Shiina Ringo’s “Kabukichou no joou”

歌舞伎町の女王

作詞:椎名林檎

蝉の声を聞く度に 目に浮かぶ九十九里浜
皺々の祖母の手を離れ 独りで訪れた歓楽街

ママは此処の女王様 生き写しの様なあたし
誰しもが手を伸べて 子供ながらに魅せられた歓楽街

十五になったあたしを 置いて女王は消えた
毎週金曜日に来ていた男と暮らすのだろう

「一度栄えし者でも必ずや衰えゆく」
その意味を知る時を迎え足を踏み入れたは歓楽街

消えて行った女を憎めど夏は今
女王と云う肩書きを誇らしげに掲げる

女に成ったあたしが売るのは自分だけで
同情を欲したときに全てを失うだろう

JR新宿駅の東口を出たら
其処はあたしの庭 大遊戯場歌舞伎町

今夜からは此の町で娘のあたしが女王

* * *

The Queen of Kabukichou

Lyrics: Shiina Ringo
Translation: Alex Fyffe and Yumi Hori

Whenever I hear cicadas singing, I am reminded of Kujuukuri-hama
I let go of my grandmother’s wrinkled hand and wandered alone into the redlight district

My mom was the queen of this place, and I looked just like her
I was only a child, but strangers would take me by the hand to show me around the redlight district

When I was fifteen, she left without a trace
She’s probably living with that man who came by every Friday

“All things that rise must surely fall”
I learned the meaning of these words when I first set foot in the redlight district

Although I detested her for disappearing, it’s summer now
And I am proud to wear the title of Queen

I only became a woman by selling myself
But the day I ask for pity will be the day I lose everything

If you take the east exit from JR Shinjuku station,
You will see my garden, the great playground Kabukichou

Starting tonight, I am the queen of this city

Notes:

This was the first song I translated back in April or May of 2005 thanks to the generous help of Yumi Hori. Since then, the original translation has undergone various edits and changes. The last line, in particular, is difficult to settle on, since the literal meaning (From tonight, in this city, I, the daughter, am queen) sounds very awkward in English. Originally, I tried to stick to the literal line (From now on, I, the daughter, will be queen of the city), but it never felt right. I worked my way around some of the awkwardness by keeping the intent but changing some of the words (From tonight, this city has a new queen), but it still felt off. So, for now at least, I’m settling on “Starting tonight, I am the queen of this city.” There may be a more fluid way of making the narrator refer to herself as the queen’s daughter (from tonight, the daughter is the queen?), but nothing I’ve thought of works very well, so I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

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