th.

...that was quite a while ago, then.

Isshi: After that I had various things like tours and such, but there weren't particularly any things like public talks. Although, I'd put a picture in the photobook we published around this time, so really, it's not that the conversation was irrelevant, it was just a matter of choosing the time and place.

 So you're saying the lyrics of Utakata were your chance to deliver that.

Isshi: That's right. I was singing about Vivienne for myself. But certainly, there's also a reason why the current pictures were taken at a lake. It was around April I believe, I went on a trip with my babies (the dogs), and there was a lake. But the place I went is a different place from the one in these pictures. It was Yamanashi-ken.

So that was the reason.

Isshi: He was healthy then. But in the end, that became his last trip. So for this one I wanted to take photos for a similar situation.

Well... did he get sick?

Isshi: It was a hereditary illness. I didn't notice he was sick up until the time his first symptoms appeared, so I didn't know about it at all, but according to the doctor it seemed his lifespan was decided from the time he was born.

How old was he?

Isshi: He wasn't 4 years old yet.

That's really rough... So it must've been especially hard for you, right Isshi? Even from listening to you talk about it, my chest hurts a little.

Isshi: It was just around that time, this song was gradually taking form. I felt that I absolutely had to write about this.

I think that every person has the experience of losing a beloved animal, but it really can't be helped that those times are painful. And Isshi, in the meantime, it's true that you were writing those lyrics?

Isshi: No... well, yes. Once again, with all of my responsibilities, it was a really difficult thing to fully realize how I truly felt. And I couldn't do anything with it for around one week. But to tell you the truth, there was really a deadline approaching, you know...   

I understand.

Isshi: The happiness, sent from all around me, was what saved me. I had to take a little rest in rehearsals too, and even the other members were feeling a little bewildered, but because of that I was able to have a bit of quiet time. And then, I was thinking, right? In that quiet time, I was thinking such things like "What is life?"

That's a universal question, but it might be difficult to find an absolute answer.

Isshi: Maybe, but from pain comes various ways of thinking right? For everybody in such times. Thinking about dying, but not necessarily thinking about the dead body. However, by then I was already thinking "a coffin for Vivienne..." and surely, I wondered if Vivienne's soul wouldn't find a new vessel somewhere... It might've just been to put myself at ease, but I was thinking such things a lot. I was raised in an environment with animals from the time I was born, so I'd encountered that situation many times already. But, it's not a thing that I can get accustomed to at all.

Even before this, Isshi, you've depicted the concept of a cycle of life, death and rebirth in lyrics for songs like Meguru and Sarasouju no Komoriuta but have your thoughts deepened since then?

Isshi: But the style of my desires isn't showing, right? You got it right, as you said. But surely at some point everyone will encounter these experiences and thoughts.

As we live day by day, it's not a life in which we fully face death. But that can happen with pets, with relatives, and with our friends and acquaintances.

Isshi: And along with that it's a situation that everyone will face at some point, so if we could put our thoughts about things like the value of life into words, they'd be stronger in some way.

I felt great kindness overflowing in your lyrics about passing through a time of loss, and about the transience and importance of life.

Isshi: But that's a difficult thing right? No matter how often I thought about it after he died, that in itself could never be meaningless. Though this boy was expected to have such a short lifespan, he lived with all his might. It was a short time but I gave him as much affection as possible and that must've been a blessing to him. And so, there's a reason I want to make people understand these things to the very end, because it's not really something that everyone understands. But you know, I was surprisingly calm. Even at the time he died, and the next day too, I was strangely calm.

I see. I guess that maybe once your grief had passed its limit, you were able to strangely contain it for a while.

Isshi: That must be it. No matter how much I struggle the truth doesn't change, but I couldn't just say it was inevitable. When I returned with his body from the hospital, all I had in my mind for the whole night was "This figure is vanishing..." But after I came back, I suddenly went to his remains.

Although the urn was small and light, there must have been moments you felt like it was impossibly heavy.

