Kyoto University’s Biwako Shuko no Uta 100th anniversary celebration

Unveiling the new song monument at Kyoto University. (記念碑除幕式)

京都大学「琵琶湖周航の歌」誕生百周年記念事業の報告

After the epic 100th anniversary celebration of Biwako Shuko no Uta in Shiga with a Lake Biwa rowing trip and concert in June 2017, it was Kyoto University’s turn to celebrate. On November 25, 2017, they unveiled a new song monument on campus and held a lecture session, music festival, and party. It was an all-day affair from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. coinciding with the university’s annual school festival called “November Festival.”

Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song) was created in June 1917 by rowing club members (especially Oguchi Taro) at an old elite university called Daisan Koto Gakko (No. 3 High School, nicknamed “Daisanko” or “Sanko” 三高) which merged with Kyoto University in 1949. Kyoto University has since adopted the legacy of Sanko by absorbing the Sanko campus (now the Yoshida-South Campus right across from the Main Campus), the rowing club, and adopting Biwako Shuko no Uta as one of the university’s official songs.

The Kyoto University Rowing Club (KURC) has a very active and dedicated alumni association called Noseikai (濃青会), which means “Dark Blue Association,” named after the rowing club’s official color of dark blue. (Their oar blades are dark blue.) This association spearheaded the planning and execution of the university’s celebration of the song’s 100th anniversary and also greatly helped with Shiga’s 100th anniversary song celebration in June 2017 which included a four-day rowing excursion around Lake Biwa by KURC alumni. They also helped to raise funds to build a new song monument on campus. Much of the fund-raising was done by the university’s water sports clubs (rowing, yachting, canoeing, and swimming).


Video

I took photos and videos of Kyoto University’s celebration and compiled the highlights in a 66-min. video that includes English subtitles. The video includes excellent concert performances of Biwako Shuko no Uta and Lake Biwa Rowing Song by the Kyoto University Glee Club and Kyoto University Symphonic Band. There’s also flashback footage from the Lake Biwa rowing trip in June 2017.(京都大学「琵琶湖周航の歌」誕生百周年記念事業のダイジェスト版動画)

Video link: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI

Quick Links(動画早送りリンク)
Song monument unveiling(記念碑除幕式): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=3m51s

Lecture (Iida Tadayoshi)(講演会): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=11m

Hitsuji-gusa (Glee Club): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=16m46s

Nara no Miyako (Glee Club): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=17m41s

Introduction of Okaya and Niigata guests: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=19m16s

Lecture (English version 英語版): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=22m21s

Thompsons’ message: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=27m41s

Lake Biwa Rowing Song (Glee Club): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=28m46s

Lecture (Murai Yoshiko 資料館): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=30m9s

Music festival(音楽祭): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=32m50s

Biwako Shuko no Uta (Symphonic Band): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=33m36s

Speeches (Kawazoe Shinsuke, Koshi Naomi, Hiraoka Shoshichiro): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=37m22s

Sanko Alumni and Himawari Choir: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=40m54s

Mandolin Guitar Ensemble Kaguya: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=48m23s

What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor (Glee Club): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=50m58s

Biwako Shuko no Uta (Glee Club): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=53m53s

Biwako Shuko no Uta audience finale: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=56m35s

Party(懇親会): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=1h2m26s

Acknowledgements: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=1h4m56s

If you don’t have time to watch the video, you can continue reading to see photos instead. Links to the respective video footage are also provided below.


New Biwako Shuko no Uta song monument at Kyoto University
京都大学の「琵琶湖周航の歌」記念碑
New song monument

Front side of the new Biwako Shuko no Uta song monument at Kyoto University.

Kyoto University’s 100th anniversary celebration of Biwako Shuko no Uta started with the unveiling of a new song monument on the Yoshida-South Campus (the former Sanko campus) at 11:00 a.m. on November 25, 2017. (Video here.) This campus is right across the road from the main campus (and main gate). (See map and directions below.) Built to commemorate the song’s 100th anniversary, the new song monument is a beautiful, double-sided, stainless-steel panel with a brushed-metal finish.

The front side has the Japanese lyrics (all six verses) overlaid on a recent photo of Kyoto University Rowing Club members rowing on Lake Biwa. The uncredited calligraphy of the Japanese lyrics on the song monument was done by Ichihara Atsushi (市原 厚), a KURC alumnus who has been publishing a kiri-e calendar for the song every year (sold at the Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan song museum in Imazu). The lower part has a Japanese explanation about the song and a photo of Oguchi Taro (right) who wrote the lyrics and Yoshida Chiaki (left) whose melody was used for the song. This is my English translation of the explanation(記念碑の表面の解説の英訳):

Daisan Koto Gakko (No. 3 High School) rowing club member Oguchi Taro left in June 1917 (Taisho 6) on a fixed-seat boat to row around Lake Biwa. On the second day on June 28, they stayed at a ryokan in Imazu.

