This is sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle

アルプス一万尺 - Japanese Children's Songs - Japan - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image

Notes

*This can be literally translated as "10,000 Shaku". Shintaro Tominaga wrote me, "One foot is almost identical to one Shaku; this is an old length measurement unit in Japan."
**The Japanese Alps

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In this song it's actually a joke about dancing on the top of Mt. Koyari because it's so steep and pointy that no one can dance on it. You would need rock-climbing equipment to get to the top.

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A singable translation in English:

10,000 feet up the Alps
High up mount Koyari
Let's all do the Alpine dance,
High up mount Koyari
Hay!

Lalalalalalala
Lalalalalala
Lalalalalalalala
Lalalalala
Hay!

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Romanji (Pronunciation)

arupusu ichiman jaku koyari no ue de
arupen odori wo sa odorimasho
la lalala lan lan lan lan
la lalala lan lan lan
la lalala lan lan lan
lan lan lan lan lan lan he!

Note to English Speakers: The 'jaku' or 'shaku' seems to be a sound phonetically somewhere between the [j] [ch] [sh] sounds; pick one and amend the lyrics accordingly!

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Sadao Mazuka wrote to us from Japan about this song:

The History of "Yankee Doodle" in Japan:

On July 8th 1853, American Admiral Perry arrived at Uraga Yokosuka, Japan as the commanding officer of an East India Squadron. (We Japanese refer to the event as the Assault of Kurobune = "Black Ships".) On July 14th, he landed at Kurihama Beach with the U.S. Marine Corps for the purpose of handing a personal letter from President Fillmore to the representatives of the Tokugawa Shogunate. At that time "Yankee Doodle" was played by the military band as the march of landing. The Meiji Restoration (the restoration of Imperial rule under the Emperor of Japan) started with this music I can say!

Regarding アルプス一万尺 (10,000 Feet up the Alps):

I don't have any information about the author of these lyrics. It may have been written by the students of a mountain club of Kyoto-University (we can't make confirmation on this point). I also don't have information about how it was applied to a children's hand-clapping game.

Looking at the musical notes of "Yankee Doodle", its quadruple rhythm is well matched to the typical old Japanese lyric style of "甚句(じんく,jinku)" that has 7-7-7-5 syllables.

[a-ru-pu-su-ichi-man-jaku] -7
[ko-ya-ri-no-u-e-de] -7
[a-ru-pe-n-odo-rio] -7
[o-do-ri-ma-sho] -5

[o-ha-na-ba-ta-ke-de] -7
[hi-ru-ne-wo-su-re-ba] -7
[cho-o-cho-ga-ton-de-kite] -7
[ki-su-wo-su-ru] -5

アルプス一万尺 - Japanese Children's Songs - Japan - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Comment After Song Image

Comments

Check out Mama Lisa's Blog post about how Yankee Doodle Helped Start a Revolution in Japan to learn more about the history of this song.

There is also a longer version of this song.

Listen

Below you can hear the tune of Yankee Doodle…

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Watch
Below you can see the handclapping game for this rhyme…
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Please let us know if you think this video has been taken down by YouTube.
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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Ayako Egawa for pointing out this rhyme to us, the YouTube video, for helping with the English translation and the Japanese text! Thanks to Jason Pomerantz for helping with the singable translation. Thanks to Shintaro Tominaga for information about "shaku". Thanks to Lucy Smith for sending the Romanji lyrics. Thanks to Sadao Mazuka for commentary about this song and for helping with the translation of the long version.

Image: Wikipedia

2nd Image of Mt. Koyari from Wikipedia - edited by Sadao.

Arigato gozaimasu!

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