Warabe uta

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Warabe uta (童歌) are traditional Japanese songs, similar to nursery rhymes. They are often sung as part of traditional children's games. They are described as a form of min'yo: traditional Japanese songs, usually sung without accompanying instruments.

The centuries-old lyrics are often incomprehensible to modern Japanese (especially to children who are singing it), and others can be quite sinister on close analysis.[citation needed] Like many children's songs around the world, because people are used to them from an early age, they are often oblivious to the real meanings.

Examples of warabe uta[edit]


"Tōryanse" is often played as an electronic tune at pedestrian crossings in Japan to signal when it is safe to cross.

(When infant mortality was high, people traditionally celebrated when a child survived to reach the age of 7. See Shichigosan)

This particular warabe-uta is sung as part of a traditional game identical to "London Bridge Is Falling Down". Two children facing each other link their hands to form an arch 'checkpoint', and the remaining children walk through underneath in a line (and back round again in circles). The child who happens to be under the arch when the song finishes is then 'caught'.

The tune is played at Japanese pedestrian crossings by analogy with this game, i.e., it is safe to cross until the music stops.


A teru teru bōzu is a little traditional hand-made doll which supposedly brings sunshine. "Teru" is a Japanese verb which describes sunshine, and a "bōzu" is a Buddhist monk. Children make teru-teru-bōzu out of tissue paper and a string and hang them from a window to wish for sunny weather. There is a famous warabe uta which is about the small ghost-like dolls which people can see hanging on rainy days.

The lyrics are allegedly about a story of a monk who promised farmers to stop rain and bring clear weather during a prolonged period of rain which was ruining crops. When the monk failed to bring sunshine, he was executed.


Yuki () is a song Japanese children sing when it's snowing and they want to play outside. 'Yuki' means 'Snow' in Japanese. The song is also commonly known as 雪やこんこ (Yuki ya konko) The snow falls densely.

A kotatsu is a low, heated table. In the first stanza, flowers blooming in winter probably refers to the snow collecting on empty branches. The literal translation of the line is something like "No withered trees remaining, flowers bloom".