Water Lilies song by Yoshida Chiaki

Video link: http://youtu.be/bfGs7GSdrXE

My friend in Niigata recently posted this video of a choir singing Hitsuji-gusa or Water Lilies. What’s significant about this obscure song from 1915 is that its melody was used in the much more famous song, Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song), Shiga’s most famous and beloved song (read about it here).

The university rowing club boys in Kyoto who wrote Biwako Shuko no Uta in 1917 found that Hitsuji-gusa’s melody matched their lyrics well, and the rest is history.

When you watch this video, you will notice that the melody sounds very similar to Biwako Shuko no Uta. (Or should I say that Biwako Shuko no Uta sounds very similar to Hitsuji-gusa.) Hitsuji-gusa was composed by a very talented young man named Yoshida Chiaki (吉田 千秋 1895-1919) from Niigata Prefecture. The lyrics are his Japanese translation of an old British children’s song called Water Lilies. He then composed a melody to match his Japanese lyrics. The song is about holding firm in times of adversity, just like the water lilies can even in a rainstorm. Chiaki composed the song while he was battling tuberculosis. He later died of the disease at age 24 in 1919.

For many years, no one knew who composed the melody for Biwako Shuko no Uta. When Kato Tokiko scored a national hit with Biwako Shuko no Uta in 1971, people started to wonder who composed the melody. It was known that the lyrics were written in 1917 by Oguchi Taro and his fellow university rowing club buddies in Kyoto. Many people assumed that Oguchi also composed the melody. Every 5 or 10 years or so after 1971, researchers found out a little more about the composer of the music. First they found out which song the melody came from. A few years later around 1980, they found the name of the composer, but didn’t know who he was.

Finally in 1993, after over 20 years of digging, the composer’s identity was brought to light. Chiaki turned out to be the second son of a famous geographer (Yoshida Togo). Chiaki was also found to be a brilliant young man who took interest in many things like astronomy, zoology, botany, and foreign languages. He had a good command of English and several other languages. If he hadn’t died so young, he likely would have become one of Japan’s leading scientists or professors. (Read my article about Chiaki here.)

The video above was taken at a memorial gathering on the anniversary of Chiaki’s death in Feb. 2013 at Chiaki’s birth home in Niigata city. A choir called Koai Gassho no Kai (小合合唱の会) sang a few songs including Hitsuji-gusa and Biwako Shuko no Uta. Chiaki’s home is now occupied by his niece, the daughter of Chiaki’s younger brother. I visited the house in 2007 and the niece showed me the room where Chiaki spent his final days. (Photos here.)

In 2001, an organization named Chiaki no Kai (「ちあき」の会) was formed to perpetuate, preserve, and honor Yoshida Chiaki’s numerous works and legacy.

Here are the lyrics of the original British children’s song followed by Chiaki’s song. There are three verses.

Water Lilies, by E.R.B. (Education & Resettlement Bureau)

Misty moonlight, faintly falling
O’er the lake at eventide,
Shows a thousand gleaming lilies
On the rippling waters wide.

White as snow, the circling petals
Cluster round each golden star,
Rising, falling with the waters,
Moving, yet at rest they are.

Winds may blow, and skies may darken,
Rain may pour, and waves may swell;
Deep beneath the changeful eddies
Lily roots fastened well.

Hitsuji-gusa (ひつじぐさ), by Yoshida Chiaki

おぼろ月夜の 月明かり
かすかに池の 面に落ち
波間に浮かぶ 数知らぬ
ひつじ草をぞ 照らすなる
1 (Romanized)
Oboro tsukiyo no, tsuki akari
Kasuka ni ike no, omo ni ochi
Nami ma ni ukabu, kazu shiranu
Hitsuji-gusa o zo, terasu naru
雪かとまがふ 花びらは
黄金の蘂を 取り巻きつ
波のまにまに 揺るげども
花の心は 波立たず
2 (Romanized)
Yuki ka tomagafu, hanabira wa
Kogane no shibe o, tori makitsu
Nami no ma ni ma ni, yuruge domo
Hana no kokoro wa, nami datazu
風吹かば吹け 空曇れ
雨降れ波立たて さりながら
徒波の下 底深く
萌えいでたりぬ ひつじ草
3 (Romanized)
Kaze fukaba fuke, sora kumore
Ame fure nami tate, sari nagara
Adanami no shita, soko fukaku
Moe idetarinu, hitsuji-gusa

The video below is the same choir singing Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song). Listen and compare.

