On my spring break in 2007, my family went on vacation to California.
Whenever I go on a vacation, I always make sure I have new music to listen to; between long car rides and other moments of downtime, it’s nice to have something to listen to. I had been into Japanese music for some years at this point, having been introduced to it through my childhood love of anime, but I’d never really gotten into individual artists. I just liked various anime theme songs and music from my favorite Japanese video games.
So, before this particular trip, I went on iTunes and browsed around. It wasn’t long before I discovered The Black Mages, a band that did rock arrangements of classic Final Fantasy songs. I also checked out the selection of Japanese pop artists. There wasn’t much I was interested in back in 2007, but there was an artist I’d heard of and had already downloaded a few tracks from — Ayumi Hamasaki.
I’d discovered Ayu perhaps a month before through a fansite. I had listened to a couple of the streaming tracks, and, intrigued, bought some of her music off of iTunes — a few singles and miscellaneous songs. That was it, though. Sure, I liked what I heard, but I wasn’t really into it that much.
Still, I wanted new stuff to listen to for this trip, so I decided to buy three of the albums iTunes had for sale — MY STORY, MY STORY Classical, and Memorial address. I think I’d read on the fansite that Ayu had good lyrics, so I spent some time copying and pasting the lyrics from Divine Ayu into iTunes so I’d get more out of the songs.
I didn’t really listen to Ayu until a few days into the trip, since I had the Black Mages to rock out. So while I might have briefly listened to a few tracks, it wasn’t until my family went to Muir Woods that I started listening intently.
Muir Woods is a national park in California, near San Francisco. I read the information about the trees and enjoyed walking down the wooden pathway they had there, but when my family decided to go on a hike, I bowed out — hiking’s never been something I’ve had much interest in. So I traipsed back to the entrance to the park, sat down on a bench, and listened to MY STORY.
And I fell in love.
There was something about her music that I really loved. I love rock music, so “About You” instantly became one of my favorite songs, as did “GAME” and “Liar.” I was incredibly amused by the cheery beat of “HONEY,” and loved “Humming 7/4.” “Moments” and “CAROLS” were both among the songs I had already downloaded, and they sounded even better among the rest of the tracks. I may not have understood the words, but since I’d put the lyrics in my iPod, I read along as I listened to the music.
(my HONEY) You are always by my side
You are embarrassingly positive
And walk on leading me by the hand
(my HONEY) itsu datte soba ni ite
akireru kurai ni maemuki ni
watashi no te wo hiite aruite yuku
I went into my own little world, loving Ayu’s music more with each new track. The real world intruded occasionally in the form of the other park visitors, but otherwise I was lost in the music.
When my family returned from their hike, we got in the car and proceeded to the next destination. As soon as I could, I put my iPod back on, now listening to MY STORY Classical. The songs I most distinctly remember listening to then were “HONEY” and “HOPE or PAIN,” cementing them as more of my favorite songs. (Which is probably why I like the MY STORY Classical version of “HOPE or PAIN” more than the MY STORY one to this day.)
I honestly think the best thing I got out of that vacation was a love for Ayumi Hamasaki’s music. Sure, going to San Francisco was fun, and Alcatraz was morbidly fascinating, but my clearest memory is of sitting in Muir Woods, listening to Ayu’s music.
My love for Memorial address came later. In late spring of 2007, I started driving to school, and though the radio played good stuff sometimes, I really preferred listening to my iPod via the car’s speakers. I loved the entire album, and soon found myself singing along to every word as I memorized the lyrics.
I hold you tight
I get touched
I get discouraged
I hold you tight again
I pull myself together
I get prim
mata gyuttoshite mitari
Despite this, I really didn’t get “into” Ayu until August 2007. I wanted to hear more of her music that I hadn’t heard before, and so I got all of her music I could find. I had liked her music before, but now that I could hear the songs I hadn’t heard before, I found myself becoming more of a fan than a casual listener.
And I haven’t stopped listening to her since.