samedi 12 septembre 2015

Shinda onna no ko - 死んだ女の子 (Eng)

For my 1st article on a Japanese "great standard", I had chosen a song which is neither a commercial "hit" nor 100% made in Japan ! In fact I didn't choose, time did for me as it was on August 2015...

Shinda Onna no Ko - 死んだ女の子

That Enola Gay...

Version française ici.
1st English version: 12/09/2015.
Last update: 07/10/2017.


Shinda onna no ko, "the dead little girl", is in fact at the beginning a pacifist poem by... Turkish opponent  Nazim Hikmet Ran (Kız Çocuğu in true VO), written in 1955-56, in commemoration of the  atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th and 9th August 1945. Butas we are going to see and contrary to what some people could think, the goal is not to ashame a lone nation nor to make a diversion from the victims of Japan, but more generally to ask the adults and in particular the powerful leaders who are able to erase  whole city just by pushing a button: how could these little "collateral victims" be guilty or even just negligeable ?

It was first sung in Japanese probably by the folk singer Takaishi Tomoya (高石ともや) in 1967, inspired by the... American version (!) of Pete Seeger (1962). Then she is more widely noticed when a traditional Shima uta singer from Amami (islands between Okinawa and Kyushu), Hajime Chitose, and the famous "modern classics" compositor Sakamoto Ryûichi in 2005 in front of the explosion Dome for the 60 years old ceremony. Japanese translation was made by Pr. Nakamoto Nobuyuki (中本信幸), as soon as 1961 in a collection of world's poems; Sakamoto chose to arrange a 1978 music of the compositor Toyama Yûzô (外山 雄三).

In this song, a 7-year-old girl ghost who died in the explosion is demarching the living ones to tell her sufferings and to ask for a war-less world. In Japanese vision, one would rather think about Sasaki Sadako ( 佐々木 禎子), born in 1943 and dead precisely in 1955 from a leukemia, while she had made more than 600 off 1000 paper cranes supposed to grant one wish of recovery or long life according to a legend, a who has got a statue in Hiroshima.

Music Videos

In the following playlist, some covers of the versions of Hajime Chitose-Sakamoto Ryûichi and of Takaishi; to be compared to the first American versions, by Pete Seeger and The Byrds (see the Main performers section).
This song's version do not have MV, if you have got iTunes on your PC, you may still listen to an extract via this link CD Japan to the album 平和元年 (Heiwa gannen) to discover her traditional singing style. In an interview, Hajime Chitose explains indeed that she doesn't want this song to be banalized but on the contrary strongly related to this commemoration (see Anecdotes and Legacy section).

Lyrics and romaji

(Leaflet of the album "Hanadairo" of Hajime Chitose) and phonetic transcription (romaji)

あけてちょうだい たたくのはあたし
Akete chôdai tataku no wa atashi
 あっちの戸 こっちの戸 あたしはたたくの
Atchi no to kotchi no to atashi wa tataku no
 こわがらないで 見えないあたしを
Kowagara nai de mienai atashi wo
Dare ni mo mienai shinda onna no ko wo

 あたしは死んだの あのヒロシマで
Atashi wa shinda no ano Hiroshima* de
 あのヒロシマで 夏の朝に
Ano Hiroshima de natsu no asa ni
 あのときも七つ いまでも七つ
Ano toki mo nanatsu imademo nanatsu
Shinda ko ha kesshite ookiku naranai no

炎がのんだの あたしの髪の毛を
Honoo ga nonda no atashi no kami no ke wo
 あたしの両手を あたしのひとみを
Atashi no ryoute wo atashi no hitomi wo
Atashi no karada wa hitotsu kami no hai
Tsumetai kaze ni sarawareteitta hai

あなたにお願い だけどあたしは
Anata ni onegai dakedo atashi wa
Pan mo okome mo nanimo iranai no
Amai amedama mo shabure nai no
Kamikire mitai ni moeta atashi wa

To wo tataku no wa atashi atashi
平和な世界に どうかしてちょうだい
Heiwa na sekai ni dôkashite chôdai
Honoo ga kodomo wo yakanai yô ni
Amai amedama ga shabureru yô ni
Honoo ga kodomo wo yakanai yô ni
Amai amedama ga shabureru yô ni

Personal Translation

(The leaflet of Hajime Chitose's Hanadairo gives an English translation, so I just copy it to respect the intention)

The Dead Little Girl

I come and stand at every door
These doors, those doors, and I knock at them
Do not be scared if you can not see me,
Because no one can see me, as I am a dead little girl.

