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Chiran no haha: hotaru (Chiran mother: Firefly)
Performed by Fumiko Utagawa
Written and composed by Mitsusaburo Teppo
From Chiran no haha: hotaru; Kaiten no haha: Ningen gyorai (Chiran mother: Firefly; Kaiten mother: Human torpedo)
Nayutawave Records, 2001, CD

The historical figures of Tome Torihama, Fumihiro Mitsuyama, and Saburo Miyakawa serve as sources for this enka song that tells the fictional story of a Korean kamikaze pilot who returns in spirit as a firefly. Below is an English translation of the song, which includes both sung parts (in bold) and spoken parts (indented with normal font).


At 2:25 p.m. on April 7, 1945, the battleship Yamato went to a watery grave. Afterward, were there only kamikaze attacks [1] by special attack squadrons?

Colorful flowers, to Chiran's seas [2]
Making you go, to those skies
Lives never to return, one more

Kanai: "Tome obasan [3], good morning."

Tome: "Kanai, it's early in the morning."

Kanai: "Obasan, today I am 17 years old. Since I think of you as my mother, I came to tell you. Thank you for everything you have done for me up to now."

Tome: "Today you'll go, won't you?"

Kanai: "For me, Fumihiro Kanai, the day has come to make a splendid kamikaze attack [4] on an enemy ship. At this farewell please listen to a song from my home. I will sing it."

Arirang Arirang Arariyo Arirang gogaero neomeoganda [5]

Tome: "Kanai, you were born in Korea."

These young cherry blossoms that go to be scattered
They hurry on their final journey
With their sacrifice, there is peace

Kanai: "I surely will return to see you. To your heart."

I wail out loudly
A firefly out of season
Kept your promise, to my heart

Tome: "Ah, this firefly is Kanai. He returned as he promised. He returned. Kanai."

I cry loudly, you went to die with a bomb
An untold number of young lives not forgotten
Even now deeply submerged in Chiran's seas
Sacrifices for a peaceful Japan, these souls, these spirits
Rest in peace forever and forever

Kanai: "Omoni." [6]

Translated by Bill Gordon
March 2007


The Japanese Army used Chiran in Kagoshima Prefecture as its major air base for kamikaze attacks during the Battle of Okinawa. Tome Torihama, who ran Tomiya Restaurant in Chiran, played the role as second mother to many young kamikaze pilots who visited her restaurant.

The pilot Fumihiro Kanai in the song never existed, but he has some characteristics of two actual kamikaze pilots who sortied from Chiran, Second Lieutenant Fumihiro Mitsuyama and Sergeant Saburo Miyakawa. The 2001 film Hotaru (Firefly) with Ken Takakura and Yuko Tanaka also has a pilot based on the historical figures of Mitsuyama and Miyakawa. Mitsuyama sang the Korean song Arirang to Tome on the night before his kamikaze mission on May 11, 1945. Miyakawa promised Tome he would return as a firefly after his kamikaze mission on June 6, 1945, and a firefly did appear at 9 p.m. that day at Tomiya Restaurant.

The song refers to Fumihiro Kanai turning 17 years old. Mitsuyama and Miyakawa were 24 and 20 years old, respectively, when they sortied from Chiran. However, Miyakawa did visit Tome on his 20th birthday, which took place on the day before his kamikaze mission. The mention of Kanai being 17 years old may refer to Corporal Yukio Araki, who was the youngest kamikaze pilot to sortie from Chiran at the age of 17 years and 2 months.

Notes

1. The song uses the term taiatari (body crashing), which has been translated into the more common English phrase of "kamikaze attacks."

2. Chiran is an inland town about 15 kilometers north of the East China Sea. The phrase "Chiran's seas" refers to the sea between the southern tip of Kagoshima Prefecture and Okinawa, where kamikaze pilots flew during the Battle of Okinawa.

3. The Japanese word obasan is used as a term of endearment for middle-aged women.

4. See Note 1.

5. The actual Japanese words are the following: "ariran ariran arariyo ariran koogeru nomokanda." This English translation uses a more typical romanization of the beginning of this Korean song. Arirang refers to a mountain pass in Korea, and the last three words of "Arirang gogaero neomeoganda" can be translated as "I am crossing over Arirang Pass."

6. Omoni is the Korean word for mother.