Isshi: For a little while after that, I had the sense that time had stopped. And so I was quiet for several days.

I wonder if you didn't give in to what they call 'pet loss syndrome'?

Isshi: Rather than saying I didn't give in, saying I couldn't give in is probably more accurate. Since I had many responsibilities with regards to my babies, and other things I had no choice but to do for myself, I couldn't stop there. Although, depending on the situation, it's possible that other people would be saying "It's only a small thing" right? In that case, I'd even criticize the values of those people though I didn't really have the right to blame them. And at the same time, even more than sending it off as a musician, I wanted to just stay inside as I was.

But it's okay to have those thoughts for a little while.

Isshi: I think I became just a little stronger because of that. And what's more, I don't speak much of my personal life, but I was able to turn this thing into a work I could make public. And putting it like that, what can I say... With the good and the bad, I got the feeling that I'd become a genuine musician.(wry smile)

Was it like you'd fallen and couldn't get up?

Isshi: Well, in the instant I decided to write about Vivienne's death, I was grieving but I held on to the plan for these lyrics firmly in my head. And what's more, with the body that had been Vivienne before me, I was in an absentminded state, pushing myself to the limit while making music with a guitar in one hand. I can do things like that, and I thought it was nothing other than my own nature. I think for sure that I've been that way since then, even with the things that don't show now.

But surely by that time, you must have had the sense that people would get to hear what you were singing?

Isshi: Then... yes, I guess I did. But since I was making reports on the status of the song, up until the song was complete, it was already being listened to. I tried singing as though I was facing an altar.

I think you really conveyed those feelings of yours, Isshi.

Isshi: I thought it was a really great thing to have completed a good song. If those feelings reach you... I'm really happy.

Isshi, you really put great thought into your wording with the lyrics of Utakata right? In it, the word "omoi" is displayed with several different kanji, which put in a lot of meaning.

Isshi: That's right. There are different people, there are different ways of saying goodbye, and there are various "thoughts," so I wanted to express that word as it is.

In your writing, it appears as the three forms 想い, 憶い, and 念い, but could you explain the nuances of each of those?

Isshi: Ah, the meanings of the kanji are just as they are. There's 想い for the image of a fleeting memory, there's 憶い with the meaning of following my memories, and there's 念い with the meaning of praying. They have those kind of feelings.

You have a delicate sense of the language. "Omoi" is a simple word, but with these it holds greater nuances.

Isshi: If I'm not mistaken, I think it's a special sense understood only by Japanese people. For young people, and people who aren't very familiar with the writing, this part might be a little hard to understand. But I'll be glad if they can understand someday from listening to the song.

Incidentally, after these lyrics were completed was it difficult to sing the song because of your own feelings, or was there no such problem?

Isshi: It was. Part of me sings it strictly as a vocalist, and part of me sings it emotionally while I recall various memories, so there were those kinds of feelings. For this song it's no good if one or the other is missing.

At the end of these lyrics there's a verse with "quietly overcoming sadness," but do you think that was necessary for you to overcome this sadness, Isshi?

Isshi: That's a kind of conclusion I don't know for sure yet. Just like the cycle of life, death, and rebirth that we talked about a while ago, it's really something you have to wonder about, something that any living people can't know for sure, right?

If I were to make a guess, I'd say that you think the possibility is high, Isshi.

Isshi: But if I put it into this perspective, being able to do the song was making it an obvious reality for me, and by bringing that forth I could be certain about Vivienne's existence. What helped me a lot with doing this song was as it took form I thought of it as proof that Vivienne had lived. Though that was how I thought of it privately, even Kagrra, as a whole want to thank Vivienne for giving birth to the kind of song we wanted, with profound expression. But speaking of that, the price for this song was high for me because one life got left behind. I hope and pray that when people listen to it, they'll understand that kind of existence in this song.


Thanks to jungsoo for the scans~

My translation for Utakata is here.

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