Daisyfield Archive of Japanese Traditional Music
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|Song Title||View or Listen|
|Miyasan||宮さん々々||mus pdf mid xml|
The words to "Miyasan" were written in the year 1868 by Count Yajiro Shinagawa, and set to music by Masujiro Omura. The song is also known as "Tonyare-Bushi". Shinagawa was from a Samurai family. During this period (the Meiji Restoration), the Samurai class experienced a loss of power and property. Some Samurai in response agitated for wars of conquest in hopes of claiming new estates and power.
"Miyasan" was a propaganda piece urging an expedition to Korea. The song begins:
"My Prince, what is it that is dancing
back and forth in front of your horse?"
“Haven’t you heard? It is the banner of the Emperor,
leading us forward on the punitive expedition to Korea.”
This song was a popular military/patriotic song in Japan until the end of WWII. Note: the above translation has been disputed. See discussion below under Disputed Translation.
"Miyasan" was used very prominently in Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado (1885), and then later in Giocomo Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly (1904). In Butterfly, "Miyasan" is the theme song for Prince Yamadori; it occurs when Yamadori arrives, when he leaves, etc. The title of the song may have suggested its use to Puccini as the personal music for a prince; however, the original words of the song seem to have nothing to do with the use of the melody in the opera.
For a list of Puccini's Japanese songs and where they are used in the score, see Japanese Songs in Puccini's Madama Butterfly on this website.
My translation and history for "Miyasan" are based mainly on Puccinis "Madama Butterfly" by Kimiyo Powils-Okano (see citation below). However, the translation and some historical details have been disputed by Hiroaki Sasaki, a licensed interpreter-guide in Spanish and English in Osaka, Japan. I am very grateful to him for communicating his concerns to me, and I recommend that you visit his webpage on "Miyasan" (cited below).
Steven Nelson, musicologist and specialist in Japanese music history, and Professor in Japanese at Hosei University (Tokyo), agrees with Sasaki that the song makes no reference to Korea. Prof. Nelson states that the term chooteki refers not to "Korean enemies" but to "enemies of the Court."
Nagai, Y., and Kobatake, K., Japanese Popular Music, A Collection of the Popular Music of Japan Rendered in to the Staff Notation, S. Miki & Co., Nos. 106 and 107 Shinsaibashi Road, Osaka, 1892.
Hara, Kunio, Puccini's Use of Japanese Melodies in Madama Butterfly, Master's thesis, University of Cincinnati, 2003. Download from http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/send-pdf.cgi?ucin1060955367 [Large pdf file, 3MB].
Powils-Okano, Kimiyo, Puccinis "Madama Butterfly", Verlag für systematische Musikwissenschaft GmbH, Bonn, 1986 (in German). [See pp. 53-54 for discussion and translation of "Miyasan".]
Sasaki, Hiroaki, "Ton-yare Bushi", a webpage in Hiroaki Sasaki's personal website. [Contains extensive historical background about "Miyasan", and lyrics in both Japanese and English.]