That evening, he composed a draft of a rowing song that started with “Ware wa Umi no ko” (We’re children of the lake). They sang it to the melody of Hitsuji-gusa (Water Lilies), a popular song at the time composed by Yoshida Chiaki. The melody matched the song well and they sang it together.

The song was well received at student gatherings. This is how Biwako Shuko no Uta became a college dormitory song of Sanko (Daisan Koto Gakko).

Today, the song continues to be sung by the university’s rowing club when they row around Lake Biwa and by many people at Kyoto University and class reunions.

Also, as a song expressing affection for Lake Biwa, the song is lovingly sung by people in Shiga Prefecture and across Japan.

To mark the 100th anniversary of Biwako Shuko no Uta, we built this monument here.

Heisei 29 (2017)

From the late 19th century, dormitories at Japan’s elite universities started a tradition of creating their own “dormitory songs” to be performed at their annual dormitory festivals. Dormitory boarders sang the song together at dormitory festivals and student gatherings. While most of these songs fell into obscurity, some dormitory songs like Biwako Shuko no Uta continue to be sung.

Rear side of the song monument.

Rear side with rowing map and English lyrics. 地図と英語歌詞

The rear side of the song monument shows a bilingual Lake Biwa map of the rowing route taken by Oguchi and his rowing mates in June 1917 and my Lake Biwa Rowing Song English lyrics (all six verses).

Members of the KURC alumni association (Noseikai) initially proposed building this song monument for the song’s 100th anniversary. There were already song monuments in Shiga and Okaya, Nagano Prefecture, but none at Kyoto University. So they thought the university should also have a monument.

The university agreed to have the song monument on campus, but it required the monument to also include English lyrics. At first, the alumni association wondered where they could obtain English lyrics, but they soon found my English version of the song. They contacted me in 2016 and asked for my permission to use my English lyrics. I said, “YES, YES!! Please do so!!” “You can use it for free! No charge!!” And so they did.

Kyoto University has been pushing to become more international and more attractive for international students. So they wanted a monument that international students could also understand. I was very impressed to hear this. A song monument in Japan with both Japanese and English lyrics must be extremely rare. I haven’t seen one until now.

The current Kyoto University President is Yamagiwa Juichi who speaks English. He has traveled the world to study primates and gorillas as a way to learn more about early humans and their evolution. So he’s very internationally oriented. Having someone at the top with an international outlook helps a lot.

I’m certainly very honored and delighted to see my English lyrics on a monument. Monuments are usually built to point out something (or someone) that is important. So monuments naturally attract people’s attention. It’s important for a monument to be easy to read and in a good location where people can see it. This new monument meets both of these conditions.

It was the Verse 1 song monument in Mihogasaki, Otsu that first piqued the interest of Iida Tadayoshi, the foremost song researcher (since 1974) who has written a few books about Biwako Shuko no Uta. And I also first learned about the song when I saw a statue of composer Oguchi Taro and a song monument in Okaya, Nagano Prefecture. So song monuments can be very worthy to have. I wonder if there’s any other song in Japan that has this many monuments for it in three prefectures.

I’m very hopeful that this new monument will pique the interest of both Japanese and non-Japanese students in the song and in Shiga. I believe the song’s story, background, melody, and vivid depiction of Shiga can fascinate any young mind. The monument also has a QR code that you can scan with your mobile device to access the rowing club’s official 100th song anniversary website where you can learn more about the song and watch song videos in both Japanese and English.

Map and directions to new song monument

Here’s a map of the exact location of the new song monument (and the other song monuments). Zoom in on Kyoto. From JR Kyoto Station, get out the Karasuma exit (Kyoto Tower side) and go to Bus Stop D2 to board bus No. 206 bound for Kitaoji Bus Terminal. Get off at Kyodai Seimon-mae (京大正門前). The ride takes about 35 min. The main campus will be across the street from the bus stop, and the entrance to the Yoshida-South Campus is across the road facing the main campus.


Lecture Session (記念講演会) (Video here)

After the unveiling of the song monument, we had lunch and moved to the Kyoto University Clock Tower Centennial Hall for an hour-long Lecture Session (including performances by the Kyoto University Glee Club) starting at 12:30 pm.

Iida Tadayoshi

Song researcher Iida Tadayoshi appeared on video as the keynote speaker. 飯田忠義 「琵琶湖周航の歌」研究家、元NHKチーフアナウンサー

The main speaker was song researcher Iida Tadayoshi. He is the foremost authority on the song. A lot of what we know about the song and the composers is due to his research. He talked about how the song was created by Oguchi Taro and how the Hitsuji-gusa melody by Yoshida Chiaki was adapted to it.

Due to health reasons, Iida sensei was unable to appear in person so he appeared in a video lecture. Video here. After his lecture, the Kyoto University Glee Club sang Hitsuji-gusa (Verse 1) composed by Yoshida Chiaki and Nara no Miyako (Verse 1) which was the song whose melody Oguchi originally considered using for Biwako Shuko no Uta. Video here.

my talk

Video message from Jamie and Megan Thompson.

