Lake Biwa Rowing Song mini concert in Imazu 2017


Video link: https://youtu.be/9G94IppUiiE

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Shiga’s most famous and beloved song, Biwako Shuko no Uta (琵琶湖周航の歌), shiga-ken.com held a special mini concert in Imazu on April 16, 2017 with the cooperation of the Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan song museum (琵琶湖周航の歌資料館) and Imazu Port in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture.

The highlight was twin sisters Jamie and Megan Thompson at Imazu Port singing Lake Biwa Rowing Song (English version of Biwako Shuko no Uta) to the accompaniment of Lake Biwa reed flutes (yoshibue) played by Lake Reed (レイクリード), a duo consisting of Kikui Satoru (菊井了) and Kondo Yumiko (近藤ゆみ子). The result was stupendous and oh so pretty, both in sight and sound on a beautiful day in front of a blue Lake Biwa at Imazu Port. Watch the 5-min. video embedded above and see for yourself.

It was only our second time to perform at Imazu Port. The last time was on June 3, 2006 when we first introduced and performed Lake Biwa Rowing Song in public. For this second time, I decided that instead of staging a repeat performance of what we did in 2006, we should do something different. Having Lake Biwa reed players join us was perfect. It turned out that it was the first time for Lake Reed to perform together with multiple singers.


Video link: https://youtu.be/PjnY67sIcqE

We also held an indoor mini concert at the Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan song museum. The performance of Lake Biwa Rowing Song was repeated and followed by three pretty songs by Lake Reed. Watch the 23-min. video embedded above.

20170416_7244a

Jamie & Megan Thompson together in Japan for the first time in 8 years.

Our mini concert turned out to be a media event with coverage by Asahi Shimbun, Chunichi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, and Yomiuri Shimbun newspapers. I came prepared for the media with these T-shirts I designed and gave to Jamie and Megan to wear. I also gave them Biwa pearl necklaces (closeup photo below).

20170404_6994

Lake Biwa pearl necklaces.

I had these Lake Biwa pearl necklaces custom-made for this day. I found a freelance accessory maker in Otsu named “Malble” (pronounced like “Marble”) who was making earrings using this Lake Biwa-shaped, gold-colored accessory. It says, “Always With You.” (Like Lake Biwa is always with you.) I had her make these necklaces strung together with a medium-size Lake Biwa pearl. They came out very nice at reasonable cost.

20170416_7243

Rehearsing inside the song museum before going to Imazu Port.

Since summer 2016, prominent people and organizations in Shiga and Kyoto announced plans to hold Biwako Shuko no Uta 100th anniversary events in 2017. I also wanted to take part in these events.

So I asked Jamie and Megan (who sang Lake Biwa Rowing Song in English in 2006 while they were working in Japan as JET Program ALTs), if they could visit Japan in 2017 to participate in one of these anniversary events, especially in June (the song’s actual anniversary date) or November (Kyoto University’s main anniversary event).

It turned out that they both could make it to Japan only in April 2017. Since there were no anniversary events in April, we held our own commemorative mini concert on April 16. Couldn’t let such a rare trip to Japan by both sisters go to waste.

The performance at Imazu Port started at around 1:30 pm after all the cruise boats left Imazu Port. It was mainly for me to shoot videos for a music video (embedded at the top). The media also took photos and interviewed us under a somewhat hot sun. We then moved to the nearby Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan song museum for an indoor mini concert and social gathering that lasted until about 4 pm.

The ever so helpful and cooperative Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan song museum allowed us to use their room on the second floor for our indoor mini concert. They also secured permission for us to perform at Imazu Port.

I didn’t really publicize this event since it was intended for only friends and invited guests and the local media. However, during the 2.5 months of planning, the event started to take on a life of its own as it morphed into something more substantial. I knew things like this never go according to plan, so I remained flexible and played it by ear.

As I expected, we ran behind schedule and were unable to do a few things that I had planned. But all-in-all, our event turned out very well with great weather, no accidents or illnesses, great videos and photos, and everyone having a fun time. Many people also went on the 3:30 pm Sakura cruise to Kaizu-Osaki afterward. I’m glad that it was worth coming to Imazu which is quite far for most of us.

20170416_7302

Jamie and Megan talk with the press. Back of the T-shirt is the CD cover and “Children of the Lake” below it.

