Setsu | 節

by Mermaid Guitar

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Setsu | 節 = 1. occasion; time 2. section; paragraph; verse; stanza; passage

Twelve songs for 12 months to celebrate life in Japan.

About the tracks, musical notes and more:


released November 1, 2016

Cover art by Catriona McKillop




Mermaid Guitar Dunedin, New Zealand

Music should be free. If you like it: enjoy it. If you really like it: pay what you feel. Each album has bonus material for download.

Mermaid Guitar music is not earnest navel-gazing. It's indie rock with humour and hidden depths. Influenced by XTC, BNL, Weezer & Elvis Costello.
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Track Name: Shakuhachi Man, こむそう (April, 4月)
{first verse}
Sit beneath this lonely tree
High up on a hill, looking out over the sea
The town below me wakes from sleep
A ribbon of houses wedged beneath the mountains and the sea

I come to this temple this time every year
A travelling shakuhachi man, I love this cherry tree right here
As I sit a morning Spring wind sounds
And from just above my head the first pink blossom flutters down

The sun gets higher
warmth gets my fingers going,
play a little tune for myself
before I go down to the koen

{second verse}
Here they come, it's time to play
Beneath the clouds of pink, a sea of blue tarpaulins laid
Once a year, friends and family meeting
Like the blossom on the trees, it's more beautiful because it's fleeting

The day grows longer
Office parties swell the numbers
Make hay while the sun shines because it will have sunk too soon

{middle bit}
In any other player's hands
Is melancholy
But I can't help but play my happy melody

{third verse}
In feudal times shakuhachi man
Would have been suspected of spying on your lands
Now I just play to make living
And though I watch you all, this spy is more forgiving
Track Name: On Your Bike, 自転車で (May, 5月)
{first verse, junior high kid}
I get up on a Monday: gotta get off to school
Got my books in my bag, got a black and white uniform
Don't need my jacket now the May days aren't so cool
Shit! 母さん 7.23 ともゆき君's gonna be waiting there for me
Where we meet every day at the convenience store car park
Gotta get to pre-school baseball at the school park
Out the door, saddle up, helmet on, but don't do the strap up

I'm free
Bend my knees
Soothing breeze blows through the trees
On my bike
Ride it where I like

{second verse, Office Lady}
I get up every weekday: gotta get off to work
Hair up, face on, blue office lady uniform
3 years now as a desk clerk
ね—母さん 8.24. No time for breakfast. Out the door
At my desk I dream: me as a bride
But for now I'll saddle up and ride

Skirt to knees
And high heels (but still I'm free)
On my bike
Ride it where I like

{middle spacey bit}
You take your car, safe inside
But two wheels is by far the better way for me to ride

{third verse, o-jiisan}
The sun's up, so so am I at 5
The field needs me to bend my back
That's how my crops and I continue to thrive
So saddle up for a wobbly ride again
Not bad for an octogenarian

I am free
On my bike, ride it where I
On my bike, ride it where I
On my bike, ride it where I like
Track Name: Too Much Rain, 多雨 (June, 6月)
May blue skies, now June black
And my shirt clings to my back
Sweat sitting here with window wide
Behind insect screen, trapped inside
There's just too much rain

I know the fields need rain
But what's that to me in my 2DK
The kids get restless, this oppressive wet air
Can't ride their bikes or go exploring somewhere
And they're too young to understand why you're not here


The scream of cicadas and rice field frogs
Three weeks it's been cats and dogs
But the deluge can't match my lonely tears
So I sit here remembering this time every year
Too much, too much, too much, too much rain
Track Name: Yankii Girl--a 3-Minute Opera, ヤンキーギャル--3分のオペラ (July 7月)
Hey let's meet at the convenience store
We'll hang out - that's what these summer Saturdays are for

Check out my fake tan, check my false eyelashes too
Sparkly mascara, don't you love my kimpatsu?