I was the second speaker, taking about 10 min. to mainly show slides of people who helped and encouraged me before and after I finished writing the English lyrics. Since Jamie and Megan Thompson (who sang Lake Biwa Rowing Song) could not make it to Japan in Nov., I showed a one-minute video message in Japanese from them. Video here.

After my talk, the Kyoto University Glee Club beautifully sang the first verse of Lake Biwa Rowing Song. (Video here.)

Yoshiko

Murai Yoshiko talked about the Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan.

The third and last speaker was Murai Yoshiko, the director of the Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan song museum in Imazu. She used slides to explain about the museum near JR Omi-Imazu Station and encouraged everyone to visit. Video here.


Music Festival (記念音楽祭) (Video here)

After a 30-min. break, the Music Festival (Ongakusai) started at 2:00 p.m. in the same Clock Tower Centennial Hall (capacity 500) as the Lecture Session. Part 1 had the Kyoto University Symphonic Band, Kyoto University Glee Club, Himawari Choir (from Otsu), and Mandolin Guitar Ensemble Kaguya perform or sing Biwako Shuko no Uta and a few other songs.

Part 2 featured a 40-min. talk show by singer Kato Tokiko. The finale had all the performers appear on stage to sing Biwako Shuko no Uta together with the entire audience. The finale was led by Kato Tokiko and the music festival ended at 4:30 pm.

Kyoto University Symphonic Band opened the music festival with Fanfare and played Biwako Shuko no Uta. 京都大学吹奏楽団 Video here.

Short congratulatory speeches were also given by three dignitaries:

Shinsuke Kawazoe, Kyoto University Executive Vice-President (substituting for Kyoto University President Juichi Yamagiwa). 川添信介 京都大学理事・副学長(山極壽一総長の代理)Video here.

Otsu Mayor

Otsu Mayor Koshi Naomi mentioned that Otsu City Hall plays the song to signal the end of the work day, resulting in a decrease of overtime by almost 30%. Video here.

Takashima

Shoshichiro Hiraoka, Deputy Mayor of Takashima (substituting for Mayor Masaaki Fukui), promised to perpetuate the song to the next generation. Video here.

Sanko alumni sing with Himawari Choir from Otsu. 旧制第三高等学校OB + 大津市ひまわり合唱団 Video here.

Sanko alumni wave their school flag. The Sanko logo has a cherry blossom with three stripes.

Mandolin

Mandolin Guitar Ensemble Kaguya. マンドリンギターアンサンブル香久夜 Video here.

Mandolin

Mandolin Guitar Ensemble Kaguya. Great performance.

Kyoto University Glee Club sang What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor (video here) and Biwako Shuko no Uta (video here). 京都大学グリークラブ .

A short break after Part 1.

finale

Led by Kato Tokiko, everyone sang Biwako Shuko no Uta in the end. Video here.

Tokiko

Singer Kato Tokiko and Kada Yukiko on stage during the finale.


Party (懇親会) (Video here)

After the music festival, attendees had the option to attend the party from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm on the 2nd floor of the Clock Tower Centennial Hall. This was when we could finally mix and socialize. It was nice meeting and talking with people from Oguchi Taro’s hometown and Yoshida Chiaki’s hometown and rowing club alumni. Very few women though.

Kada Yukiko gave a short speech at the start of the party.

Yacht

Yacht Club showed slides of KURC’s original boat house in Otsu.

alumni

Kyoto University Rowing Club alumni. These three tall men almost represented Japan at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne.

everyone

In the end, everyone sang the song with Mandolin Guitar Ensemble Kaguya.

remarks

Noseikai chairman Yoshida Tamotsu gave closing remarks. “Nothing made me happier than rowing…” 吉田 保 京都大学ボート部濃青会 会長

The celebrations of Biwako Shuko no Uta’s 100th anniversary in Shiga and Kyoto were quite spectacular. It has spread awareness of the song as a precious hometown asset. Shiga has so few famous hometown songs, and even its most famous one is in danger of being forgotten since it’s not really taught in schools.

Where I come from, there are many, many beloved Hawaiian songs (and dances) that continue to be sung for generations. I cannot imagine growing up in a place that lacks popular hometown songs. It shapes your identity and affinity with your hometown. It would be a major cultural loss if Shiga allowed Biwako Shuko no Uta to fall into obscurity. It is by far Shiga’s most nationally famous song.

It’s comforting to see more people singing the song in Japanese or English. They are posting on YouTube. Anyone is welcome to sing the song in Japanese or English. I still wish John Denver lived long enough to record it. His voice matches the song extremely well.

Thank you to everyone who made the 100th anniversary celebration a great success.

