My nine-day “staycation” started last Friday at 6 pm. Many around Japan went overseas, did various activities around the country, or visited loved ones. Yet, I decided to do a “staycation”. Yes, it seems boring: me staying inside my apartment and surroundings for about a week. But, I love it since I could stay in bed for long periods of time, read various materials, be minimalistic, and deep clean.
That Friday, I pondered on what should I do on the first night of freedom: Should I do something or go to bed early so I could start my vacation off right by waking extra early on Saturday? Continuing to think about, I checked the TV Guide to see what was going to be the movie of the night. And by chance, it was going to be one of my favorites.
The Magic Within
One of my favorite movies is “Hauru no Ugoku Shiro” Howl’s Moving Castle. It was released in 2005 and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, often dubbed as the “Walt Disney of Japan”. He has directed dozens of films over the past four years. Many know his 2002 film “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” Spirited Away. That film is my dad’s favorite Ghibli film, but it isn’t mine. When I first watched Ghibli movies, I liked “Mahoutsukai no Takyuubin” Kiki’s Delivery Service. But, my current favorite is Howl’s Moving Castle, especially the English dub, ever since it was released. It is something magical, fun, and romantic.
Now, I know Howl is such a handsome character, but the real beauty of the movie is Sophie. You have to watch the film to see why as I don’t want to spoil the whole film here. Even so, I see some of Sophie’s characteristics in me. Maybe because I am often self-doubting myself. I always think that I don’t have much self-confidence or self-esteem. Also, I put other’s needs before mine even though it might not make me happy. That is why when I was watching the movie last Friday, I thought to myself: “I can relate easily to Sophie”.
The Magical Soundtrack
The music of Studio Ghibli films is genuinely magical too. Composed by Joe Hisaishi, the soundtrack to this magical movie has pieces that are filled with various emotions: happiness, sadness, joy, fear, anger, and love. Of course, the wide ranges of pieces inside this soundtrack are composed to suit the film’s storyline. Even so, I loved this soundtrack, as well as many others, for everyday listening. Film scores are relaxing, brings stress levels down, and makes perfect easy-listening music during work. I also like to play classical or suitable film soundtracks during lunch break in my classroom. I heard that soothing, classical songs help kids to relax more and become happier.
“Jinsei no Merry Go Round” The Merry Go Round of Life from the film is a great piece for easy listening. The piano solo, in the beginning, soothes and comforts the soul with its gentle and airy tone. The strings that come in afterward help to create a romantic, magical feeling. The musical motifs found in this tune can later be heard again in various pieces like “Kuuchuu Sanpo” Walking in the Air, “Tokimeki” Heartbeat, and my favorite “Shizuka na Omoi” Silent Feelings. “Hoshi no Umi e” To Star Lake is another fantastic piece as it is grand from the zeal of the instruments. There are other excellent pieces on the soundtrack, and you should give it a listen!
The World’s Promise
The piece I picked for this blog post is the film’s ending song, “Sekai no Yakusoku” The World’s Promise. It starts off with a grand piano playing a light, romantic solo. Then the strings come in with this virtuoso yet calming entrance to bring the introduction to a close. I love this cadence; it is so beautiful, romantic, and such an ear-pleasing sound.
The song is kept to a minimum as it only involves a grand piano, strings, and vocals provided by Chieko Baisho, who voiced both young and old Sophie in the movie. Yet, having less isn’t a bad thing as the trio helps to keep the calm and soothing mood in check. Baisho’s vocals aren’t extraordinary, like let’s say a diva voice like Whitney Houston or Christina Aguilera, but diva vocals are not needed for this kind of piece. Instead, Basho’s vocals are a perfect fit as they have a steady and suited tone. She also displays various emotions or singing specific styles throughout the song. For example, singing softly at the end a phrase or slowly trilling a succession of notes.
“Sekai no Yakusoku” is a perfect song to get you through your day, whenever you are working, cleaning the house, studying, or driving the kids to practice. Its soothing, melancholic presence will make you feel good and at ease with yourself and your surroundings.
How does “Sekai no Yakusoku” make you feel after listening to it? Tell me below!
About the Artist
Chieko Baisho is a Japanese singer and actress. She joined the Shouchiku Kagekidan theatre group in 1960 after graduating from Shouchiku Music and Dance School. She made her movie debut the year after by starring in the movie Hanjo. Two years later, in 1963, she made her singing career debut with the single “Shitamachi no Taiyou” The Sun of Downtown. She then won the newcomer award at the Annual Japan Record Awards for that year. Also appeared on the prestigious end-of-the-year music competition NHK Kouhaku Utagassen.
Baisho has had a successful movie and singing career spanning over fifty years. Because of her long-spanning career and her contributions to Japanese culture, she received The Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor of Japan in 2013.