Talking to the press took longer than expected since so many of them showed up and they had lots of questions. They also kept asking for my age which I declined to say since it was irrelevant. (Japanese newspapers always like to state the age of the people they write about. It has never happened in my case though.)

20150513_0399

Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan song museum, near Omi-Imazu Station. It has panel displays explaining the history and meaning of the song and a listening station where you can listen to many cover versions.

20170416JamieMeganKoryukai

Mini concert inside the song museum.

Our indoor mini concert started with Jamie and Megan singing Lake Biwa Rowing Song with Lake Reed playing Lake Biwa reed flutes.

20170416_7406

Lake Reed playing Lake Biwa reed flutes. They even brought a bundle of reeds (left) as a prop.

Lake Reed then performed three songs: Furusato (Hometown), Miyagete-goran Yoru no Hoshi wo (Look Up at the Night Stars), and Umi no Koe (Voice of the Sea). (Watch the video to hear them play.) They were brilliant. So pretty. Omi-Hachman resident Kikui Satoru was the person who actually invented the Lake Biwa reed flute in 2000. So he’s been playing it longer than anyone else in the world. We were so lucky to have him and his partner Kondo Yumiko perform for us. Everyone performed on a voluntary basis, no one got paid.

20170416_7335

Over 50 people attended our mini concert inside the song museum.

Mr. Kikui was also generous enough to bring 15 reed flutes to hold a sample lesson mainly for the kids who came. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for it. Sounds like I have to plan a follow-up event to make it happen.

20170416_7520

Kiyora playing the shamisen.

Our third performer was Kiyora, a third grader from Moriyama. She played the famous cherry blossom song, “Sakura, Sakura” with her shamisen. As a beginner, she played quite well.

20170416_7561a

Former Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada talks about the upcoming music festival in Otsu. Holding up the PR poster is Kitagawa Akihiro of ~Lefa~.

We were also honored to have former Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko attending our event. Being the president of Biwako Seikei Sport College in Omi-Maiko, she’s very busy. And yet, she made the time to hear us sing. We thank her for coming.

She and singer Kato Tokiko (who made Biwako Shuko no Uta a national hit in 1971) are organizing the 1st Biwako Music Festival (第一回びわ湖音楽祭) at Biwako Hall in Otsu on June 30, 2017. Tickets are still available as of this writing.

20170416_7578

Kitagawa Akihiro sings with Jamie and Megan.

Another special guest was Kitagawa Akihiro, vocalist and one half of the Nagahama-based duo ~Lefa~. Akihiro once studied in Canada, so he does have an interest in singing in English. He sang in English with Jamie and Megan impromptu. He has a very good voice, so I see great potential in him singing in English after I coach his pronunciation. It was the first time for me to meet Akihiro. I saw former Governor Kada’s Facebook video of him singing Lake Biwa Rowing Song in English so I invited him to our event. ~Lefa~ was formed in 2010 and they play all around Japan at shopping malls, local events, etc., and sing Biwako Shuko no Uta. They also often hold mini concerts at Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan song museum. The other half of ~Lefa~ is guitarist and keyboard player Kono Hiroyuki.

20170416_7743

In the end, the few of us who didn’t go on the cherry blossom cruise to Kaizu-Osaki remained to sing Biwako Shuko no Uta in a circle.

We were running an hour late. Most of the audience left at around 3:20 pm to catch the Cherry Blossom Cruise for Kaizu-Osaki departing Imazu Port at 3:30 pm. So only about 15 of us remained until we ended at around 4 pm. Everyone burst into smiles and started clapping after we finished singing the song in Japanese. It’s such a heartwarming song, and being from Hawaii where we have many, many renown hometown songs, I’m so glad Shiga has such a song. It’s been 11 years since we announced the English version, but slowly and surely, I see it catching on.

SongPostcards2017s

Lake Biwa Rowing Song set of 6 postcards given as a free memento to all attendees.

20170417_7874s2

Chunichi Shimbun newspaper was one of five papers that covered us (April 17, 2017 issue).

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

1
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
2
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
3
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

日本語

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:
http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=833

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.

http://www.pref.shiga.jp/edu/sporec/koso.html

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。

「夢」ステージは、希望が丘文化公園の西口の近くにあります(池の前)。そして中央ステージで開会式が12:30ごろ始まります。野洲駅から無料バスあります。

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

1 2 3 7