本当に素晴らしい記念事業でした。皆さんお疲れ様でした。

Related video:

Related links:

感 謝
Acknowledgements

京都大学
山極 壽一 総長
川添 信介 理事・副学長
「琵琶湖周航の歌」誕生百周年記念事業実行委員会
京都大学ボート部
中村 佳正 京都大学ボート部長
京都大学ボート部 濃青会
吉田 保 京都大学ボート部濃青会会長
伊藤 七郎

旧制第三高等学校OB

小島 安紀子
尾城 徹雄
青野 正治

京都大学医学部ボート部・芝蘭会艇友会
京都大学ヨット部
京都大学カヌー部
京都大学水泳部・京泳会
ヨットクラブ神陵・京大神陵会

京都大学グリークラブ
京都大学吹奏楽団

その他の京都大学側の関係者・支援者

琵琶湖周航の歌資料館 全スタッフ(2004年以来)
澤田 浩(琵琶湖周航の歌資料館 元館長)
村井 佳子(琵琶湖周航の歌資料館 館長)
びわ湖高島観光協会

故 前田典夫(みちお)

琵琶湖周航の歌100周年記念事業実行委員会
嘉田 由紀子(代表)
加藤 登紀子
小坂 育子
北川 陽大(〜Lefa〜)

飯田 忠義

小口太郎顕彰碑等保存会(長野県岡谷市)
Naoko Nakamura
吉田ゆき (新潟)
ちあきの会

朗読劇団ムサシ(滋賀県高島市)
森本純一(代表)

中日新聞(滋賀版)
毎日新聞(滋賀版)
その他の報道陣

Jamie & Megan Thompson
日永 真梨子
菊井 了・近藤 ゆみ子(レイクリード)
Chikage Fujii(滋賀県湖南市)

その他の関係者・支援者・協力者・友人・親戚・ファン

小口太郎
吉田千秋

Biwako Shuko no Uta 100th Anniversary

Rowing on Lake Biwa with Mt. Ibuki and Chikubushima in the background. (June 26, 2017)

June 2017 was the 100th anniversary of Biwako Shuko no Uta (琵琶湖周航の歌 aka Lake Biwa Rowing Song), Shiga’s most famous song and one of Japan’s best hometown songs.

To mark this milestone, a series of events were held in late June 2017 in Shiga. They included a four-day rowing excursion around Lake Biwa during June 24–27, a choir contest in Imazu on June 25, the unveiling of a new song monument in Nagahama on June 25, and a major concert at Biwako Hall in Otsu on June 30. I didn’t see everything, but I did get a glimpse of the major events.

The rowing excursion was named Nazori Shuko (なぞり周航) which means “Tracer Rowing Excursion.” It traces the rowing route the Kyoto college boys took in 1917 around Lake Biwa, going clockwise from Otsu and on to Omi-Maiko, Imazu, Chikubushima, Nagahama, Hikone, Omi-Hachiman, and back to Otsu. The rowers lodged in Omi-Maiko, Imazu, and Hikone. The rowing excursion was largely organized by Kyoto University Rowing Club’s alumni association (Noseikai 濃青会) with the cooperation of water sports organizations and fishing cooperatives in Shiga. About 120 rowing club alumni took turns rowing on three modern boats designed for long-distance rowing.

For four days, they rowed from around 5 a.m. until early afternoon. This is when the lake waters are most calm and air temperatures are cooler. The rowing excursion also had the participation of local people (住民参加). At times, the rowers were escorted by yachts, canoes/kayaks, and even standup paddleboarders. And at each major stop, the rowers were greeted by local folks including taiko drummers, dancers, and other well-wishers. The rowers also sang the song at each song monument around the lake.

The four-day rowing excursion started at Otsu on June 24, 2017. The rowers started out at the Kyoto Univ. Rowing Club boathouse on Seta River at 5 a.m. and stopped by here at Mihogasaki, in front of the rowing club’s original boathouse in 1917. They left Mihogasaki at around 7 a.m. as people cheered.

At Mihogasaki, Otsu Mayor Naomi Koshi (center) and former Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada (event committee chairperson) saw the rowers off. The man with the flag is an alumnus of the old No. 3 High School (university) (第三高等学校) that merged with Kyoto University. The old school’s logo with a cherry blossom and three stripes is on the flag and old boathouse.

Rowers pass by Ukimido Floating Temple in Katata, Otsu.

Taiko drummers greet rowers at Omi-Maiko.

Rowers sing “Biwako Shuko no Uta” on the white-sand beach at Omi-Maiko. This is where they lodged the first night.

Official T-shirts were also sold to the public. They came in white, dark blue, and green. Orange T-shirts were reserved only for the rowers. The back says “Ware wa Uminoko” (We’re children of the lake) and the front had a small 100th anniversary logo (insert).

On June 25, the second day, rowers leave Omi-Maiko and head for Imazu up north.

Rowers pay their respects at Shirahige Shrine in Takashima, famous for the torii in the water.

