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Lesson Transcript

Naomi: ジャパニーズポッド101でございます
Naomi: Welcome to the Japanese Children Song Series at JapanesePod101.com. In this series, you will learn Japanese language and culture through Japanese Children Songs. Go to our site to hear full versions of the songs, sung by professional singer Kana Mizushima. Visit JapanesePod101.com and claim your free lifetime account now.
Naomi: ナオミです。
Peter: Peter here.
Naomi: ジャパニーズポッド101.comの童謡のレッスン4へようこそ。
Peter: Welcome to the fourth Japanese Children Song Lesson. Naomi 先生, can you tell us the name of the song we’re focusing on this time?
Naomi: むすんでひらいて
Peter: “Close your hands, open your hands.”
Naomi: This is song is a very popular song for babies and young kids.
Peter: And what’s the song about?
Naomi: Well, the song is sung at nursery schools and kindergartens. There’re also hand movements that goes with the song.
Peter: Now, would you say that most people in Japan know the song?
Naomi: I’d say so.
Peter: And most of Japanese people know the hand movements?
Naomi: うん、そうですね。 Peter, you did some research about the song, right? Like when and where it originated and so on.
Peter: Well, indeed I did. And the song has a complex history. Pop quiz for you, Naomi 先生.
Naomi: はい。
Peter: What famous 18th century philosopher created the melody for the song?
Naomi: No idea.
Peter: Not even going to try?
Naomi: I don’t know any of the 18th century philosopher.
Peter: Okay, so here we go. Here’s what we have from our research. The original melody of this song was composed by Jean Jacque Rousseau.
Naomi: おお、ジャン・ジャック・ルソーなんだ。
Peter: A famous 18th century philosopher. Now, it was also sung as a carol called “Green Bell” in the United States.
Naomi: へえ、知らなかったです。 I didn’t know that. So, how did it get to be a Japanese Kids Song?
Peter: Well, in 1874, the carol “Green Bell” was introduced to Japan, but it was given different song lyrics for elementary school children. The lyrics went through many changes. And then, in 1974 it was introduced again with new lyrics. And Naomi 先生, those lyrics are?
Naomi: むすんでひらいて
Peter: The current version. And this is one that’s really popular to sing at nursery schools and the kindergartens.
Naomi: あ、そうですね。 Right.
Peter: Now, the song is geared towards really young children, so the lyrics are really quite simple. Naomi 先生, shall we take a look?
Naomi: はい、もちろん。 Of course.

Lesson focus

Peter: Naomi 先生, what’s the first line, please?
Naomi: It’s the same as the title. むすんでひらいて
Peter: So, there are two words here.
Naomi: むすんで
Peter: And?
Naomi: ひらいて
Peter: Now, these are two verbs.
Naomi: Right. There are two verbs in a te-form. Here the te-form is giving a command.
Peter: And what are these commands?
Naomi: Well, the first verb is 結ぶ, “to tie”, but in this case it’s talking about your hands and it means “close your hands”, then the second verb 開く which means “to open”.
Peter: So, first “close your hands” and then “open them”. むすんで、ひらいて
Naomi: Yes.
Peter: What’s next?
Naomi: 手を打って結んで
Peter: 手を打って another te-form.
Naomi: そうですね Right. 手 means “hands”, 打って is the te-form of the verb 打つ, “to hit”. So, 手を打って means “to hit your hands” or “to clap your hands”. And then, we have 結んで again.
Peter: So, “clap your hands, close your hands.”
Naomi: Right. The next line is また開いて.
Peter: また means “again”, so it’s telling you to open your hands again.
Naomi: そうですね。また開いて “Open your hands again.” You’ll notice that the song has a little of repetition.
Peter: Yes. So, it’s really easy to follow along. And after that?
Naomi: 手を打って
Peter: “Clap your hands”.
Naomi: その手を上に
Peter: “Put your hands up”.
Naomi: その手 means?
Peter: “Those hands”.
Naomi: We’re referring to the same hands we were opening and closing. 上 means “up” or “above”. And, actually 上 can be changed to something different. There are a lot of different variations.
Peter: 下に “Put your hands down” or something like that.
Naomi: その手を下に or その手を後ろに、その手を前に
Peter: “Put your hands down”, “Put your hands behind you”, “Put your hands in front of you”.
Naomi: その手を顔に
Peter: “Put your hands on your face.”
Naomi: Right.
Peter: But you’re supposed to do all the things that the teacher or the person in charge is saying.
Naomi: そうですね。
Peter: Right after she says it. So it’s kind of like “Simon says”.
Naomi: ああ、そうかもね。
Peter: So the teacher says to do something and you do it. But here, we have the lyrics and they can change. Now, one thing that I kind of want to point out. Remember, in Japanese plurals are rarely, rarely used, so, その手, here it refers to “both hands”.
Naomi: そうね。
Peter: But it can easily be その手, like “that hand”. But again, it’s the context. And here, you have to picture the kids, watching the teacher and the teacher singing and moving both hands while the song is being sung.
Naomi: And then, the rest of the lines are the same as before. 結んで開いて
Peter: “Close your hands, open your hands.” Now, we hope you’re all doing this while you’re listening along.
Naomi: Yeah. I’m actually doing it.
Peter: Me too.
Naomi: And lastly, 手を打って結んで.
Peter: “Clap your hands, close your hands.”
Naomi: The end.
Peter: Now, that was pretty fun.
Naomi: It’s a really cute and simple song. If you have a baby or a young kid, try singing this song with them. They’d probably love it.
Peter: Okay. That just about does it for this Japanese Children Song Lesson.
Naomi: We hope you enjoyed it.
Peter: Thanks for listening and see you next time!
Naomi: じゃあまた。


Naomi: Find more detailed explication of the lyrics at JapanesePod101.com. There, listen to the full version of the song and video format completed with beautiful pictures of Japan. Go to JapanesePod101.com to get your free lifetime account.

Song (Full Version)