Japanese Children's Songs
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Japanese Children’s Songs: ぞうさん (Mr. Elephant)

I’m excited to announce another new series on my blog looking at Japanese children’s songs!

Back when I was pregnant with my daughter, I learned that alongside reading picture books, singing to your child while they are growing inside of you is a great way to familiarize them with your voice. I decided to sing a mix of English songs and nursery rhymes but I realized I didn’t know any Japanese lullabies (子守唄・komori uta) nor Japanese children’s songs (童謡・douyou). My husband helped familiarize me with what he listened to when he was a child and now that my daughter is in daycare, I’m learning about a lot more.

This is why to try to help out other parents in Japan (or anyone curious), I’ll be sharing some popular and traditional Japanese songs for children in Japanese and with English translations by… me! (I work in J-E science translation, which is pretty straightforward, so this is completely new territory for me.)

The first song I’ll be sharing is ぞうさん (Mr. Elephant), which is a very famous children’s song (童謡) in Japan that was written by Michio Mado way back in 1951.

Elephants have the longest nose of all living creatures on the planet. In the song, ぞうさん (Mr. Elephant) is being teased because of his long nose. However, instead of getting upset, Mr. Elephant agrees and with pride states that his mother’s nose is long, too. As Mr. Elephant is impervious to the teasing, the tone in the second part of the song changes, and instead of being picked on he’s asked who he loves the most. His answer that he loves his mother the most shows the positive influence she’s had on him and their deep bond. According to the lyricist, the message of the song is that we should embrace and celebrate our differences.

As someone who was bullied and is now raising a child who may experience teasing because she’s half-Japanese, this song resonates with me. I hope she doesn’t have to experience what ぞうさん did but I want to raise her to be resilient, ignore negativity, and love herself for who she is because she’s a pretty awesome kid. (I’m not gonna lie, she’s super cool and I want to be friends with her if she’ll let me!)

Japanese Children’s Song:

ぞうさん (Zousan or Mr. Elephant)

Written by Michio Mado

English translation by Kay A (please credit this post if using)

Hiragana

ぞうさん
ぞうさん
おはなが ながいのね
そうよ
かあさんも ながいのよ

ぞうさん
ぞうさん
だあれが すきなの
あのね
かあさんが すきなのよ

Romaji

Zousan
Zousan
Ohana ga nagai no ne
Souyo
Kaasan mo nagai no ne

Zousan
Zousan
Daare ga suki na no
Anone
Kaasan ga suki na no yo

English Translation

Mr. Elephant
Mr. Elephant
You have such a long nose!
Yes, I do.
My mom’s nose is long, too!

Mr. Elephant
Mr. Elephant
Who do you like?
Well,
I like my mom!

 

 

This song is also available on the album 年齢別どうよう 0~2歳児向 ぞうさん on Amazon Music Unlimited, which has a ton more Japanese children’s songs. (Amazon Music Unlimited is offering a 500 point present to anyone who signs up for their free 3-month trial. The offer ends on January 11, 2021 so if you haven’t signed up yet, you gotta hurry!)

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4 Comments

  • Pippa

    Oh god yes please help me with this!! My husband is both completely devoid of any memories of his childhood and incapable of carrying a melody, so when you ask him what songs he learned he knows nothing (Jon Snow) and even when he says he remembers something there is no recognisable melody so I can’t teach my daughter anything! This is so useful, Kay save meeeee

    • Kay

      I’m so glad to hear that you liked this post and it’s helpful! I’ll have another song up soon. It’s fun to look into the background of these songs and teach my husband about the origins and meaning, which he had no idea about, haha. Maybe these songs will jog Mr. Pippa’s memory too!

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