While listening to my work playlist today, I noticed a new Radwimps song in my recommendations. It was released on March 10th, 10 years after The Great Tohoku Earthquake that took countless lives. The song is called あいたい (aitai) which means I want to see you or I miss you in Japanese.
It’s simple but beautiful. I recommend you listen to it below while reading the rest of this post:
For those of us gaijin (foreigners) who can’t understand Japanese so well, here are the English lyrics:
I miss you, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you
It’s you, it’s you, it’s you I miss
I miss talking to you, touching you
Holding you… your eyes
Haven’t felt a thing that overwrites these feelings just yet
Here I am, holding on to this world without you
Sometimes I laugh, find things to absorb myself in
Yet, I still can’t seem to find any reason
Why it’s okay to be without you, ten years gone
In whoever’s body is the oxygen now circling?
The oxygen that you should’ve been breathing
Preposterously yet seriously
I’m still reflecting
I miss you, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you
It’s you, it’s you, it’s you I miss
I miss hearing you, caressing you
Taking it out on you… your smell
Haven’t felt a thing that overwrites thesе feelings just yet
What would you have said?
What would you have done?
“It’s gonna be okay”, I should’ve taped you say
I’m still saving all my reasons
Why it’s not okay to be okay, ten years gone
The air I’m breathing became a bit lighter
Now that this planet has lost you
Ridiculously yet seriously
I still feel your presence
I thought about asking for a miracle to happen
So that you and I can meet again
But I know it’s probably not gonna happen
‘Cause I’ve used up all my luck when I first found you
While the song itself is beautiful, perhaps the message from Radwimps lead vocality Yojiro was even more impactful. Yojiro included it as a pinned comment under the video and it just speaks to the heart of Radwimps as a whole. They’re celebrities, but just as affected and pained by the devastation the tsunami brought on that tragic day.
I hope he doesn’t mind, but I’d like to include that letter here in its entirety:
“Today marks a decade since Great East Japan Earthquake March 11th, 2011. And I’ve made a song again; the title is “Aitai.” Unexpectedly, the lyrics spun in my head as I thought about the disaster and the countless lives torn apart echo the feelings of many of us living in this pandemic.
Though I can only imagine, for the disaster victims, for those who lost their loved ones, and for those whose lives were changed forever, a decade must be just a sign, a number. The band members and I were spared the worst on that day, but even for us the past decade has been a struggle to make sense of the enormity of this disaster.
That’s why we’ve been taking the liberty of making and sharing a song each year since the earthquake, which is after all the only thing we can do. As we have come to an important juncture, I’ve been increasingly asked: what made me keep creating and sharing music each year for the past ten years? In fact, I’ve asked the same question myself, but I can’t seem to find a clear answer at all. Maybe because I don’t want to forget that tremendously harrowing experience and I don’t want to let those memories fade away. Perhaps because I want to stay as close to those who are affected by the disaster as I possibly can and I hope my music will remind people to prepare for the next big earthquake that we all know will happen but just don’t know when. Or maybe because I just want to entertain myself and feel a sense of satisfaction. Every answer seems right, and they all seem wrong.
I think there’s no reason to love someone. You can list as many reasons as come to you why you love the person you love and every one of them sounds perfectly plausible. But that is probably hindsight. Touching the heart of someone you care about often goes beyond logic or reason.
In a sense, all these songs I wrote over the past ten years are perhaps love letters. I’ve been writing love letters to someone I don’t expect will ever write back. Every year, as March 11th draws near, I just picked up my guitar or sat down at my piano, reminiscing about people and communities devastated on that day, and wrote lyrics and created music together with the band members, staff, and Shimada-san. In this creative process, my emotions swung between sorrow, love, and at times, frustration and despair. But for better or worse, human emotions don’t stay the same. I will try my best to remain hopeful because of that, and it is my fervent wish that we all keep hope alive in our hearts.
What kind of future awaits us after we come out of the COVID-19 tunnel? As with catastrophic natural disasters like the March 11th earthquake, a big crisis can split the nation and strain human relations. Sometimes conflict and division will arise and reveal who we really are. I cannot but feel today the whole world is creaking and tipping over gradually, and we need to hold each other’s hands and stand together like never before.
This year we release an album of ten songs which includes two new songs, “Aitai” and “Hide and seek,” along with the others I wrote in the past decade. As I listened to these songs again while I was creating this album, I was reflecting over these years: “what kind of life have I lived since that day?” “What have I done to deserve the life I fortunately lived over the past decade?” I keep asking myself these unanswerable questions. And I will continue to live in limbo struggling to find an answer that seems plausible but only fleetingly.
I truly hope that listening to this album will encourage you to look back at the past decade and think about the future, and make you a little more hopeful.
Last but not certainly least, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those lives lost in the earthquake as well as all those who are still suffering by the disaster.”
They also included a message stating that all proceeds from the new album will be fully donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society and local governments to be used for various activities such as disaster relief.*
*Donations will be made from the sales earned by December 31st, 2021.
Traveling to Areas Devastated by the Tsunami
One of the greatest and worst experiences of my life was traveling to Miyagi in 2019, visiting Ishinomaki, and other areas hit hardest by the tsunami. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life because I got to see a side of Japan I’d never seen before. I saw the picture-perfect countryside.
The places where time seems to go by more slowly, beautiful mountains and shores unsullied by urban development. These were places you could truly relax, places ungoverned by notifications, overtime work, or trains to catch.
It was one of my greatest experiences because the warmth of Japanese hospitality in Miyagi is unparalleled. I was there for business purposes, but I felt like I was there to visit friends.
It was one of the worst experiences of my life because for that brief moment I wasn’t on the outside looking in. I stood in the classrooms of lost children, never to return again. I stared at a clock forever frozen at 3:37 pm. In those moments, the death toll on CNN was no longer just a large number. Each number had a face. Each number had fathers, mothers, siblings, and friends that would never see them again
I don’t want to dwell too long on that trip, as I wrote about it in 2019 and I don’t want to reiterate things I’ve already said on this blog. But I guess I’m writing this post because Yojiro’s message just really resonated with me. I didn’t lose anyone in the Great Tohoku Earthquake. My Japanese wife and her family didn’t lose anyone either.
So why does my heart break just by listening to this song? Why does it hurt to reminisce on my trip to Miyagi. And I think Yojiro’s words give us part of the answer:
“I think there’s no reason to love someone. You can list as many reasons as come to you why you love the person you love and every one of them sounds perfectly plausible. But that is probably hindsight. Touching the heart of someone you care about often goes beyond logic or reason.”
Just as we don’t need a reason to love someone, we don’t need to justify our feelings either. Perhaps caring about something goes beyond logic or reason as well.