This is the context.

Yura yura to yuganda sora e
Kimi no moto e tonde yuke
Konna ni mo chikaku ni kanjiteru
Futatsu no omoi


This is my try:

Through the warped and wobbling sky
may I fly to you/if only I could fly to you
I feel so close
the feelings of us (our feelings)

I don't know how to translate this imperative (命令形). There is a second person pronoun, "君の", so it can't be a simple imperative, where the speaker orders a second person to do something (fly to you/fly to yourself!). The speaker doesn't order himself to do something (in this case he/she would say "fly to him/her!"). Has it an optative meaning? "May I fly to you! If only I could fly to you! Let me fly to you!"

Is, in general, 命令形 used also as optative, in Japanese?


It is optative in meaning even though it grammatically takes the imperative form. This usage is quite common in song lyrics and other fictional writings in Japanese.

At least in the Japanese-speaking mind, a person's [想]{おも}い ("feeling(s)", "thought(s)", etc.) has no will and it cannot fly away ([飛]{と}んでゆく) to someone; therefore, you do not order your 想い to perform actions that only humans and animals can.

(How this works in other languages, I have no idea and I do not claim to know.)

How you "translate" the optative, however, is another matter altogether. It could be translated just like the imperative if that made sense and/or sounded natural in the target language just as long as you understand that it is considered optative in the original Japanese.

Other examples of optative phrases:

「[風]{かぜ}よ、[吹]{ふ}け!」,「[星]{ほし}よ、[輝]{かがや}け!」,「[雨]{あめ}よ、[降]{ふ}れ!」, etc.

  • Thank you, l'électeur! I read that in Japanese the imperative mood can work with every personal pronoun or noun, while the Indo-European languages have only two or three "true" imperative forms, 2nd singular/plural and 1st plural (do!, fai/fate!, mach/macht!, де́лай/де́лайте!) but with 1st singular and 3rd person pronouns and nouns we have to use different constructions (optative) with "let + dative pronoun" (let me do!, lascia(te)mi fare!, lasst mir machen!) or "may + nominative pronoun" (may I do!, possa io fare!, möge ich machen!). In this case it sounds like "may the thought fly to you!" – nino83 Jun 24 '16 at 12:32
  • About how to translate it, I can only say that in English or Italian (my mother tongue) it's impossible to use the imperative mood when the recipient/goal (the person whom the action is directed to) is a 2nd person pronoun, because in these languages we use the imperative in order to give an order to a 2nd person, so the 2nd person pronoun can't be the person who is forced to do the action and at the same time the person whom the action is directed to (except for reflexive actions, but this is not the case, because we have the speaker, the thought and the recipient). – nino83 Jun 24 '16 at 12:40
  • @l'électeur For my own edification, is it indeed the thoughts that are "traveling" towards 君, and my error limited to imperative vs optative (ie is my revised answer now accurate)? Or was I completely wrong and it is indeed the singer that hopes to travel to the sky? Thanks! – WeirdlyCheezy Jun 24 '16 at 14:09
  • I found that in Japanese commands can be addressed to oneself or to genuinely third persons. "And some commands are addressed to oneself: Ei, mendoo da kittimae [= kitte simae]' This tangle is a nuisance. I may as well cut it (= the thread) ' ( Mikami 1963a.76 ) . Very occasionally you may run across a genuinely third person command: 'Onna no mono wa onna ga tukure 'Let women's things be made by women !' (SA 2672.63a-head ing) . " Source: 'A Reference Grammar of Japanese', Samuel Elmo Martin, page 959. – nino83 Jun 24 '16 at 16:41

ふたつの思い is probably the (poetically delayed) intended subject of 飛んでゆけ. I previously incorrectly stated that it is being used as an imperative (please see l'électeur's answer for why it is optative - I have tweaked the wording to fit an optative mood but maintained the position that the thoughts (as opposed to the singer) are what will travel towards the singer's '君').

In other words, the singer is hoping/wishing that those "thoughts of us two" will fly to the receiver's location.

Since it is a song, it is not unusual if liberties are taken with word ordering and abbreviations. If we consider 飛んでゆけ to be a "quote", ie, spoken to the singer's thoughts (or rather to the singer themselves as they 'send' those thoughts), while the rest of the song is to 君, it works. (This is probably more natural than the 君 as a "proper noun" approach I alluded to in a comment).

For example, here's a rough version where I've explicitly added what I think the singer 'abbreviates' (while deleting some intervening stuff for clarity):


Or in English:

To the place where you are, "(May you) go, fly!", (I wish as I send you) my thoughts of us"

  • Thank you, WeirdlyCheezy. But, if I were to order ふたつの思い to go to the receiver location, I'd say (in English) "go to him", and not "go to you". What I don't understand is the presence of both 君の元へ (second person singular pronoun) and 飛んでゆけ (imperative). This is the reason why I though that a sentence like "may the thought of us two go to you!" would fit better. – nino83 Jun 23 '16 at 16:12
  • I see what you are saying, and it would normally be suspect, but I think it is 'allowable' given the ways songs often relax grammatical rules, and the fact that the singer is talking to themselves. To me this parsing felt "natural" in the context of a song, and served to make 君の元 sound almost "proper noun-ish" ~ to the singer this isn't just any normal 2nd-person 君, but the place where his/her "one true" 君 is. At least, given my limited Japanese ability, this seems like a reasonable interpretation. – WeirdlyCheezy Jun 23 '16 at 16:26
  • Actually it is probably simpler to deal with this if we just put quote marks around 「飛んでゆけ」 and fill in the blanks. I've revised my answer to add in details of this parsing. – WeirdlyCheezy Jun 23 '16 at 17:50
  • 1
    I feel that the subject is only the speaker's 思い. – broccoli forest Jun 26 '16 at 6:13
  • @broccoliforest Thanks for confirming that! I was starting to worry I was insane. – WeirdlyCheezy Jun 26 '16 at 7:04

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