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Lyrics of "Lake Biwa Rowing Song" emotionally describe the beautiful nature
of Lake Biwa and the romantic cruise on the lake. This song came into existence
in 1917 in Imazu Town of Takashima City.
This masterpiece handed down from generation to generation is a treasure for the city and its people.
You can listen to the song by downloading the file at the bottom of this page. (Windows Media Audio File)
Lake Biwa Rowing Song
Lyrics: Oguchi Taro
Music: Yoshida Chiaki
1. I am a son of the lake setting out on a cruise
Standing on the shore emotionally
Being surrounded by spreading mist and surging ripples
I bid farewell to the capital of Shiga
2. Green pine trees and white sand along the shore
A maiden of Omatsu village
Secretly weeps in the woods of blooming camellia
Over her fragile love
3. Drifting among the waves
We miss a red light at the horn of a pier
Without having specific destinations
We sleep on the boat
Wondering where we are in the morning, either Imazu or Nagahama
4. With a sapphire flower garden and a shrine surrounded by coral
Chikubu-shima Island of old inheritance floats on the lake
Young maiden, sleep peacefully
In the arms of Buddha
5. With arrows deeply buried in the soil
Summer grass grows thick in the old moat
Standing alone in the old castle
Even Mt. Hira and Mt. Ibuki are like a dream
6. Chomeiji, the Western Japan's 10th temple of pilgrimage
Being far away from the unclean earth
Let us pull into the golden waves
Let us talk with peers passionately
Imazu has one of the Lake Biwa's hub ports for sightseeing. Beside the pier, there is a monument of the song on which a part of the lyrics are engraved. At the horn of the pier, there flickers a "red light" guiding ships away from danger near the shore. This ever-lasting beauty of Lake Biwa inspired the composers to give birth to the brilliant song.
Birth of the song
In June 1917, rowing club members of the Third High School (the present Kyoto University) were on the cruise excursion regularly practiced at the end of the school year. (July used to be the month of graduation at that time.) Oguchi Taro and his peers pulled out the Mihogasaki port in Otsu, and stayed over that night at Omatsu (in Omi-maiko). On the second day, the 28th of June, they arrived at Imazu and took a rest at a lakeside inn.
At that night, one of the crew introduced Oguchi's lyrics to his mates. They attached a melody of a popular song to the words, and enjoyed singing in chorus. It was the very moment the "Lake Biwa Rowing Song" was born.
Lake Biwa cruise
The high school started the annual Lake Biwa cruise in 1893, and continued it till around 1940. The clockwise course departing from Mihogasaki toward the north along the west coast took them four or five days. They used a boat that can hold 8 or 9 people (6 rowers, 1 steersman, and 1 or 2 others) on fixed seats.
About the composer
The lyrics was complemented later on and finally completed in the following year, 1918. It was accepted as the high school's dormitory song, and widely spread among the students as their favorite song. Many singers also praised the song and recorded it on their records and tapes. Among them, the one by Kato Tokiko released in the summer of 1971 made a great hit.
At that time, it was regarded that Oguchi Taro or members of the rowing club had written both the lyrics and the melody, though no one knew much about Oguchi himself. Through some researchers' intent work, the above-mentioned facts had been gradually revealed.
The music turned out to be the melody of "Hitsuji-gusa," and in 1979, its composer was identified as Yoshida Chiaki. Except for his name, though, nothing about him was yet clarified.
In June 1993 when the ceremony of "the 75th anniversary of Lake Biwa Rowing Song" was about to be held, the organizing committee got to know that Yoshida Chiaki moved from Tokyo to Niigata in 1915. The committee, therefore, requested a local newspaper company in Niigata to collect information about him, and finally reached a person related to Yoshida. The long difficult hunt came to a sudden settlement like this.
Oguchi Taro was born in Okaya City, Nagano Prefecture, in 1897. He graduated from the Third High School (the present Kyoto University), and then went up to Tokyo Imperial University (the present University of Tokyo). On the 28th of June 1917 when he stayed at an inn in Imazu on his way of the Lake Biwa cruise, he introduced the lyrics to his peers. He was a person of many talents such as being a patentee of the wired and wireless multiple telegraphic and telephonic communication method. He died aged 26.
Yoshida Chiaki was born in Niitsu City, Niigata Prefecture, in 1895. He had been troubled with tuberculosis since he was young. While learning at the present Tokyo University of Agriculture, he started to contribute his compositions and reports to magazines on music and the Roman alphabet. "Hitsuji-gusa", the original melody of "Lake Biwa Rowing Song", was made public in the August issue of the "Ongakkai" in 1915. He died aged 24.
A postcard Oguchi sent from Imazu to his
(Postmarked between 9 p.m. and 12 p.m. on the 28th of June 1917)
"Yesterday, we could easily get to Omatsu with just a few paddles, thanks to the strong fair wind. Omatsu is such an isolated place. There is only one accommodation in the middle of pinewoods and a beach. We moored our boat in a pond covered with Nymphaea tetragona and viewed the beautiful moon lying down on the beach. We were excited having a tug of war this morning. We will stay over here in Imazu tonight. From Oguchi in Imazu"
This postcard and testimonies from his peers proved that the song was born in Imazu.
Museum of the "Lake Biwa Rwoing
In April 1998, Takashima City established the museum of the "Lake Biwa Rowing Song" in which a variety of materials related to the song are displayed. Part of them is records and discs of the song by many musicians and singers, and they are open for audition. Souvenirs and local specialties are also assorted for sale.
･ Admission free
･ Open: 9:00 - 17:00, Tuesday - Sunday (except for the next day of holidays)
Address: 1-5-7 Nakanuma, Imazu-cho, Takashima-shi, Shiga 520-1622, JAPAN
For inquiries: Secretarial/ Public Relations Division, Planning Department