Listening to Brad Smith's MOON8 was like mainlining my childhood. It also reminded me of something awesome: that in Japan, The Dark Side of the Moon is called Kyōki 狂気 ("Mad").

It's hard to say why this is such a great hōdai 邦題 ("[this-]country title"). It's not that the album would have been better named Mad in English, but saying it so baldly in Japanese puts the album in a whole new light. It's even mildly shocking: in broadcast media, the word kyōki is a low-level "problem word" due to its perceived offensiveness to the mentally ill. (It's still considered better than kichigai "crazy", though.)

The power of kyōki does get drained a bit by its use as a blunt instrument to translate the title of the final song, "Eclipse": "Kyōki nisshoku" 狂気日食, "Eclipse of madness." "Brain Damage," meanwhile, is "Kyōjin wa kokoro ni" 狂人は心に, "The madman is in [the/my/your/our] soul."

But there is no excuse, none, for having translated "The Great Gig in the Sky" as "Kokū no skyatto" 虚空のスキャット, "Scat in the void."

Pink Floyd are actually well-known for their hōdai; cf labored discussion. Atom Heart Mother is often cited as an example, even though this was just a literal translation: Genshi shinbo 原子心母, "Atom -heart - mother." I guess going with the Sino-Japanese pronunciation of the second half is what makes it great. [Thanks for the correction on this, Mulboyne + david.]

And you know who picked those two hōdai, by the way? That's right: current CEO of Universal Music Japan, ISHIZAKA Keiichi 石坂敬一. At least, that's what this article says.

That article also has a categorized run-down of the various kinds of hōdai, from more or less embellished translations ("Sultans of Swing" = "Kanashiki sarutan," "Woeful sultans") to stripped-down English phrases ("Sunshine of your Love" = "Sanshain rabu") to basically free remakes ("I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" = "Dame na boku," "Worthless me"). And it's part six in a series! 1, 2, 3 (mostly about Pink Floyd and Pulse), 4, 5, 6, 7.

Bonus, linked from part 3 of the above: Blog post by a guy who claims to have hōdaized The Division Bell Tsui 対 ("Opposite, facing") — apparently it took him a whole week of agonizing over the artwork and lyrics, and he prepared a veritable thesis defense to get it approved — and Pulse Kyōi 驚異 ("Marvel, astonishment").

He also has an interview with UDA Akinori 宇田明則, who gave A Momentary Lapse of Reason its hōdai, Utsu 鬱 ("Depression, melancholy"):

From the moment I was assigned to Pink Floyd, I knew I wanted to follow the tradition and give something a hōdai too. So I studied the sound and the lyrics, and after a lot of agonizing, came up with one that referred to the original: Risei sōshitsu 理性喪失 ("Loss of reason") [...] My boss at the time was like, "Eh, it's kind of long. A Pink Floyd hōdai has to be shorter than that. In the end he even said, "Yeah, for Pink Floyd you want just one character."

No word on whether Uda countered with "It's okay, boss, it hasn't really been Pink Floyd since Roger Waters left." (Yeah, I went there.)

Final bonus: Original hōdai for Pink Floyd songs. "See Emily Play" was "Emirii wa purei gaaru" ("Emily is a playgirl"), reflecting the spirit of the times a bit too enthusiastically. Piper at the Gates of Dawn = Saikederikku no shin'ei ("Fresh-picked psychedelia"). And best of all, "Take up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" as "Koi no chōshinki", which is to say "Stethoscope of love."

Popularity factor: 6


The ones that confuse me are where they add to the name, like 「僕のコダクローム」 or 「霧のベイカー・ストリート」.

The use of 「ニューヨーク・シティ・セレナーデ」 for "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" made me wonder about Bruce Springsteen's (earlier) "New York City Serenade." It turns out to also be 「ニューヨーク・シティ・セレナーデ」, but the album it's from, "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle," has become 『青春の叫び』. "Born to Run" becomes 「明日なき暴走」, which is pretty awesome.

Leonardo Boiko:

The only way this would be cooler is if we had Pink Floyd covers in Japanese.

We don’t… do we?


Are you certain the Japanese name for "Atom Heart Mother" switches the order of the original?

There's a bar in Shinjuku named after the album and it's very definitely called 原子心母 - (Genshi Shinbo), not 原子母心 (Genshi Boshin)


Mulboyne - I was there last night - youre right its definitely 原子心母

AC/DC have some appropriately dodgy 邦題.
Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be: 地獄は楽しい所だぜ
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: 悪事と地獄


Oh dear, you're both quite right. How embarrassing to get it wrong while specifically pointing out the oddness. Thanks!


Wow...Pink Floyd lyrics in Japanese sounds like such a great way to learn a language.

Do you know of any websites that have translated song lyrics into Chinese?

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