japonisme: Am I to gang ba-are-foot?

22 December 2008

Am I to gang ba-are-foot?

JAPANESE CHILDREN are accustomed to lots or toys. They have their games and nursery rhymes galore. Their "Mother Goose" is centuries older than ours; in fact, it is said that Japanese mothers used to recite its jingles long before Columbus discovered America. (new york times 1908)

どんぐり ころころ どんぶりこ!
おいけに はまって さあ たいへん!
どじょうが でてきて "こんにちは!"
"ぼっちゃん, いっしょに あそびましょ!"

Acorn bowl is small and round thing rolling!
Now you go out into the most!
Loach have been in the "Hello!"
"Son, ASOBIMASHO together!"

も~もたろさん, ももたろさん
おこしに つけた きびだんご
ひとつ わたしに くださいな

あ~げましょう, あげましょう
これから ぼくと おにたいじ
ついて~ くるなら あげましょう

- MOTARO also said, she MOMOTARO
One is to me, please

Fetus in the future and I
If you happen to come about --

あめ あめ ふれ ふれ かあさんが~
蛇の目(じぁのめ) で お迎え (おむかえ) うれしいな ~
ピッチ ピッチ! チャップ チャップ! ラン ラン ラン!

Bandy bandy candy from a candy KAASAN
Bull's-eye (ANOME time) to pick up (meeting) is pleased to
Pitch Pitch! Chap chap! Run Run Run!

むすんで ひらいて
手をうって むすんで

また ひらいて 手をうって

むすんで ひらいて
手をうって むすんで

また ひらいて 手をうって

むすんで ひらいて
手をうって むすんで
MUSUN to come flying in
MUSUN hand in the fire

The thick hands that come flying
On their hands

MUSUN to come flying in
MUSUN hand in the fire

The thick hands that come flying
I get to the bottom

MUSUN to come flying in
MUSUN hand in the fire

forgive me forgive me
the translations are google's
they're senseless indeed --
please help if you can!
but no more senseless
than the english ones
with meanings lost in their births.

but for you, dear reader, they're gifts
i hope you enjoy them.
the whole book, a volland, of course,
is here. much more on the japanese rhymes are here.

drawings were in children's books: the rhymes belong to each culture alone, but the earliest japonisme -- greenaway, caldecott, and crane were far earlier than richardson, but the tradition is clear.

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Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

Lovely images , all of them.

23 December, 2008 12:13  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks dom. thought it was a good season for 'em.

23 December, 2008 13:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty, pretty!

23 December, 2008 13:38  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

welcome, sam, and i'm so glad you like them.

i'm amazed at the persistence of the wording of so many of these rhymes

23 December, 2008 15:04  
Blogger PIGNOUF said...

Joyeux Noël Lotusgreen...:)

23 December, 2008 22:28  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

and the same to you, my friend pignouf

23 December, 2008 22:35  
Blogger Neil said...

Japanese lullabies, nursery rhymes, and play rhymes are wonderful – full of sharp images and surreal touches. I first came across these treasures of world poetry in one of the great poetry anthologies, The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse, translated by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite. This was first published in 1964; my copy was purchased in 1970, when I was 15, and it opened up a whole world to me. Even then I was very struck by their decision to incorporate traditional children’s rhymes within the corpus of Japanese poetry. Here’s one of there translations of a rhyme from Shimane:

Huge snowflakes dancing down,
Great hailstones spattering.
At the back door
Dumplings are boiling,
Red beans are seething.
The hunter is returning,
The baby is howling,
And I can’t find the ladle -
What a life, what a life!

I realise now that in recognising the poetic value of the Japanese nursery rhyme, Bownas and Thwaite were simply following the example of Lafcadio Hearn. His Japanese Lyrics of 1915 contains a good selection of ‘lullabies and children’s verse’. Among other collections of Japanese folk lyrics on my shelves are the wonderful Japanese Peasant Songs by John F. Embree (1945), the 3-volume French L’Expression Poétique dans le Folk-Lore Japonais by Georges Bonneau (1933), Songs for Children Sung in Japan by Yukuo Uyehara (1940), and Folk Songs of Japanese Children by Donald Paul Berger (1969). I have to say I can’t find any of the rhymes you give in any of these sources. But here are some different versions of the traditional firefly rhyme, which Embree says is ‘a song sung mostly in spring and early summer… often used by boys as a call to each other’.

Ho-ho-hottaru koi
Sochi no mizu wa
Nigai zo
Kochi no mizu wa
Amai zo
Hotaru no yama kara
Hottate koi
(Japanese text from Kuma, as recorded by Embree)

Come, firefly, I will give you water to drink., The water of that place is bitter; the water here is sweet.

Firefly, firefly,
Come and get some water here.
Water there is very bitter;
Water here is very sweet.
So – firefly, firefly,
Come and get some water here.
(Uyehara, who gives a second verse and credits the poem to Kazumasa Yoshimaru, but the first verse is traditional)

Ho-ho fireflies, come.
The water over there
Is bitter,
The water over here
Is sweet.
From the mountain of fireflies

Oi! Oi! Firefly, here!
The water there’s all bitter,
The water here’s so sweet!
Oi! Oi! Firefly, here!
(Bownas & Thwaite)

Hoi! Hoi! Firefly,
Come over here!
The water there
Is bitter,
The water here
Is sweet.
From firefly mountain
Come here
To me.
(my amalgamation of the above texts)

And here’s a pat-a-cake rhyme, in my version based on a text in Embree, to be sung by two children sitting opposite each other and clapping hands.

Hanako is crying,
Whatever shall we do?
Down her tears are pouring,
Her sleeve’s soaked through.
We can’t wipe the tears off,
The sleeve’s too wet.
Let’s wash her kimono,
Poor little pet.
Let’s wash her kimono,
And wring it dry.
Now we’ve wrung her kimono,
Let’s hang it high.
Time to fold her kimono
And put it away -
A neatly folded kimono
To wear another day.
Oh! Her folded kimono
Has been found by the mice.
Nibble, nibble, nibble,
That tastes nice!

28 December, 2008 04:14  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

neil--you're so amazing -- thank you! i hadn't even though of hearn; i only knew of his stories, and i was never certain how genuine to the culture they were.

28 December, 2008 09:23  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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