I died in Hiroshima on 6th. Aug. 1945
In the summer morning, in that Hiroshima
I'm seven now as I was then
As you know, dead children do not grow.

My hair caught fire
My eyes burnt out
My body became a handful of ashes,
And blown away by the wind.

I need no bread, I need no rice
I need no sweets like candies
I ask for nothing for myself
Because I was burnt out like a slip of paper.

I knock at your doors
All I ask for is a peaceful world
So that the children may live and play
So that the children will never be burnt again,
And could taste sweets.

Interpretation notes

*Hiroshima is written in katakana, in order to highlight the reference to the atomized city, worldwide known for that (katakana are mainly used for foreign words, and of course foreigners mainly think about the atomic bomb with this city is evocated).

Anecdotes, Legacy

It is very interesting to notice that neither the USA nor even the atomic bomb itself are mentioned, which underlines the intention to enlarge the symbolic scope of this dead little girl to many other wars (and thus underlines the poet's talent). Of course Hiroshima is mentioned: its symbolism is evident as the first target of the deadliest and blindest mass destruction weapon ever invented.
As a matter of fact, as mentioned above, the American protest artists were among the first ones to cover this poem, to stand against Vietnam war among others...

If the poem itself has become since a long time a pacifist symbol, the version of Hajime Chitose and Sakamoto Ryuichi is now a mark of the World War 2 commemorations in Japan, and sounds in a particular way since 2015 while the Abe government tries to modify the interpretation of article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (once written under the victorious Americans eyes) to allow the Japanese army ("Self-defence Forces") to operate abroad in back-up of their allies (essentially the... Americans).
Because of the wish of Hajime Chitose not to make it a commonplace  her version has been hard to find for a long time. It was firstly released in physical only (as far as I know) as a bonus on the first press and CD+DVD versions of the albums "Hanadairo" in 2006, "Orient" in 2010 and her Best of 2012. Then it appears at last as a regular track on her 2015 album, specifically for the 70 years of end of World War 2: "平和元年 (Heiwa gannen)", which means "First year of the Peace Era" (see following section).

The song was used too in the Japanese anti-nationalism movie Caterpillar in 2010.

With Ye Lai Xiang, I don't forget the other tragic aspect of the Pacific front, i.e. the victims of the Japanese army... But there are happier things in this site too  😅

Main performers

Liens affiliés CD Japan avec extraits audio. Merci d'autoriser les cookies si vous avez apprécié l'article m(_ _)m

The poem was put into a song in the USA as soon as in the 60s by Pete Seeger (1962) then The Byrds (1966) from a variation of the traditional tune "The Great Silkie", with the title "I come and stand at every door" (with a slightly different translation than the one of Hajime's leaflet above). There are other American versions with the titles I, Unseen or The Dead Little Girl.

Takaishi Tomoya (高石 ともや), born in 1941 and one of the founders of the Kansai folk scene, performs it in 1967 in Japanese a priori for the 1st time, on a folk tune close to the one of Pete Seeger, one of his models, but in a faster rhythm.
01/2006: best of; includes Shinda onna no ko, Shinda otoko no nokoshitamono wa...

Sakamoto Ryûichi (坂本 龍一) : detailed presentation here. The great composer of electronic music and movies original soundtracks put it in music and performed it in duet with Hajime Chitose in 2005. 

Hajime Chitose (元ちとせ): detailed presentation here. The Shima uta (island songs) singer performed it for the 1st time on the Sakamoto Ryûichi's composition in duet with him in Hiroshima in 2005 for the 60 years of the atomic bombing.
Hanadairo / Chitose Hajime
Hanadairo [Regular Edition] / Chitose Hajime
05/2006: includes Kataritsugu Koto (anime BLOOD+), Ao no requiem, Shinda Onna no Ko (version CD+DVD)...

Heiwa Gannen / Chitose Hajime
Chitose Hajime
07/2015: cover album of foreign songs in Japanese for the 70 years of the end of World War 2; includes Lili Marleen, Che Sara, Shinda Onna no Ko...

*Update 04th/08/2016:
From 3rd to 31th of August, you can buy and download it through:
A part of your payment will then be converted into a gift to the UNICEF.
*End of Update*

Other sources : Wikipedia JP, TV reports...

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