Rowers receive a warm welcome as they arrive at Imazu, the song’s birthplace. The large banner on shore reads, “Welcome to Imazu!” (ようこそ!今津へ)

Imazu’s annual Biwako Shuko no Uta choir contest was also held on June 25. After arriving at Imazu, the rowers went to the concert hall (Takashima Shimin Kaikan) and went on stage with singer Kato Tokiko and Kada Yukiko (in green) to sing the song as guest singers.

Kada Yukiko and singer Kato Tokiko at the center of the singing rowers swaying on stage.

Also attending the choir contest were these three alumni from the old No. 3 High School which merged with Kyoto University in 1949.

After singing at the choir contest, the rowers walked to Imazu Port and sang in front of the song monument. A busy day, but it wasn’t over yet.

Biwako Shuko no Uta song museum (琵琶湖周航の歌資料館) in Imazu had special exhibits about songwriter Oguchi Taro and composer Yoshida Chiaki. The museum sells CDs of the song (including the English version) and the museum staff is very friendly.

Very nice to see yoshibue reed flute players from Takashima greeting visitors at Omi-Imazu Station during June 24–25, 2017. They continuously played only the rowing song. Their flutes are made of Lake Biwa reeds grown in Harie, Takashima. 針江よし笛


New song monument for Biwako Shuko no Uta Verse 3 unveiled in Nagahama on June 25, 2017. (長浜歌碑・除幕式)

Also on June 25, a new song monument in Nagahama was unveiled in Hokoen Park near the lake shore near Nagahama Castle (map here). In summer 2016, a  group of Nagahama residents formed a nonprofit (長濱歌碑でつなぐ会) to plan, design, finance, and build this new monument. They solicited donations to help foot the cost of about ¥8 million. Although they weren’t able to get more than ¥4 million in public donations, they somehow managed to pay for the new monument in full.

Since Nagahama is a noted glass maker, they decided to make the new monument out of glass made in Nagahama. The new monument also functions as a park bench where you can sit and watch the sunset over the lake. It is perhaps Japan’s most expensive park bench. Seating four people, the glass bench is engraved with Verse 3 of Biwako Shuko no Uta where it mentions Nagahama. (“Today is Imazu or, Nagahama, huh.”)

The opening ceremony was held at around 5:30 p.m. for sunset, but it was too cloudy. The ceremony was attended by a substantial crowd who came to see singer Kato Tokiko, former Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko, Nagahama Mayor Fujii Yuji, and local singers Kitagawa Akihiro and Matsuura Yoko help unveil the new monument.

Earlier in the day in Nagahama, they held stage entertainment and boat cruises with local singers. (Couldn’t see any of it because I was in Imazu.)

June 25 (Sun.) was the busiest day because it was the closest weekend to the actual 100th anniversary on June 28. That night, I went back to Imazu and stayed at a hotel near the station.

While holding a copy of the concert program, singer Kato Tokiko gave a few words and mentioned the 1st Biwako Ongakusai music festival to be held on June 30 in Otsu. Holding the PR poster is Kitagawa Akihiro, ~Lefa~ vocalist.

Kitagawa Akihiro and Kato Tokiko sing behind the new song monument and later everyone released balloons.

Verse 3 of Biwako Shuko no Uta is engraved on the center segment of the glass bench. Bolted down in concrete and made of solid glass, it is a park bench shaped like a boat. The top is wavy like water, inspired by nami-makura (rolling with the waves) in the song.


The rowers prepare to depart Imazu at around 5 a.m.

On June 26, the third day of the rowing excursion, I checked out of my hotel near Omi-Imazu Station at 4:30 a.m. and joined the Kyoto University Rowing Club’s official photographers on a fishing boat. We followed the rowers from Imazu to Osaki, Chikubushima, Nagahama, and Hikone and kept our cameras busy.

Alumnus of the old No. 3 High School (第三高等学校) at Imazu to see off the rowers at around 5 a.m. He was also at Otsu. At the center of the cherry blossom is the kanji for “san” (three).

They first rowed from Imazu to Osaki where they would change rowers.

This boat is named “Uminoko” (Child of the Lake). The other two boats are named “Tomari-bi” (Light/Fire on Shore) and “Sazanami” (Lake Ripples). They are named after a key word or phrase found in the song.

The three boats they used belong to the Kyoto University Rowing Club. Thanks to donations from rowing club alumni, they were built in Shiga several years ago and designed especially for long-distance rowing around the lake. The boats have sliding seats and are quite stable in the water. They can also expel water automatically. It’s a far cry from the wooden, fixed-seat boats they used 100 years ago.

The boats are normally used by freshmen members of the Kyoto University Rowing Club to row around the lake every summer.

Rowing toward Chikubushima on a sparkling lake. Luckily, the weather was good during the four days.

On sacred Chikubushima island, non-rowing alumni sing the song in front of the Verse 4 monument while the three boats solemnly look on. This was around 8 a.m. I wish more people could have witnessed this most interesting and unusual scene, but it was well before the arrival time of tourist boats. Besides myself, only a handful of official and press photographers were here to see this. The Mainichi Shimbun reporter hired his own boat just to photograph this.

