I’ve been wanting to write about this song – Japanese Hands – for a while. It is one of my favorites from Reg Strikes Back. And given the tragic events of the last few days, I felt compelled to write about it tonight. The song exemplifies the beauty and grace of Japan in a way that (I think) so many westerners perceive it. (Is that too broad of a generalization)? As I see the images of destruction and devastation, my heart is broken – as I’m sure everyone’s is.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Japan twice so far – both times on business and both times to Tokyo. I have always been intrigued by other countries and cultures, and my experiences in Japan did not disappoint. My colleagues were most hospitable and most gracious, making every effort to ensure that I arrived safely, that I was comfortable and that I did not spend my evenings alone while I was there.
I didn’t stay long enough either time, although I did get in a few days for sightseeing. Walking around, I was struck by the juxtaposition of traditional Japanese culture amidst the hustle and bustle of such a sprawling, contemporary city.
The Japanese people I walked with through the energy and vitality of Tokyo life seemed elegant and confident to me – and calm. This was their every day. My heart was beating a mile a minute while I took the subway (by myself!) and walked the streets of Tokyo. Even though I couldn’t speak the language and I didn’t really know where I was going, I felt safe and not terribly out of place. I wouldn’t say I felt at home, but I could see myself staying there for a while and getting to know Japan better.
I know my meager impressions of Japan pale in comparison to what others have experienced – and to the images we all have seen over the last few days. I pray for the people of Japan – and I do hope I get to go back again some day.
Anyway, back to the song…Bernie’s lyrics paint a beautiful, sensuous picture of the traditional east – albeit through the eyes of a westerner. Perhaps a bit stereotypical, but I can relate – the images are ones we’ve grown up with and often associate with Japan. And the musical score is quite dramatic, too – although, again, perhaps a bit cliche? But I don’t think that’s a fault…I think the combination makes for a very powerful song.
Beyond the paper walls
Where the symbols painted black and white
Run together when the rain falls
And the wind chimes across Kyoto
Each time the earth moves
Was it the quake that shook me
Or was it something to do with you
And your almond eyes always shine
Sitting cool behind your painted fan
All the secrets of the east
Conceal the beauty and the beast
For tender is the man in her Japanese hands
Than on a cotton sheet back home
Where no one wears their hair like yours
Beneath those oriental combs
And with your thirsty fingers
Running up and down my spine
You forget the western woman
When you’re sleeping on Kyoto time
And the moon grows cold
To the distant sound of drums
And the sky explodes
And the moon grows cold
As the dragons on the mainland
Wait to heat the sun
I hope you enjoy listening to this song…I don’t think I will ever be able to hear it again without thinking about the last few days…
Japanese Hands (Reg Strikes Back – 1988)