>>> Look out world, here I come a glowing Yankii Girl <<<

Check out my boyfriend, he's got golden hair like me
He's so dreamy, in his shades looks like a young Beat Takeshi

On Saturday we go out driving in his Benz (his cool Black Benz)
Tinted windows so you can't see us texting to our friends

Hey let's meet at the convenience store
We'll hang out - that's what these summer Saturdays are for

Got some money, I work part-time in a salon
Got a chihuahua, he sits inside my Louis Vuitton

We're so happy, how lucky we are,
It's just a shame our apartment's not as big as our car
Track Name: The Hungry Ghosts, 飢える亡霊 (August, 8月)
Once a year we are allowed to come
The 15th day of the 7th moon
Come are we a pale, unwordly host
We are the hungry hosts

We envy those who are of blood and bone
For we are doomed to remember our own
So o-bon offers us a wondrous chance to dance

The ocean's woe to those who venture in
Those lost at sea will drag you in
And those took 'fore our time will seek your light
And visit you tonight

You come to pacify my spirit gone
With a sake cup, a persimmon
So every year you come, my willing slave
To sweep the dust from my grave
Track Name: Setsu, 節 (September, 9月)
{first verse}
One hand on the white ring
Head on shoulder, sleeping
Railway crossing
Head snaps to attention
Automatic reflex action

"Momonaku, uchi desu" {"Now approaching: my house"}
There's no phrase more beautiful
One of millions, I egress
Train doors open, I'm on my cycle

Home through the streets of my neighbourhood
See the moon, she nightly rides
As I do, each in different spheres
Such is the rhythm of life
Evening air is cooling
Scents of fish or curry cooking
Bodies refueling

{second verse}
Same in every town
Open windows breathe out sounds
Splashing baths, baseball crowds

Summer heat now Autumn's throng
Fields of rice grow knee-high
Last cicada sings his song
Waited years to accompany my ride


{Wake|Rise|Eat|Go out|Work|Come home|Play|Sleep}

{third verse}
Now down garden path
As daughter struggles with her math
And son plays in the bath
Open door to shut out city
Put on my slippers - they're Hello Kitty
Wife is pretty

"Tadaima" is what I say, {"I'm home"}
“O-Kaeri” comes the reply {"Welcome home"}
Simple words said every day
But words I long for every time I ride...

Track Name: Haiku, 俳句 (October, 10月)
{Haiku | 俳句 }
Leaves catch midday sun
Burning red, beautiful death
Seasons turn - Autumn
`'` '-._
1, 2, 3, 4 in the car, here we go
Ant-lines on the highway
Marching along to the rhythm of our in-car entertainment AV systems

City air is infected, but air-con protected,
A film strip of concrete flickers fast past our windows
Slowly grey gives way, we're on our way to

{ C h o r u s }
See the leaves, the beautiful leaves
They make me feel easy, connected to nature
And I snap a hundred pictures
so I can enjoy them year round on my desktop

{ 俳句 }
Melancholy I
Gaze upon, soon gone, mellow
red yellow colours

Here 'mongst the trees, glad to be Japanese
Safe amongst the thousands of individuals like me,
who buy a souvenir, some snacks to prove we've

{ C h o r u s }
Been to see the beautiful leaves
Makes us feel easy, they're part of our nature
Then it's back in the car, and back home, and upload to our desktops

{ 俳句 }
Green's gone, life goes on
Falling leaf, beauty's so brief
First leaf falls - AUTUMN
Track Name: Harvest (This Is What We Do), 収穫 (November, 11月)
Let's all go down to the fields
Mother nature turns her wheel

Leaves have turned, that's how we tell
Bring the shrine, strike the bell

Draw the lots, it's time to fight
Spirits will smile on us tonight

Drums will sound and crowd goes wild
Shrines surge forward and collide

Villages gather at this spot
The night is cold but the sake's hot
Track Name: Cosplay, コスプレ (December, 12月)
{first verse}
Face as pure as freshly fallen snow flakes on my umbrella lace
Goose bumps underneath black petticoat above black knee-high stockings

Winter’s chill, it bites yet I endure it because
Fashion is my passion though
2 hours it takes to make my face this perfect
...but it’s totally worth it

I wear my uniform all week
At school I act like I’m a geek
But, oh, on Sunday: cosuplay

{second verse}
Takako, my friend, she’s しろ ろり to my gothic lolita
Monochrome in stereo & hand in hand we walk our small town

Shopping mall, 'Last Christmas' elevator tune
accompanies us as we walk
The おばあちゃん stare at us severely
wondering why we dress so weirdly

