Collaboration Update #1


Japanese calligraphy
Japanese drawing of man with shamisen and woman. Meme text at top: What key?


Noriko and I are getting to know each other and connecting about our Nikkei experiences. Similarly, when we were both small children, we did Nihon-buyō (Japanese dancing). It made me reminisce about all the very Nikkei moments I have had, especially with culture, martial arts, and festivals. Lots of this was happening and observed at the Powell Street Festival in Vancouver (taiko, musical performances, other martial arts demonstrations), and all these experiences were either very hyper feminine or hyper masculine (judo… I did this when I quit dancing until age 12 or so). I’ve attached some of the dancing photos.

We have also started to explore nagauta style of song/singing with “Otsukisama”, which translates to Dearest Moon or the highest regard you can give when referring to someone/something, “-sama” being “master” when adding as a suffix to someones name. I’ve started to hear this with notable and natural things in Japan too, like Mount Fuji, people refer to the great mountain as “Fujisama”. So maybe this means, “Oh great Moon”, or something. You can find the lyrics and the general translation Noriko provided me. The melody is simple and lyrical and flows a bit more from what little I know about nagauta at this point. 

Noriko also shared with me about 40 other songs. I’m so fascinated by these sounds and the sincerity that is inherent in this style. The only song I know is called “Echigo Jishi” which means “Echigo’s Lion”. And I only know about this because in a recent project of mine that explores Madama Butterfly (an opera by Puccini) and the Japanese melody he appropriated uses this melody a lot. In its original form, the song is much more drawn out, and it’s so long! Probably 13 minutes or so… There’s a droning quality in the voice with little decorative melismas the singer does right after that change pitches, which is further supported by shamisen, shakuhachi, koto. I’ve seen it performed in various combinations now on YouTube.

I’ve also added a drawing of this famous song in there too, which I love. Another fun fact, “Echigo” is the old or ancient word of the place where my father was from in Japan – Niigata, on the north coast Sea of Japan.

– tk

Photo of little girl in kimono
Girls in kimonos dancing behind Powell Street banner
Photo of people in kimonos and festive clothing
Vintage Japanese print of acrobat with dragon mask doing handstand

作曲者 吉住 小三郎
作詞者 中内 蝶二
発表 大正7年(1918年)

Nagauta「The Moon」Lyrics

Moon Goddess, how old are you?
十三 七つ
It has been 7 years since I become a woman at the age of 13. (or this may possibly mean 13 years and 7 months old)

You are still young
and never get old.

You become crescent moon
and full moon.

月の初めの 三日月さまは
Crescent moon at the beginning of each month
まゆににたとよ 姉さまの
looks like my older sister’s eyebrow,
えがおににおう ほそまゆに
the thin eyebrow matching her smile.

You also look like a comb (semicircular in the past).
青柳の 濡れていろます 洗い髪
Washed hair has richer color due to its dampness and looks like a green willow.
おしろいつけて べにつけて
Putting white face powder and rouge.
すがたくずさぬ みだしなみ
Keeping the appearance well.
The mirror reflecting them is very round.

That is full moon in the middle of a month.

Partial moon in dark sky with tree branch in foreground
Illustration of full moon with field of grain in foreground