Miyazawa Kenji‘s poem “Kokubetsu” (or Farewell in English) gives me goosebumps. I want to share this poem with you, but I’ve never seen this poem translated from Japanese into English. So, I translated it. It ended up being as if I’m telling Miyazawa’s poem in my own voice, so please keep in mind that this translation is not perfect in terms of accuracy. Also, translating from one’s native language into a non-native language is really, really difficult; this is the best I can do now. If you are fluent in Japanese and want to give us a better translation of this poem, please do so. I’d be happy to share it with others or fix my translation.
Farewell – Miyazawa Kenji
I bet you probably don’t know how it sounds when you play those three notes with your contrabass. That joyful feeling, full of honesty and hope, almost blew my mind away like a piece of grass.
If you understood the character of each sound and a countless number of rich sequences fully, and if you could use them as you wish, you would do difficult, yet bright and divine work.
Just as famous musicians in this country took up their instruments when they were young, and already established their own schools, around the same time, you took up a drum made of leather and a flute made of bamboo.
But, among 10,000 people living in this town and that village, there are probably about 5 of them around your age who are as talented and capable as you. Every one of them, however, would lose what they have within 5 years. It might be because they have to work or because they simply give up. No kind of talent, power, or resource will stay with us forever. Not even people stay with us either.
I didn’t tell you, but I won’t be here at this school anymore from April. I will have to walk a dark and steep path.
If you lost the skills you have now, the right tone of your music, and the brightness you carry with yourself after I had left the school, I will not take care of you anymore. Because what I hate most is the majority, who feel comfortable and satisfied with the little bit of work they can do.
Please listen carefully.
When you fall in love with one sweet girl and think of her, there will be a statute in front of you, a statute made of countless shadows and lights. You must turn it into music.
When everyone else enjoys living in town and plays all day, you will cut grasses alone at that stone field. You must create music from that loneliness.
Bite every contempt and misery and sing anyway.
If you didn’t have a music instrumentâ€¦
Listen, my disciple.
Play, as best as you can, the pipe organ made of lights that spread across the sky.
This gives me goosebumps, because it feels like he’s talking about me. No, in fact, he’s talking about me. And you. You are one of those people who’s got what it takes. I’m one of them too. But what are you going to do about it? What am I going to do about it? Are we going to spoil what we have so we can walk a safe path that leads our dreams to death? We could spend the next 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, or 50 years walking that path. Or we could choose another path where things are dangerous, but you feel alive. I’m not here to judge which is better, but I do want you to choose what you want to choose rather than following what others think is good for you.