Mt. Ibuki in view as they row toward Nagahama.

Our friendly boat captain knew well about lake currents and conditions. The waves got a little rough off Nagahama and slightly flooded the boats. Also on our fishing boat was the BBC (Biwako Broadcasting Co.) cameraman. The NHK TV crew also hired a fishing boat to film the rowers. In July, both BBC and NHK aired special TV programs about the rowing trip.

After reaching Nagahama at around 11 a.m., the rowers sing the song next to the new Verse 3 monument at Hokoen Park near Nagahama Castle. Nagahama was also a lunch break.

The song leader (大杉耕一) directs the singing, backed by many local dancers (日本3B体操協会 滋賀支部). The new park bench song monument is behind him.

Rowers pass by Hikone Castle.

In front of the Verse 5 monument at Hikone Port, former Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko (event committee chairperson) asserted that the “old castle” mentioned in the song must be Sawayama Castle (Ishida Mitsunari’s castle) instead of Hikone Castle since the latter was never attacked (“sharp arrows buried deeply”). She’s got a valid point, but I’ve always assumed that it included all the old castles in eastern Shiga (Hikone, Nagahama, Sawayama, and Azuchi). This is another thing I love about the song. We can all have our own interpretations of it.

After reaching Hikone Port in the early afternoon, the rowers sang in front of the Verse 5 song monument. They sang here again in the early evening with a local school band and lodged in Hikone.

I had fun following and photographing/filming the rowers on the lake, but I declined to follow them again on the next (last) day. (Too much sunburn.)

On June 27, the fourth and last day of rowing from Hikone to Otsu, they took a break at Omi-Hachiman (near the song monument at Horikiri Port) and even danced the Goshu Ondo (folk dance native to Shiga).

Rowers finally return to the Kyoto University Rowing Club boathouse on Seta River in Otsu at around 5 p.m. It was a long haul taking about 12 hours. They changed rowers four times.

In front of the Kyoto University Rowing Club boathouse (Seta Karahashi Bridge in the background), rowers sing the song after a safe and successful four-day rowing excursion. Congratulations to all!
*Thanks to Tetsuo Oshiro for providing some of the photos on this page.

Major newspapers like Chunichi Shimbun covered the 100th anniversary events. (Click on image to enlarge.)


The rowing excursion was soon followed by the 1st Biwako Ongakusai (Music Festival) held on June 30, 2017 at Biwako Hall in Otsu. It was organized by a committee led by former Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko and produced by singer Kato Tokiko who made Biwako Shuko no Uta a national hit in 1971. Headlining the concert were top artists Miyazawa Kazufumi (Shima Uta was fantastic), Gospellers, the Tokiko Band (great musicians), and ~Lefa~ from Nagahama. The first half had local youth groups and choirs from Shiga, Kyoto, and Osaka. The second half featured the headlining artists and Kato Tokiko herself.

This is the first Biwako Music Festival and they plan to hold this concert annually around Lake Biwa in the places mentioned in the song. So next year in 2018, it will be held in Omi-Maiko at Biwako Seikei Sport College whose president is former Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko. Then in Imazu in 2019. Kato Tokiko will be the producer of the annual concerts. It will take several years before the concert is held in each place mentioned in the song.

One major objective of the Biwako Music Festival is to perpetuate Biwako Shuko no Uta to the younger generations since it is not really taught in schools in Shiga. That’s why you will see local youths performing as well.

At the 1st Biwako Ongakusai Music Festival, a short film about the rowing excursion was shown while concert goers entered the concert hall. It also mentioned the English version of the song and showed footage of our mini concert held in Imazu in April. The short film was shot and edited by Biwako Broadcasting Co.

The 45-page Ongakusai program booklet included this two-page article I wrote about Lake Biwa Rowing Song. I was honored to explain why and how I created the English version. (Click image to enlarge. Sorry, I don’t have it in English yet.)

The concert was held in Biwako Hall’s beautiful Large Hall seating about 1,800. This is ~Lefa~ performing in the audience area for their first number.

~Lefa~ vocalist Kitagawa Akihiro (北川 陽大) also sang “Lake Biwa Rowing Song” in English. His partner Kono Hiroyuki (河野 弘行) played keyboard. Performing at Biwako Hall was their biggest venue so far, a dream come true.

At the end for the finale, all the performers got on stage and sang Biwako Shuko no Uta. So nice to see so many young people singing the song. The audience also stood up and sang.

At the center are the former and current Shiga governors, Kato Tokiko, and other headlining artists all singing Biwako Shuko no Uta.

It was a wonderful concert showcasing a wide variety of music and artists, both amateur and famous. We look forward to the next concert next year in Omi-Maiko.

Otsukaresama and thank you to Kada Yukiko, Kato Tokiko, Kyoto University Rowing Club and their alumni association (濃青会), and everyone else who worked so hard to plan, coordinate, and execute these memorable events like never before. It got many local people involved and I was honored and happy to take part.

