Hotaru no Hikari

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The first verse of the song

Hotaru no Hikari (蛍の光, meaning "Glow of a firefly") is a Japanese song incorporating the tune of Scottish folk song Auld Lang Syne with completely different lyrics by Chikai Inagaki, first introduced in a collection of singing songs for elementary school students in 1881 (Meiji 14). The swapping of lyrics without substantial change to the music is known as contrafactum. The words describe a series of images of hardships that the industrious student endures in his relentless quest for knowledge, starting with the firefly’s light, which the student uses to keep studying when he has no other light sources (originating from the story of Che Yin from Volume 83 of the Book of Jin). It is commonly heard during graduation ceremonies and at the end of the school day. Many stores and restaurants play it to usher customers out at the end of a business day. On the very popular Japanese New Year's Eve TV show, NHK's Kōhaku Uta Gassen, it has become a tradition for all the performers to sing Hotaru no Hikari as the last song. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea here is Tokyo Disney Resort for Countdown Party's from New Year's Eve Park show, "New Day, New Dream". Another song from the same period and used at graduation ceremonies thought to be based on a Scottish folk song is "Aogeba Tōtoshi".


Verse Japanese text Romaji English translation
1 蛍の光、窓の雪、
Hotaru no hikari, mado no yuki,
Fumi yomu tsukihi, kasane tsutsu
Itsushika toshi mo, sugi no to wo,
Aketezo kesa wa, wakare yuku.
Light of fireflies, (moonlight reflected off) snow by the window.
Many days and months spent reading.
Before one knows it, years have passed. The door
we resolutely open; this morning, we part ways.
2 止まるも行くも、限りとて、
Tomaru mo yuku mo, kagiri tote,
Katami ni omou, chiyorodzu no,
Kokoro no hashi wo, hitokoto ni,
Sakiku to bakari, utau nari.
Stay or leave, either an end
Mutually, countless thoughts
from the bottom of the heart, expressed in one word
a wish for peace, we sing.
3 筑紫の極み、陸の奥、
Tsukushi no kiwami, michi no oku,
Umi yama tooku, hedatsu tomo,
Sono magokoro wa, hedate naku,
Hitotsu ni tsukuse, kuni no tame
Far reaches of Kyushu and Tōhoku
Though separated by seas and mountains
Our sincere hearts are separated not
Serving single-mindedly for country.
4 千島の奥も、沖繩も、
Chishima no oku mo, Okinawa mo
Yashima no uchi no, mamori nari
Itaran kuni ni, isaoshiku
Tsutome yo waga se, tsutsuganaku
From the ends of Chishima to Okinawa,
We protect all part of Japan.
Contributing to our great country,
I'll faithfully devote my life.