Temariuta (手鞠歌)

Temariuta (written in Japanese as てまりうた, 手まり唄, 手毬歌, 手毬唄, etc.) is a kind of children's song or play song to which girls sing along as they bounce temari balls (balls of cotton wound tightly around with threads of many colors).

Temari is a toy which existed since the Edo period; in the beginning, it was made by merely winding threads around a ball, but since around the end of the 16th century, beautiful threads were geometrically wound around a spherical body, which was more elastic because of the zenmai cotton (cotton made of flowering fern) used. Since these balls were very elastic and bounced well, girls played by bouncing them on the ground during New Year's Holidays (for example, a hard ball in baseball similarly contains a core of cork wound by threads and covered with leather).

As rubber became cheaper since around the middle of the Meiji period and bouncy rubber ball became common, temari came to be played all year around, not only during New Year Holidays. Many songs were made to accompany the rhythmical moves of temari, and they are known today as children's songs in various areas. Since Edo period, temariuta has been sung in yukaku (a red-light district), and so on, however many of them remained today are settled on the subject matters of the Russo-Japanese War or popular literally works during the middle and late Meiji period when it became widespread as children's play. Often, various 'finishing' styles are taken at the end of a song, such as the player hiding the temari under her skirt, or catching the temari behind her back.

Up until the 1950s, girls could be seen on alleys bouncing balls and singing temariuta; however, as cars also began to drive through alleys and less children play outside after the spread of television, it is almost forgotten today.

Major temariuta

Antagata dokosa' (Where are you from?)

Ichiban hajime wa Ichinomiya' (Ichinomiya comes first)

Temariuta in Kyoto (also known as Marutake Ebisu)

Marutake ebisuni oshioike, Anesan rokkaku takonishiki, Shiaya buttaka matsuman gojo, Setta charachara uonotana, Rokujo hitcho torisugi, Hatcho koereba tojimichi, Kujo ojide todomesasu

Names of streets running horizontally in Kyoto are included as follows: Marutamachi, Takeyamachi, Ebisugawa, Nijo, Oshikoji, and Oike; Anekoji, Sanjo, Rokkaku, Takoyakushi, Nishiki, Shijo, Ayanokoji, Bukkoji, Takatsuji, Matsubara, Manjuji, and Gojo; Settayacho (current Yobai-dori Street) and Uonotana; Rokujo; Shichijo, Hachijo, and Kujo. There are other variations of this song, none of which is considered as the correct version.

Ichiretsu danpan

Ichiretsu danpan (literally, negotiation in line) was sung frequently in Tokyo up until the 1950s. It takes the form of a counting song by including the sound of numbers in the lyrics, i.e., ichi, ni, san, shi, and so on (having the same sound as the Japanese words for one, two, three, and four, and so on) at the head of each verse. Although it is unclear what 'ichiretsu' refers to, some say that it is a corruption of the ichigatsu (January, when the last negotiation failed in January, 1904 immediately before the start of the Russo-Japanese War), or a corruption of 'nichiretsu' (referring to nichi (Japan) verses rekkyo (powerful countries).

Ichiretsu danpan haretsushite, nichirosenso hajimatta (With the failure of Ichiretsu danpan, the Russo-Japanese War began)
Sassa to nigeru wa roshiya no hei, shindemo tsukusu wa nihon no hei (Russian soldiers hastily ran away, but Japanese soldiers fought to death to serve the country)
Goman no hei wo hikitsurete, rokunin nokoshite minagoroshi (Leading an army of fifty thousand, Japanese soldiers killed everyone except for six persons)
Shichigatsutoka no tatakai ni, harubin mademo semeyaburi (In the fight on July 10, Japan fought and defeated the enemies in Harbin)
Aleksei Kuropatkin no kubi wo tori, Togo Heihachiro banbanzai (We killed Aleksei Kuropatkin, hail to Heihachiro TOGO).

[Original Japanese]