SONGS AND MOVIES IN JAPAN: “HARP OF BURMA”

May 16, 2011 at 12:56 am | Posted in Art, Asia, Books, History, Japan | Leave a comment

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Songs and Movies in Japan: “Hanyu no yado” 

“Hanyu no yado–埴生の宿” is the Japanese title of an old song that is known as “Home, Sweet home“. We can listen it at the end of Ghibli movie “Hotaru no haka—-The grave of the Fireflies”—-performed by Amelita Galli-Curci. In the original lyric, there is a phrase “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home”.

It figures also in Kon Ichikawa’s movie masterpiece from 1956, “Harp of Burma.”

Hanyu no Yado means “a house made of mud”.

“Home, Sweet home” is played in “The Grave of the Fireflies.”

You can listen the Japanese version of this song on youtube.
http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=_JA0whXi1Hw

Japanese translation:
埴生の宿も 我が宿 玉の装ひ 羨まじ
長閑也や 春の空 花はあるじ 鳥は友
おゝ 我が宿よ たのしとも たのもしや
書読む窓も 我が窓 瑠璃の床も 羨まじ
清らなりや 秋の夜半 月はあるじ むしは友
おゝ 我が窓よ たのしとも たのもしや

hiragana:
はにゅうのやども わがやど たまのよそおい うらやまじ
のどかなりや はるのそら はなはあるじ とりはとも
おお わがやどよ たのしとも たのもしや
ふみよむまども わがやど るりのゆかも うらやまじ
きよらなりや あきのよわ つきはあるじ むしはとも
おお わがまどよ たもしとも たのもしや

Roma-ji:
Hanyu no yado mo waga yado, Tama no yosooi urayamaji
Nodokanariya haru no sora, Hana wa aruji tori wa tomo
Oh, waga yado yo, Tanositmo tanomosiya
Fumi yomu mado mo waga mado, Ruri no yuka mo urayamaji
Kiyara nariya aki no yowa, Tsuki wa aruji mushi wa tomo
Oh, waga mado yo, Tanositmo tanomosiya

original
‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, There’s no place like home.
A charm from the skies Seems to hallow us there,
Which seek thro’ the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet sweet home,
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.
I gaze on the moon as I tread the drear wild,
And feel that my mother now thinks of her child;
As she looks on that moon from our own cottage door,
Thro’ the woodbine whose fragrance shall cheer me no more.
Home, home, sweet sweet home;
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.
An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain,
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again;
The birds singing gaily, that came at my call:
Give me them and that peace of mind, dearer than all.
Home, home, sweet sweet home,
There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.
 
The Burmese Harp (Biruma no tategoto, a.k.a. Harp of Burma) is a 1956 black-and-white Japanese film directed by Kon Ichikawa.

The Burmese Harp (Biruma no tategoto, a.k.a. Harp of Burma) is a 1956 black-and-white Japanese film directed by Kon Ichikawa. It was based on a children’s novel of the same name written by Michio Takeyama. It was Ichikawa’s first film to be shown outside Japan,[1] and is “one of the first films to portray the decimating effects of World War II from the point of view of the Japanese army.”[2] The film was nominated for the 1957 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, during the first year that such a category existed.

In 1985, Ichikawa remade the film in color with different actors.

Plot

Private Mizushima, a Japanese soldier, becomes the harp (or) saung player of Captain Inōye’s group, composed of soldiers who fight and sing to raise morale in World War II Burma Campaign. When they are offered shelter in a village, they eventually realize they are being watched by British soldiers. They successfully retrieve their ammunition, then see the advancing force. Firing is declined, however. They are later told that the Japanese surrender has occurred and they surrender.

At a camp the Captain asks Mizushima to volunteer to talk down a group of soldiers who are still fighting on the mountain. He agrees to do so and is told by the British that he has 30 minutes to tell them to surrender. At the mountain he is almost shot down before they realize he is Japanese. He climbs up safely and asks to speak to whoever is in command. Meeting their commander in a cave bunker he informs him that the war has ended and they should surrender. The commander says he shall talk to the other soldiers, and they come out minutes later stating that unanimously they decided to fight to the end. Mizushima begs for them to surrender but they do nothing. He decides to ask for more time from the British, and when he creates a surrender flag, the others take it the wrong way and believe he’s surrendering for them. They beat him unconscious and leave him on the floor. Soon the artillery begins again and because he’s in the cave, he becomes the only survivor. He wanders around looking for the camp his group was in. He becomes sick looking at all the corpses on the ground and decides to help bury them and pray for them by stealing a monk’s robe.