Kyoto International Photo Showcase 2011


Updated: Our group photo exhibition in Kyoto went very well. It was great meeting people and explaining about our pictures and work. Thank you to all who came to see us.

Photos of the exhibition here:

Exhibition details:
I organized a group photo exhibition in Kyoto held on Nov. 16-20, 2011 at the Kyoto International Community House in Kyoto, near Keage Station (5 min. by Tozai Line subway from Yamashina Station). The exhibition room was open from noon to 7 pm (till 5:30 pm on the 20th). We had a gathering on Nov. 19 (Sat.) at 5 pm – 7 pm and on Nov. 20 (Sun.) at 4 pm – 5:30 pm when the public was invited to meet the artists. Free admission.

The theme was “Home Sweet Hometown.” Many of us foreigners in Japan have lived here for so long that Japan has become our second hometown. We love our hometowns in Japan so much that we often photograph it. We shall now share some images of our beloved hometown. I showed photos based on the Lake Biwa Rowing Song (Biwako Shuko no Uta). I have shown these pictures at various places in Shiga, but this was the first time for me to show them in Kyoto.

Also, Bruce Osborn showed Maibara Oyako (Parent-Child) Portraits. They come from the exhibition he is currently having at Maibara Station until March 2012.

Most of the other artists are based in Kyoto showed mainly Kyoto.

Featured Artists
Micah Gampel: “My Furukiyoki” self-portraits with friends in Kyoto. Very amusing collection of prints.
Peter Macintosh: Huge mural of Kyoto geisha photos taken over the past 10 years.
Motoyasu Matsutani: Pretty pictures of Kyoto.
Peter Miller: Copperplate photogravures of furusato scenes in Japan such as Shirakawa-go and Kamakura.
Philbert Ono: Introduction of Shiga’s hometown song, Lake Biwa Rowing Song. (Biwako Shuko no Uta) created by Kyoto University Rowing Club members in 1917.
Bruce Osborn: Maibara (Shiga Prefecture) Oyako (Parent-child) portraits taken in the four seasons.
John Wells: Mixed media (oil painting, sumie painting, etc.) of Kyoto scenes/objects.

Kyoto International Photo Showcase 2011

The Japan Times inserted a nice announcement for our show in the Nov. 13, 2011 issue:

The Japan Times, Nov. 13, 2011, page 2 (National News)

Spo-rec Shiga 2008

Jamie and Megan Thompson sang “Lake Biwa Rowing Song” (Biwako Shuko no Uta) at Spo-Rec Shiga on Oct. 18, 2008 at Kibogaoka Park in Yasu, Shiga Prefecture. The performance was part of the side entertainment on the opening day of the sports festival. The MC was Chiho Ono, a friend and radio personality at e-radio (FM Shiga) which organized this stage entertainment.

Afterward, I went to see the Sports Recreation event at Kibogaoka Park. They had the opening ceremony. Many people were there from all 47 prefectures and South Korea too.

It’s a great event and Kibogaoka Park is a perfect place. Many food booths, health/sports booths, stage entertainment, and Caffee. There are new sports which you can try out too. Lots of things for the kids. I highly recommend visiting Kibogaoka Park during Oct. 19-21.

Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/displayimage.php?album=718

Event notice: Sports Recreation Shiga 2008

The Sports Recreation event will be held in Shiga during Oct. 18-21, 2008. On the first day Oct. 18 at Kibogaoka Park in Yasu, there will be some entertainment on a side stage called スポレク「夢」ステージ near the Nishi-guchi west gate during 9:30 am to 11:15 am.

During this entertainment time, we will appear and sing “Lake Biwa Rowing Song“(Biwako Shuko no Uta in English) on this outdoor Yume stage at around 10:20 am. Jamie and Megan Thompson will sing the song. If you have time, please come down to see us.

On the same day, the Spo-rec opening ceremony will start on the center stage at 12:30 pm. From JR Yasu Station, there will be free shuttle buses going to the park every 10-15 min. Note that if the weather is bad, the show will be canceled. Light rain will be no problem though.


スポレクの開会式の日、10月18日(土)に希望が丘文化公園内に「夢」ステージで色々な団体が9:30-11:20 amに出演します。 私たちは、10:20ごろに出演して「琵琶湖周航の歌」英語版を披露いたします。歌うのはジェイミーとメゲン・トンプソンの双子姉妹。


会場: 滋賀県立希望が丘文化公園内 スポレク滋賀2008会場内 県民ステージ)
主催: エフエム滋賀
Tel: 077−527−0814

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