竹田の子守唄 : A Burakumin Folk Song from Japan

I’m a huge fan of using folk music to learn languages. Folk songs tend to have simple, poetic lyrics, and they can give you a sense of another culture in more ways than popular music, which tends to be more international in theme.

This song is called Takeda no Korobiuta, or Lullaby of Takeda. The narrator is a little girl, lamenting over her tragic state in life. She is burakumin, part of the outcast community at the bottom of the Japanese social order. She has just been sent from her home to tend to a wealthy family’s baby. Kind of a downer of a song, but I’ve listened to it countless times.

[Lyrics from Wikipedia]

Romanized Japanese[edit]

Mori mo iyagaru, Bon kara saki-nya
Yuki mo chiratsuku-shi, Ko mo naku-shi

Bon ga kita-tote, Nani ureshi-karo
Katabira wa nashi, Obi wa nashi

Kono ko you naku, Mori wo ba ijiru
Mori mo ichi-nichi, Yaseru-yara

Hayo-mo yuki-taya, Kono zaisho koete
Mukou ni mieru wa, Oya no uchi
Mukou ni mieru wa, Oya no uchi

Japanese


守も嫌がる 盆から先にゃ
雪もちらつくし 子も泣くし

盆が来たとて 何嬉しかろ
帷子は無し 帯は無し

この子よう泣く 守をばいじる
守も一日 痩せるやら

早よも行きたや この在所越えて
向こうに見えるは 親の家
向こうに見えるは 親の家

English translation

I would hate baby-sitting beyond Bon Festival,
The snow begins to fall, and the baby cries.

How can I be happy even when Bon Festival is here?
I don’t have nice clothes or a sash to wear.

This child continues to cry and is mean to me.
Every day I grow thinner.

I would quickly quit here and go back
To my parents’ home over there,
To my parents’ home over there.

***

 

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