2002 Student-Faculty Fellows: University Of Redlands

Social and Cultural History of Japan through Music Education

Mentor: Yukiko Kawahara, Asian Studies
Students: Katherine Grace Bartolomea ’03; Amanda Brooke Coak ’05; Meena Malik ’03; Danielle Katie White ’04

Redlands group in Sendai

Abstracts of Reflections and/or Research

Yukiko Kawahara

During this trip I concentrated on finding information on douyou writers and composers, and the historical background to the songs. The establishment of music education and missionary work in the Meiji period was closely linked, as the first songs chosen for the elementary school music textbooks are taken from the hymns. There were close relationships between douyou (children’s songs) and douwa (children’s stories). In recent years there were attempts to cut from music textbooks that are considered classics of shouka (songs for music education in schools), partly because their language is considered to be too difficult for contemporary students, and partly because the government wants to reduce educational content, so that students are under less pressure to cram. In response, people who acknowledged the importance of douyou and shouka as cultural heritage that should be handed down to later generations mounted opposition to the elimination of those songs from the curriculum. These and other efforts to preserve the cultural tradition of children’s songs are declining as young people are losing interest in them. The trip was beneficial for information finding because those sources are not readily available in American libraries. Moreover, new information gave me ideas for further research from different perspectives.

Katherine Grace Bartolomea

When I was asked to go to Japan on this grant project, I didn’t know what I was really getting myself into. I was excited about traveling and researching children’s songs in another country. For the research part, I had hoped for some extra help with the vocabulary and translations, and with getting some information about the songs, composers, and poets before actually going to the specific places. I would have had a better understanding of what I was seeing. With that exception, I enjoyed the traveling to the physical locations of the songs, such as Mikan hill in Ito, the setting for Mikan no Hana Sakaoka, and the foundation of Sendai castle, one of the castles that inspired Koujou no Tsuki. Translating the feelings and emotions of the words is hard for me. However, combining my major in poetry with my minor in Asian Studies has been a good experience.

My part in this project was to first make rough English translations of the chosen Japanese children songs, and then polish these translations to give them a more flowing quality. A majority of the songs have been roughly translated. Two important pieces to this project, “Akai Kutsu” and “Aoi Me no Ningyou” have a strong connection to the introduction of Western ideals in Japan, have not yet been translated from the original Japanese lyrics. These two songs will soon be translated. Also, due to the age of some texts, certain words and/or kanji characters have not been found in any dictionaries used; therefore the meaning is unknown to me as of now.

Amanda Brooke Coak

I consider Japan to be a huge stepping stone in my life. By going to Japan, I have been able to face many challenges and also grow as a person. Before I went to Japan, I never would have considered fish a part of a complete breakfast. Now, I imagine I could eat fish at any hour! Before Japan, I had never had to travel on public transportation alone, but now I can happily boast that I can travel the Japan Railway like a real professional! After my stay in Japan, I can say that I have eaten at a rotating sushi bar, been to cities where World Cup soccer matches were held, shopped at a 100 yen store, and experienced the slightly embarrassing, but definitely rejuvenating delights of the Japanese Onsen.

I plan on researching the history surrounding the children’s songs we have studied. I believe that certain historical events such as war or Japan’s interaction with the United States had a great influence on the content of the composers’ works. I will write on these events and explain how they influenced the composers writing the songs and the children and people that listened to these songs.

Meena Malik

My career plan is to become an opera singer, possibly in Europe. This trip did not directly impact my singing career plans, but for my future, this trip was very meaningful. As a music specialist, I am sure I am going to do a recital of Japanese songs, so this trip was useful for that. In the future, I will already have a lot of knowledge about all of the douyou. In order to sing these songs with precise meaning, the singers must know what they are singing about. Moreover, if they know exactly which feelings they are singing about, their performances will be even better. The best way to do this is to experience the feelings. By going on this trip, I was able to experience the actual settings about which or where the songs were written. I was also able to gain a lot of knowledge about the poets and composers and their lifestyles which probably affected their songs drastically. Overall, this trip helped the project, especially for me. The images I have from the trip are still in my head, which will pop out every time I sing these songs.

Danielle Katie White

My experiences during the three-week trip to Japan were memorable, reflections that I will draw upon for a lifetime. Many of the challenges associated with research in Japan were lessons in management and character. The authors and composers of Japanese children’s songs were men and women deeply grounded in the political, social and cultural background of the country in which they lived. Many of the individuals were influenced in their creative work by national and international events, as well as the simple pleasures of their hometowns and the rural countryside. Personal experiences, joys and sorrows alike, also led to the creation of the songs Japanese citizens cherish today. The knowledge and skills gained on my part during this research project will greatly enhance my future career, personal growth, and intellectual development.

Fellows wearing yukata (traditional Japanese style bath robe) provided by the ryokan (Japanese style inn) in Atami where we visited the site for one of our project songs.

Venues for Sharing

  • Presentation at Faculty Forum of the University of Redlands
  • Website including research findings, song files, and images
  • Research paper presentation at academic conferences