December 18, 2017

Yakabushi – song sung by POWs at the Yaka camp in Okinawa

Filed under: resources — Tags: , — okinawacollection @ 7:00 AM

Yakabushi (song) and POWs in Okinawa

Yakabushi monument

[Image source: https://www.visitkintown.jp/en/spot/monument-to-yaka-prisoner-of-war-camp]

The song “Yakabushi [屋嘉節]” is often played during the peace memorial in June in Okinawa. In his article titled “Songs of War and Peace: Music and Memory in Okinawa” (2010), James E. Roberson writes:

“Survivors of the Battle of Okinawa, including many civilians, were initially placed by the American military into internment camps throughout Okinawa (Molasky 1999:17). Two well-known songs recall life in these camps, PW Mujō (also, PW Bushi) and Yaka Bushi (Bise 1998:184). The lyrics of both songs largely overlap and were written in the POW camp at Yaka. Both melancholic songs sing of sadness deepened by the harrowing experiences of war, by thoughts of homes and villages destroyed by fighting, by worries about the safety of relatives, and by personal troubles. The lyrics to the first verse of Yaka Bushi are(13)

Yaka Bushi

Beloved Okinawa, turned into a battlefield

Turned into a battlefield

All of the people, with flowing tears

With flowing tears”

Other resources and information related to the songs sung by the POWs are as follows:

  • Ryukyu Shimpo, Yaka Shūyōjoat de tsuito ensō : horyo tsukutta “Yakabushi” hibikaseru (Japanese) / 「屋嘉収容所跡で追悼演奏 捕虜つくった「屋嘉節」響かせる」(『琉球新報』、2017年6月23日)。
  • Nakasone, Ronald Y. (2002). Okinawan diaspora. (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Press), p. 109.

In 2005, Mr. Shōichi Chibana of Yomitan Village in Okinawa visited the West Bank, where he played Yakabushi (or Yaka Bushi) with a Ryukyuan musical instrument called sanshin / 三線.

  • Asahi Shinbun, evening edition (夕刊). (September 17, 2005). “Okinawa, Yimitan songi no Chibana Shōichi-san Paresuchina ni Ryukyu no chinkonka.” Accessed from database Kikuzo II Visual.