This hometown song must definitely be perpetuated to current and future generations. It’s an important part of Shiga’s history and cultural heritage and should be designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property (重要無形文化財). I hope that local educators and parents will come around and realize how precious this song really is to Shiga. Showcasing not only pretty scenes in Shiga, but also life itself. And the melody is classic and timeless. The story behind the song and its creators is also most fascinating. At the same time, the song retains an aura of mystery and intrigue.


On April 16, 2017, we at shiga-ken.com also celebrated the song’s 100th anniversary by holding a Lake Biwa Rowing Song mini concert in English in Imazu. Jamie and Megan Thompson visited Shiga for this occasion and we also had Kikui Satoru and Kondo Yumiko play yoshibue reed flutes as a duo named “Lake Reed.” Here are two videos of our event:


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


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

Commemorative events in Shiga are largely over, but not in Kyoto. Kyoto University will be celebrating the song’s 100th anniversary on Nov. 25, 2017 with the unveiling of a song monument plaque on campus and a lecture (by song researcher Iida Tadayoshi) and concert during their autumn school festival. I will be attending as well and looking forward to meeting guests from Okaya, Nagano (songwriter Oguchi Taro‘s hometown) and Niigata (melody composer Yoshida Chiaki‘s hometown).

Update: Here’s my blog post and video of Kyoto University’s celebration of the song’s 100th anniversary on Nov. 25, 2017.

PR flyer for Kyoto University’s 100th anniversary song event on Nov. 25, 2017.

The Japan Post Office issued a sheet of stamps to mark the 100th anniversary of Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song). Available while they last at post offices in Shiga.

Related links:

Olympic athletes from Shiga Prefecture in Rio de Janeiro

がんばれ!ニッポン!

Updated: Aug. 20, 2016

The Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics in Brazil will be held on August 5–21, 2016 (Paralympics on Sept. 7–18). Out of 300+ Olympic athletes from Japan, the following Olympians are from Shiga Prefecture. To see when they will appear, click on “Olympic schedule” (NBC website). This link will also give the athlete’s results as they come in.
滋賀出身・滋賀ゆかりのリオデジャネイロのオリンピック選手を応援しよう!

KIRYU Yoshihide (桐生祥秀), Track (Men’s 100 meters)

Kiryu (b. 1995) is one of Japan’s major track stars and native of Hikone, Shiga Prefecture. A top-notch sprinter since 2013. He’s often in the news. Started running from when he attended Minami Junior High School in Hikone. His record time in the 100 m is 10.01 sec. and 9.87 sec. His track mates like Aska CAMBRIDGE are also awesome runners and it’s impossible to say who will prevail in Rio.

English bio | Japanese bio | Twitter | Olympic schedule & result

OTA Yuki (太田 雄貴), Fencing

Hailing from Otsu, Ota (b. 1985) won the national fencing championship while in elementary school and junior high. He went on to win the national high school championships (Inter-High School Championship) three years in a row. Graduated from Doshisha University. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, he became the first Japanese to make it to the finals in fencing and brought home a silver medal. He gained national attention for winning the team silver medal at London. Then in Sept. 2013, he was in the spotlight again as a member of the JOC trying to get the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo. When “Tokyo 2020” was announced, his joyful face made national headlines. At the 2015 World Fencing Championships, he won the gold medal in the Men’s foil event. Ota is ranked No. 1 in the world as of the 2015-16 season.

English bioJapanese bio | Olympic schedule & result

Kimura Saori at London 2012. (By Gary Howden from Brighton, United Kingdom)

Toray Arrows: KIMURA Saori, SAKODA Saori, TASHIRO Kanami (木村沙織、迫田さおり、田代 佳奈美), Women’s volleyball

Three members of the Otsu-based Toray Arrows women’s volleyball team will be in Rio. Both Kimura (b. 1986) and Sakoda (b. 1987) played in the London Olympics where they won the bronze medal. Tashiro (b. 1991) is from Ritto, Shiga. Influenced by her mom who played, she started playing volleyball from 1st grade and joined Toray Arrows in 2009. Meanwhile, the 185 cm-tall Kimura will be the national team’s captain in Rio. She will be the first Japanese volleyball player to play in four consecutive Olympic games. A real veteran and major volleyball star. The Japan women’s national volleyball team (Hinotori Nippon, 火の鳥NIPPON) is currently ranked 5th in the world. The Toray Arrows belong to the V.Premier League, Japan’s top volleyball league. The team is owned by Toray Industries, a major textile maker with factories in Shiga. Their home court is Toray Arena in Otsu.

