I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Saori Yuki -- Aka Tombo (赤とんぼ)

One of the most famous traditional Japanese children's songs, "Aka Tombo" (Red Dragonflies) usually reminds me of my early childhood trip to seaside Wakayama Prefecture where my grandparents had lived. The rice paddies that my grandfather tended were always visited by dragonflies that were the size of small gliders (at least to the eyes of this city boy). As I warn anyone who goes to that area of the Kansai, there are plenty of BIG insects flitting and crawling. One reason for my arachnophobia of several years was seeing these huge black-and-yellow spiders basically anywhere and everywhere around the farm. Some of their legs probably had tattoos.

In any case, "Aka Tombo" was written by poet and children's songwriter Rofu Miki(三木露風)for publishing in a children's book in 1921 with the idea that the image of dragonflies flying about in the early evening would bring nostalgic feelings of home. Miki wrote the lyrics based on his memories of his childhood home of present-day Tatsuno City in Hyogo Prefecture. Then in 1927, composer and conductor Kosaku Yamada(山田耕筰)created the melody to go with the words.

Now, Saori Yuki (由紀さおり)is just one of the many, many singers who have sung "Aka Tonbo" over the past century, along with millions and millions of kids and adults, but I decided to use her name as part of the title since her version is just wonderful. In the above video, she's singing with her sister, Shoko Yasuda(安田祥子). The video below is one of the early recordings of the song. I'm not 100% sure but according to what I see on the record itself, I think it is sung by Maiko Tsuji(辻舞子).

An English version of "Aka Tombo" was also created under the title of "Dragonflies". This is Greg Irwin. In 2007, the song was selected to be part of the Nihon no Uta Hyakusen(日本の歌百選...Collection of 100 Japanese Songs)which was sponsored by the government's Agency for Cultural Affairs.

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