The Tanuki Song

Tanuki are one of the most popular and ubiquitous of Japan’s magical menagerie.  There are few Japanese children who don’t know some variation of this popular tune:

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Tan tan tanuki no kintama wa

Kaze mo nai no ni bura bura

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Tan tan tanuki’s balls

Even without wind they blowing around

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Strangely enough, this song began as a American Christian hymn, “Shall We Gather at the River” written in 1864 written by American poet and gospel music composer Robert Lowry.

The song made its way to Japan in the 1970s when it was adapted into a popular enka song, which was then parodied into the children’s tanuki song.  The parody version is by far the best known in Japan today, with many unaware of the song’s origin.

Almost everyone sings the identical first verse, but depending on where you live in Japan you might have heard variations on the continuance.

This is the version I learned in the Kansai region:

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Sore o mite ita oya danuki

Onaka o kakaete wahha hha

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When hey saw that, the tanuki parents

laughed so hard their bellies shook.

 

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In truth, there are probably as many variations as there are groups of children in Japan, with new ones being created every day.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Paul DeShaw
    May 18, 2016 @ 19:50:13

    More alternative words to this tune, courtesy of Secretary Michael of the Machinist’s Union: http://machinistsunion.org/songs/SH046.html They have secularized words for many hymns, with peace and justice themes prevailing.
    The page has a link to a piano accompaniment track, so you can sing with gusto of mammalian genitalia, peace, or Christian faith, whatever you prefer.

    Reply

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