English bio (Wikipedia): Kimura | Sakoda | Tashiro
Japanese bio (Wikipedia): Kimura | Sakoda | Tashiro
Japanese bio (Arrows): Kimura | SakodaTashiro
Facebook | Website (English) | Olympic schedule & result

INUI Yukiko (乾 友紀子), Duet synchronized swimming

Inui Yukiko (b. 1990) is an Omi-Hachiman native who started synchronized swimming from the 1st grade. At age 16, she placed 3rd in the solo competition at the Junior World Championships. Graduated from Omi Kyodaisha High School in Omi-Hachiman and Ritsumeikan University. Together with her duet partner KOBAYASHI Chisa (小林千紗), she won the national championship for duet synchronized swimming in 2009 and placed 3rd in the World Cup in 2010. The pair competed together in the 2012 London Olympics and placed 5th. Wish her luck in Rio for a medal.

English bio Japanese bio | Olympic schedule & result

NISHIMURA Ayaka (西村 綾加), Women’s Hockey

Ayaka and Minami (from Maibara's website).

Ayaka and Minami (Photo: Maibara website).

Ayaka (b. 1989) is from Maibara (Ibuki). Yay! She started playing hockey after seeing her older brother and sister play. (Maibara is a hockey hotbed.) She has been playing for the Hiroshima-based Coca-Cola West Red Sparks hockey team since 2012. She appeared in the 2015 World League semi-finals.

English bioJapanese bio | Olympic schedule & result

SHIMIZU Minami (清水 美並), Women’s Hockey

There’s not one, but two Olympian women hockey players from Maibara. And both are from Ibuki. How about that. I’ve heard that the folks in Ibuki are making a big deal out of this. Minami (b. 1993) graduated from Ibuki High School and plays for the Sony HC BRAVIA Ladies hockey team based in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture. She’s actually one of nine players from Sony HC BRAVIA going to Rio to play on Japan’s women’s hockey team (dubbed “Sakura Japan”). Her position is FW. What a thrill it must be for both of them to be in Rio. Something that will bond them for the rest of their lives.

English bioJapanese bioFacebook | Olympic schedule & result

ISEDA Megumi (伊勢田 愛), Women’s Windsurfing

Charming girl (b. 1987) from Takashima, Shiga Prefecture. The kanji character for her first name is pronounced “Megumi” instead of “Ai.” Interesting that her father ran a windsurfing shop in Takashima so she was exposed to the sport since childhood. But ironically, she didn’t care for it until she went to college. While at Doshisha University, she won the All Japan collegiate championship. She qualified for the Rio Olympics by placing 21st at the 2015 RS:X World Windsurfing Championships held in Oman. She always practiced windsurfing on Lake Biwa and wants to promote windsurfing at Biwako. While practicing in Rio in July, a school of dolphins surprised (welcomed?) her.

English bioJapanese bioBlog | Olympic schedule & result

KAZUNO Kenta (数野 健太), Badminton

Native of Otsu, Kazuno (b. 1985) attended Hie-zan High School and Nihon Univ. He specializes in badminton doubles. Joined UNYSIS in 2008. He won the mixed doubles at the 2015 All Japan Championships. He also won the Osaka International Challenge doubles three times in a row, won the Polish Open Men’s Doubles in 2015 (with Yamada Kazushi), and won the Malaysia Masters Men’s Doubles (with Yamada Kazushi). He is the captain of Japan’s badminton team in Rio. Let’s see if he can continue his winning streak in Rio.

English bioJapanese bioFacebook | Olympic schedule & result

HAYAKAWA Kenichi (早川 賢一), Badminton

Another badminton Olympian from Otsu. Hayakawa (b. 1986) has been playing badminton since elementary school. Attended Hie-zan High School and Nihon Univ. Like Kazuno Kenta, he belongs to UNYSIS and specializes in badminton doubles. Men’s doubles runner-up (with Endo Hiroyuki) at the 2016 All England Super Series Premier.

English bioJapanese bioOlympic schedule & result

*Marathon runner KITAJIMA Hisanori (北島寿典) was born in Koka, Shiga, but moved to Maebashi, Gunma as an infant.

KIMURA Keiichi (木村 敬一), Paralympics Swimming

Born in Ritto in 1990, Keiichi has been totally blind since age 2. From 4th grade, he took up swimming. He made the Japanese Olympic team in Beijing in 2008 and in London 2012. In London, he won the silver medal for the 100 m breaststroke and bronze for the 100 m butterfly. Rio will be his third consecutive Paralympics.

English bioJapanese bio | Olympic schedule

MIYAJI Mitsuhide (宮路 満英), Paralympics Equestrian

Last but not least is an amazing story and struggle behind 58-year-old Miyaji Mitsuhide joining the Paralympics for the first time. Originally from Kagoshima, Miyaji is a former race horse trainer at the Ritto Training Center and lives in Konan. In 2005, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side and affected his speech. As part of his rehabilitation, he took up equestrian activities. With much struggle and support from his wife, he got good enough to enter the Rio Paralympics.

English bio | Japanese bio | Twitter | Facebook | Video | Olympic schedule

GOOD LUCK to all the athletes in Rio!!

Japan Olympic Team Facebook | JOC (English)

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