We wear our uniforms all week
At school I’m studious and meek
But, oh, on Sunday

{middle bit}
Some day I will lose my way
Harajuku streets, shops, crowds and noise
Somewhere where Takako and I mix with
ヴィジュアル系, ガングロ, punk - we all cosuplay

{third verse}
Photo flash, one day you’ll dress this way, through fashion show the world the real you
All おばあちゃん, salary men, office ladies, mums and kids and teachers too

We wear our uniforms all week
Though the world thinks we are geeks
Oh, on Sunday
Oh, on Sunday...
Track Name: Kotatsu No Shita Ni, こたつの下に (January, 1月)
{first verse}
Fuyu - ichiban - sabishii - kiSETSU (Winter is a lonely season)
Soto wa - samui - boku wa - ureshii (Outside it's cold; I am happy)

Ashi ga atatakai, atatakai ga (My legs are warm, they're warm but)
Atama o sukkiri sasete kuru (My head is clear)
boku wa ureshii, ureshii (I am happy, happy)
Kotatsu no shita ni (Under the kotatsu)

{second verse}
Washitsu no naka ni (In the tatami room [traditional Japanese-style])
nooto wa kotatsu no ue ni tsukatteru (I'm using my laptop on the kotatsu)

Online de tomodachi to iroiro hanashi o shite iru (Chatting online with my friends about all sorts of things)
"Koko wa samui yo" ("It's cold here")
"Anata no tokoro wa dou?" ("How is it where you are?")
Tada boku no iken ga Fuyu wa sabishikunai yo ("IMHO winter isn't lonely at all")


{third verse}
kouinya no gotoshi (Time flies like an arrow)
mou asa go ji da (It's already 5am)
sugu ni shigoto ni ikanai to (Gotta get to work soon)
so shite tomodachi ni bai bai to iu yo (So, I say bye to my friends)
soto wa samui demo (It's cold outside but...)

Track Name: Practice Perfect, 習うより慣れろ (February, 2月)
Follow the father, trade passed to me at birth
Now I have hands that are stained with clay of this earth

Secrets are handed down
As the potter's wheel spins round
Moulding each son
Like this pot shaped from clay

"Practice makes perfect" - creed that my father preached
He always added: "Perfection can never be reached"

Every artisan
Geisha, painter, shakuhachi man
Is bound to create
Like this potter's son of clay

Even though I worry about the future
My son shows no interest in the craft
I said, "One day, my boy, a potter you'll be"
He just laughed

His life's games of mahjong, pachinko and bars
Spends all his money on his bleached-blonde girlfriend and cars

BUT such thoughts are winter's cold
Warmed by the kiln's red fire
Fuelled by the heat of my father’s, his father's,
Thousands and thousands
Of pots fired in years gone by

Secrets will be handed down
As the potter's wheel spins round
If not son then daughter
Like a pot shaped from clay
Track Name: Karesansui, 枯れ山水 (March, 3月)
{first verse}
Black veins of a leafless tree
Silhouette the cold blue sky
Shadow creeps slowly 'cross the melting snow at my feet
Marking time in black and white

Look - here comes that shabby traveller, he's weird but polite
He bows to me, then unloads his supplies
Comes here each year, sits by the tree, gets out his pipe
As as he starts to play I realise

First - pink - shows - breaking through the snow

{first chorus}
Temple garden: climb the hill to see
Temple garden: nice view of the sea for anyone who comes

{second verse}
I tend the trees and sweep the paths, done it since my husband died
The priests seem happy for me to lend a hand
I try to rake the rock garden too
I'm no good but it satisfies making patterns in the sand and stone

See - deep - sense - I have to laugh at my attempts but

{second chorus}
Karesansui: planets, rivers, hills
Karesansui: the pleasure it instills in everyone who comes

And on perfect evenings such as this one
Big red sun, misty ocean horizon
People climb up the hill, throw a coin into the box
And they sit and contemplate the stones and rocks
Salary man, Yankee girl, eighty or eighteen
People look and see meanings that I didn't mean to mean
Differences so unexpected are the very things by which we are all connected

They all leave and life goes on
And I wonder who will tend the garden when I'm gone