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Blue Moon Blog: Part II

Last week I started following "moon trails." That is, a correspondent (whom I call the Man from Osaka) sent me a long, complicated email about the moon, and just about everything he said inspired me to follow a trail of inquiry. I shared two of these trails in the previous JOK Notebook. Now we'll investigate three more.

Moon Trail 3: A Song

The Man from Osaka informed me about a famous piece of music. Here's what he said:

滝廉太郎が作曲した 荒城の月 と言う名曲があります。
“Moon of the Ruined Castle,” which Rentaro Taki composed, is a famous piece of music.

滝廉太郎 (たき  れんたろう: person's name); 作曲 (さっきょく: composition (of music)); 荒城 (こうじょう: ruined castle); と言う (という: called thus); 名曲 (めいきょく: famous music)

Ah, the composer's name incorporates 滝 (waterfall), which I wrote about in essay 1555 on 滝, and 太郎 (たろう), a name or name suffix that I discussed extensively in essay 1936 on 郎 (male name suffix). Always great to run into old friends this way!

And what's this about a "ruined castle"?! I've never heard that term; the definition came from Breen's dictionary. I could reword it as "a castle in ruins," but that wouldn't flow well in the translated song title. Anyway, I like "ruined castle." It makes me think of an elaborate sandcastle that a bratty sibling has kicked in with spiteful glee.

As to the song, I've found versions of it here:

YouTube, where it sounds operatic.

Uta-Net, which features a solo singer. This version has a lovely video of an unruined castle (among other things) and presents the lyrics both on the screen and below.

You can find the lyrics presented clearly and beautifully with furigana on a third page.

According to my proofreader, the song essentially says, "Nothing will stay the same forever." He offers a gorgeous translation that he characterizes as rough:

In spring there must have been flowery parties where many people drank together in the tall castle (which now is mere ruins).
There must have been moonlight beautifully seeping through the thousand-year-old pine tree branches into the court. Where did all those glorious days go?

Where indeed?

And in which castle did all this happy debauchery occur? According to Wikipedia sites inJapanese and English, Bansui Doi (who wrote the lyrics) took his inspiration from Aoba Castle, Sendai Miyagi, or Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle (this last one being in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture). Meanwhile, Taki (who composed the music) may have been thinking of Oka Castle (Takeda in Oita Prefecture) or Toyama Castle (in Toyama, Toyama Prefecture).

Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle after the Battle of Aizu. This photograph is from 1868!

[To read the rest, just go to Joy o' Kanji!]