Being a student at a world-class university isn’t the easiest task out there. Ever since the dawn of humankind, sorrow has been lurking in the shadows. What do you do when it comes knocking on your door? Do you have enough tools and strength to fight it?

To me, the journey towards achieving an academic degree is much like any action-adventure video game: you succeed in nearly impossible tasks while gaining many skills, techniques and tools along the way. The more items you collect, the stronger you perform at the final stage. Lest you forget, the health bar is the decisive factor in your survival.

As a researcher, there may be many factors taking major hits at your health bar: rejected manuscripts, failed applications, denied internships, harsh emails… you name it! What’s important is knowing how to heal from the taken damage in a variety of different ways, in case one does not work.

One of the ways through which I mentally heal myself is listening to music. There are in fact plenty of songs in different languages and genres reminding me that it’s not over, keep trying, chin-up, and smile!

You might have heard by now that “Music is the universal language of mankind”[1]. No matter from which country or in which language a song originates, and despite not understanding a single word of the lyrics, it may touch you emotionally. However, understanding the lyrics brings about a wholesome experience.

Incidentally, there are several humanities and social science courses you can take at Tokyo Tech, which can help you broaden your knowledge on and strengthen your bond with music and poetry. In my case, the courses called ‘Our’ Sounds: Music, Society, Community and Japanese Poetry did the job. In these courses, in addition to learning various concepts and viewpoints on music and poetry from professionals, there are many opportunities to engage in deep discussions and learn perspectives of students from many different countries. The diversity in class discussions and group work bring to life the true experience of comprehensive learning.

From left, Can (Turkey), Amin (Iran) and Andres (Mexico) giving a voluntary group presentation; ‘Our’ Sounds: Music, Society, Community course; Fall 2019.

Courtesy of my compassionate Japanese friends, I have been gradually introduced to many Japanese songs over the past years – many of which carry plenty of inspirational and motivational messages. Here is my take on a few of them, to be used in tough days:

  1. My Way ((わたし)(みち))

Artist: Anna

Genre: J-Pop

Year: 2022

Comparing yourself to others may sometimes demotivate you or make you lose hope. It’s easy to spot one’s success, but not so easy to see the long and challenging road they took to become successful. In this song, we are reminded to:

(だれ)かと(くら)べて(おち)()んで            そんな自分(じぶん)はもう()めるの

Stop comparing yourself with someone and feeling down

上手(うまく)くいかない()だってある それでも明日(あした)()っている

There may be days that don’t go well. Regardless, wait for tomorrow

Did you wake up today, determined to read this blog? Who knows what tomorrow will bring to your doorstep? Don’t give up just yet! Create your own path to success, and shine!


Keep going, reach out to the unforeseen future


Be your true self, and shine!

2. Fate (宿命(しゅくめい))

Artist: Official HIGE DANdism

Genre: R&B Soul / J-Pop

Year: 2019

As far as the story of your life goes, you are the main character. Regardless of the appearance of your hard work, don’t forget that you will shine brightly in the end.

奇跡(きせき)じゃなくていい (うつく)しくなくていい

It doesn’t have to be a miracle. It doesn’t have to be beautiful


Your purpose will shine bright

In times when things do not go as expected, confidence and motivation fall like dominoes. But again, you are the main character and shining star, not the anxiety which tries to steal the show. Stand tall and remind everyone of your strength.

緊張(きんちょう)から不安(ふあん)芽生(めば)えて ()(はえ)るみたいに

Anxiety grows from tension, tries to dominate and control us

(ぼく)らを支配(しはい)する そんなものに()けてたまるかと

But I will not let such a thing beat me

3. The Road ((みち))

Artist: GreeeeN

Genre: Hip-Hop Rap / J-Pop

Year: 2007

Every once in a while when challenges mount up, I question the reason why I am going through them. However, I quickly find the answer by reflecting on my previous experiences where striving to fight certain challenges led to a successful outcome, either promptly or eventually.

どんなに(つら)いような(とき)も (せわ)しなく()ぎていく日々(ひび)

No matter how painful the time, as the days go by restlessly

明日(あした)へと(つづ)いた(みち)で (ひと)(ひと)つが(いま)(きみ)

Every single one is a road that leads you to tomorrow

どんなに(とき)(すぎ)()っても ()して(わす)れないその(みち)

No matter how much time passes, you will never forget that road

またとない時間(じかん)(なか)で (こた)えが()えるから

Because you will see the answer at an unexpected time

4. Why don’t you laughわらえれば

Artist: Ulfuls

Genre: Alternative rock / J-Pop

Year: 2002

I find the overall message of this song related to a well-known adage in my language (Persian), commonly translated as “this too shall pass”. Regardless of how difficult your day is, it will eventually pass and be over. Therefore, in the end, why don’t you smile anyway and welcome a happier tomorrow?

とにかく(わら)えれば 最後(さいご)(わら)えれば

Why don’t you laugh anyway   why don’t you laugh at the end of the day

(なさ)けない(かえ)(みち) 「ハハハ」と(わら)えれば

On your way back home from a tough day, why don’t you laugh out loud (ha ha ha)

5. With a Smile (笑顔(えがお)のまんま)

Artist: BEGIN

Genre: J-Pop / Blues (Okinawan)

Year: 2009

Have you ever found yourself unintentionally smiling, out of seeing a beautiful smile on someone’s face? It’s contagious, isn’t it? This song is a package of positive energy, and delivers a simple yet impactful message:

(ぼく)(わら)いを(きみ)にあげるから (きみ)笑顔(えがお)(ぼく)にください

I give my smile to you, so            show me your smiling face

A beautiful give-and-take, yet it’s all free!

6. Don’t Give Up (()けないで)

Artist: ZARD

Genre: Rock / J-Pop

Year: 1993

I am sure this song has helped many demotivated souls to get back on track in the many years it has lived. Even after the artist’s passing, the message will continue to motivate those in need, including myself:

()けないでもう(すこ)し 最後(さいご)まで(はし)()けて

Don’t give up. Just a little more; run until the end

()けないでほらそこに ゴールは(ちか)づいてる

Don’t give up. Look, right there, the goal is getting closer


Chase your infinite dreams

It is said that without goals, dreams will remain dreams, and forgetting about the goal will certainly bring you one step closer to giving up. One way to regain power and stand up again is to remind yourself what you are fighting for, and how much it means to you.

This was only a selection of songs, but the list surely goes on and on. I always, with open arms, welcome song suggestions from my friends, so I’m looking forward to hearing yours.

[1] Attributed to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.