Jason Porath

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Our fated journey

Kishidan – Wedding March (Mabudachi)

This is a fairly famous song by a very silly comic rock group, Kishidan. Their schtick is that they are all barely-literate thugs who think they’re super tough, wear lots of old-fashioned outfits, have ridiculous hair, and use lots of antiquated Japanese poorly.

Before coming to Japan, I’d never heard of them. It was Amy, one of my fellow Ryugasaki JETs, and one of my best friends there, who introduced me to them. She had seemingly patterned her entire existence after them. She spoke, walked, and dressed like an illiterate thug (even had her own tokkofuku), would make jokes with antiquated kanji, and would often do her hair up like them (to the best of her ability).

Oddly enough, I feel it was this, more than anything, that gave us a deeper connection to Japanese culture. Yankii/bosozoku culture (which is to say, Kishidan’s whole gig) is very uniquely Japanese. It’s a weird mixture of national history, Japanese pride, blind rebellion, hilarious ignorance, and extreme irony that is very inaccessible and difficult to explain. It isn’t in the welcome-to-Japan cultural bundle that’s trotted out by everyone. It’s not Top 40, it’s not traditional, it’s not terribly popular, it’s not part of any anime or manga. But everyone knows Kishidan.

What this would do is throw people off script. Upon meeting us, most Japanese people would be expecting us to quietly smile and throw out some of our acquired Japanese, along the tropes we’d learned — talk about the weather, talk about Japanese food, talk about America. They weren’t expecting us to have tokkofuku with weird kanji jokes on them. They weren’t expecting us to talk excitedly (and informedly) about Japan’s “ignorant redneck” culture. They weren’t expecting us to sing Kishidan and know all the dance steps. It’d be like a Somalian refugee making Simpsons jokes. It throws you for a loop. And opens you up. The conversation is not on rails anymore.

In a strange way, Kishidan was kind of central to a lot of my experiences in Japan.

Yesterday, I sang this song at karaoke with JETs and Japanese speakers for the first time in over a year. Some of them even knew the dance steps. It brought memories flooding back about all the times we’d spent in little karaoke rooms, singing and dancing like idiots. Memories of a tight-knit circle of friends now scattered to the four winds.

Then, at the end, I had a little flash of insight. The last two lines of the song are 運命の旅が始まる / 運命の旅に出かけよう. I was never super-familiar with the lyrics, and I usually had to sight-read them, so up until last night, I didn’t realize I’d been making a mistake with the lyrics. I’d been misreading the character æ—… as 族. I’d thought the last line translated as “the fated family is starting / Let the fated family depart.” But I was wrong.

It’s “the fated journey is now beginning / leave now on your fated journey.”

For a second, I instinctively looked for Amy, to tell her. But there was no one to tell.

1 Comment

  1. You made me tear up for a second. We need to meet up again and be silly, ASAP.

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