Meanwhile, Captain Inōye and his men are wondering what happened, and cling to a belief that he is still out there. Eventually they buy a parrot (saying ‘Mizushima, let’s go back to Japan together’ over and over again) and tell a villager to bring it to a monk they suspect Mizushima is hiding as. But they get the parrot and a long letter replying that he won’t come back to Japan with them, because he must continue burying the dead while studying as a monk, and promoting the peaceful nature of mankind. Years later however, he allows for the prospect of returning to Japan.

Cast

Release

In Japan, Nikkatsu, the studio that commissioned the film, released it in two parts, three weeks apart. Part one (running 63 minutes) opened on January 21, 1956, and part two (80 minutes) opened on February 12, both accompanied by B movies.[1] Its total running time of 143 minutes was cut to 116 minutes for later re-release and export, reputedly at Ichikawa’s objection.[1]

Reception

Awards and nominations

Critical reception

In 1993, film scholar Audie Bock wrote:[4]

Screenwriter Natto Wada (Ichikawa’s former wife) lets minimal dialogue carry the emotion of The Burmese Harp. Ichikawa allows the grandeur of the Burmese landscape and the eerie power of its Buddhist statuary and architecture to sustain the mood of Mizushima’s conversion and the mystification of his Japanese comrades. Yet the gravity of the film lifts with the lyrical score, the light humor of a local bartering woman (Tanie Kitabayashi) with her parrots, and the genuine but uncomprehending affection of the soldiers for their missing mate.

In 2007, film critic Tony Rayns called it the “first real landmark in his career” and wrote:[1]

Ichikawa’s film is sharper and more clearheaded than Takeyama’s book, perhaps because it reflects an encounter with the reality of Burma and the Burmese. Most details in the film are taken directly from the book, although the overall structure has been changed….It’s with the dropping of one of the book’s episodes entirely and substituting ideas of his own that Ichikawa provides the measure of the film’s achievement. After Mizushima is sent on the futile mission to persuade a belligerent captain to surrender, he’s wounded in the leg by a British bullet and left to die….In the book, Mizushima is found and nursed back to health by a non-Burmese tribe of cannibals, who plan to eat him; … Ichikawa instead has Mizushima brought back from near death by a Buddhist monk, who intones over his patient the line “Burma is Burma. Burma is the Buddha’s country.” After his recovery, Mizushima shamelessly steals the monk’s robe (his only thought is self-preservation, and he needs a disguise) and makes his way south, intending to rejoin his company, which is where Ichikawa’s story line rejoins Takeyama’s.

References

  1. 1.                              a b c d e Tony Rayns (16 March 2007). “The Burmese Harp: Unknown Soldiers”. The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2010-07-10.
  2. 2.                              “The Burmese Harp (Biruma no tategoto)”. BBC Four. 22 August 2002. Retrieved 2010-07-10. “A compassionate, anti-war film (yet refusing to enter into any cinematic discussion of where to lay blame), this is one of the first films to portray the decimating effects of the war from the point of view of the Japanese army.”
  3. 3.                              The Burmese Harp (1956) at the Internet Movie Database
  4. 4.                              Audie Bock (27 January 1993). “The Burmese Harp”. The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2010-07-10.

Directed by Kon Ichikawa

Produced by Masayuki Takagi

Written by Michio Takeyama (novel), Natto Wada

Starring Rentaro Mikuni, Shôji Yasui, Jun Hamamura

Studio Nikkatsu

Distributed by Brandon Films (USA)

Release date(s) (part 1) 21 Jan 1956; (part 2) 12 Feb 1956 (Japan)[1] Running time 143 minutes (Japan)
116 minutes (other countries)

Country Japan

Language Japanese

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