Japan from the inside out

Marching through Yamagata and Tokyo

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 9, 2010

ARE YOU READY for this musical mix? The Tohoku University of Art and Design in Yamagata City held a concert on Tuesday night with performances by two groups. The first was by the school’s taiko group, called Taishin (太悳), and the second featured an American bluegrass group called The Fox Hunt. Then they tried a jam session.

How’s that for hip in a regional city of 255,000?

You can hear for yourself what it sounded like in this short video. It starts with Taishin, follows with The Fox Hunt, and ends with them both. The MC is John Taylor, who’s in charge of the cultural exchange programs at the American consulate in Sapporo.

His idea was to have young people think about world peace through music. I don’t know how much of that went on, but the audience seemed to enjoy themselves, even though rain forced the event indoors.

Seeing this made me wonder if there wasn’t a Japanese music style that would make a better partner with bluegrass than taiko. You know, something like…chin-don! Besides, I was way overdue for a chin-don post.

But the Japanese were way ahead of me, as it turns out–by almost a century. In 1919, a teenager named Soeda Satsuki wrote some goofy lyrics about Tokyo that he called Painopainopai, that also became known as Tokyo-bushi. He borrowed the music to Marching Through Georgia, written by Henry Clay Work in 1865 about Gen. William Sherman’s March to the Sea at the end of the American Civil War. The tune was already popular in Japan when Soeda wrote the lyrics.

Here’s a version of Tokyo-bushi performed by Daiku Tetsuhiro—from Ishigaki on one of the smaller Okinawan islands—in chin-don style. Does it work? Is makizushi wrapped in seaweed? The scenes in the video are of Tokyo in the 1930s, including the Marunouchi, Ginza, and Asakusa districts.

Now for a comparison, here’s a video of Marching Through Georgia that combines two versions–the first by a bluegrass band, which lasts about a minute, and the second done marching style. Yeah, that’s Tokyo-bushi all right.

The singer in the second version, by the way, is Tennessee Ernie Ford. In short, a native Southerner is singing a song about the Union army burning its way through the Confederate South.

And for more on the wonderful world of chin-don, get clicky with the tag below.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

5 Responses to “Marching through Yamagata and Tokyo”

  1. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    Thanks for nice one. Unfortunately, Bluegrass and Taiko did not work here. Rhythmic concepts are not matching, resulting flat, monotonous flow. The initial two separate performances were cool enough.

    As to Tokyo Bushi, I remember my parents used to sing the chorus part – Ramechantara Gitchonchonde Pai No Pai No Pai! Pariko to Panana de Furai Furai Furai!

    This part of lyric has multiple interpretations from “pure non-sense” to Sanskrit. If Sanskrit, probably come from Buddhist Monk’s Dokkyo(読経), but I doubt it (or I favor pure non-sense).

    I used to take the last part as “Banana de Fry Fry Fry” and was surprised later when I found that some African people eat fried banana (actually, it tastes good).

    I enjoyed Daiku Tetsuhiro which reminded me of singing by Enomoto Ken’ichi who also made a hit of this song. I listened to T.E. Ford other than 16 ton for the first time.
    They also eat fried bananas in the Caribbean and Central America. One of my American friends married a woman from El Salvador, and they do.

    Daiku Tetsuhiro doesn’t have the greatest voice, but I have several of his CDs and like him. His latest has some Indonesian musicians on it.

    Try some of the other posts in the Music category too. There’s some cool stuff in there. At least I think so!

    – A.

  2. Roual Deetlefs said

    The French version …

  3. Roual Deetlefs said

    The Japanese version …

    Here’s a version of the song sung in French, by Moriguchi Hiroko. I upload it because I’ve always thought she was attractive in a goofy sort of way, but you have to watch her on TV or listen to her radio show for that.

    She has a weekly NHK radio show at night with two guys. They mostly talk, but I heard her sing a pre-war Japanese pop song with one of the other guys doing accompaniment with just acoustic guitar. It was quite good.

    – A.

  4. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    More recent Japanese version….

  5. Roual Deetlefs said


    Have you ever heard a version of this song in Japan ? Kinders van die Wind means Children of the Wind.

    No I haven’t, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist.

    – A.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: