Biwako Aika

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Biwako Aika monument
Biwako Aika monument in Katata, Otsu
Biwako Aika
Biwako Aika 1st verse
by Philbert Ono

Biwako Aika 琵琶湖哀歌 (Lake Biwa Elegy) is a mournful song dedicated to the eight college rowers from Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture and three rowers from Kyoto who died on Lake Biwa while rowing in waters off Takashima-cho, Haginohama beach when they encountered strong winds from the Hira mountains on April 6, 1941. The boys from Kanazawa were students at the No. 4 High School 第四高等学校 which today is Kanazawa University.

The rowing club were in Shiga Prefecture to compete in a national collegiate rowing championship held on Seta River. It was a tradition for them to row between Otsu and Imazu (60 km) before the meet. That is when the accident occurred, about 1 km off the coast. It took about two months to recover all their bodies. Even after the police stopped looking for the bodies, local fishermen using fishing nets kept searching for the bodies until all were found.

In the following year in 1942, 1,000 cherry trees were planted along the coastal road nearest to the rowing accident site. A monument for the fallen rowers was also built on the Haginohama shore. Biwako Aika became a national hit soon afterward. The cherry trees grew and became a major flower-viewing spot. However, due to age, many of the trees have withered or died. In 2004, a group was formed to help preserve the trees.

The song was written by Katata-native Okuno Yashio (1902-1981) 奥野椰子夫 and music composed by Kikuchi Hiroshi 菊地博. The music has similar notes to Biwako Shuko no Uta which was created earlier in 1917. Biwako Aika was released as a record in June 1941, sung by Shoji Taro (1898-1972) (東海林太郎) and Ogasawara Mitsuko (1920-) (小笠原美津子) and became a national hit.

Even in Shiga, many people mistake Biwako Shuko no Uta for Biwako Aika.

Biwako Aika (Lake Biwa Elegy) Lyrics

The left column is the Japanese lyrics, middle column is romanized lyrics, and the right column is an English translation. There are four verses.

遠くかすむは 彦根城
波に暮れゆく 竹生島
三井(みい)の晩鐘 音絶えて
なにすすり泣く 浜千鳥

1 (Romanized)
Tooku kasumu wa, Hikone-jo
Nami ni kure-yuku, Chikubushima
Mii no bansho, oto taete
Nani susuri naku, hama-chidori

1 (English translation)
Afar in the mist, is Hikone Castle
Fading behind the waves, is Chikubushima
Mii temple's sound of the evening bell, fades
Whimpering are the shore birds.

瀬田の唐橋 漕(こ)ぎぬけて
夕陽の湖(うみ)に 出で行きし
雄々しき姿よ 今いずこ
ああ青春の 唄のこえ

2 (Romanized)
Seta no Karahashi, koginukete
Yuhi no umi ni, ide yukishi
O-o shiki sugata yo, imai zuko
A-a seishun no, uta no koe

2 (English translation)
Seta-Karahashi Bridge, they row under.
Going out to the sunset-covered lake.
Their gallant figures, are now everywhere.
Ah the singing voices of their youth.

比良の白雪 溶けるとも
風まだ寒き 志賀の浦
オールそろえて さらばぞと
しぶきに消えし 若人よ

3 (Romanized)
Hira no shirayuki, tokeru tomo
Kaze mada samuki, Shiga no ura
O-ru soroete, saraba zoto
Shibuki ni kieshi, wakoto yo

3 (English translation)
The white snow on Mt. Hira, is also melting.
The wind is still cold, on the shore of Shiga.
Align the oars, and it's goodbye.
They disappear with a splash, these young lads.

君は湖の子 かねてより
覚悟は胸の 波まくら
小松ケ原の 紅椿(べにつばき)
御霊(みたま)を守れ 湖の上

4 (Romanized)
Kimi wa umi no ko, kanete yori
Kakugo wa mune no, nami makura
Komatsugahara no, beni-tsubaki
Mitama o mamore, Umi no ue

4 (English translation)
You are children of the lake, since before.
Prepare your hearts for rolling with the waves.
The red camellias of Komatsugahara Plain.
Pray for their souls, on the lake.


This video footage is from 1969 with Shoji Taro and Ogasawara Mitsuko singing Biwako Aika.

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