Japanese Lullabies called Nenneko Yo with a YouTube Video

Illustration of Japanese Mother and Children

There are some lullabies in Japan that start with variations of the line, “Nenneko yo”. “Nenneko yo” is literally “Sleep, baby child”.

Here are some I found in an old book called “A Japanese Miscellany: Strange Stories, Folklore Gleanings, Studies Here & There” by Lafcadio Hearn (1901). They’re Japanese transliterations with translations.

Nenneko, nenneko,
Nenneko yo !
Oraga akabo no
Neta rusu ni,
Azuki wo yonagete,
Kome toide,
Aka no mamma e
Toto soete,
Aka no ii-ko ni
Kureru-zo !

Sleep, sleep, sleep,
Little one!
While my baby sleeps
I will wash some red beans
And clean some rice;
Then adding some
Fish to the red rice,
I will serve it up
To this best
of little babies.

*****

Nenneko! nenneko!
Nenneko yo !
Oraga akabo wa
Itsu dekita ?
San-gwatsu, sakura no
Saku toki ni :
Dori de o-kao ga
Sakura-iro.

Sleep, sleep,
Sleep, my child!
When was my
Baby made?
In the third month,
In the time of the blooming
Of cherry-flowers.
Therefore the color of the honorable
Face of my child is the color of the cherry-blossom.

*****

Nenneko, nenneko, nenneko ya !
Netara o-kaka e tsurete ina !
Okitara gagama* ga totte kama !

Sleep, sleep, sleep, my child !
If you sleep I will go home to fetch your mother!
If you stay awake the
Gagama* will catch and bite you !

* An Izumo name for some kind of Goblin.

Here’s a YouTube I found of someone singing a lovely Nenneko yo lullaby…

Here’s an English transliteration of the YouTube lullaby:

Yurika go no uta o

Nenneko, nenneko,
Nenneko yo.
Yurika go no uta o,
kanari ya ga uta u yo.
Nenneko, nenneko,
Nenneko yo.

Here’s an English translation I made with Ayako Egawa:

The Songs of Cradle

Sleeping, sleeping,
Sleeping, baby!
The songs of the cradle,
The canary sings
Sleeping, sleeping,
Sleeping, baby!

Here’s the Japanese text to this lullaby:

ゆりかごのうたを

ねんねこねんねこ
ねんねこよ
ゆりかごのうたを
カナリヤが歌うよ
ねんねこねんねこ
ねんねこよ

The lullaby in the video is only part of a longer song. We hope to eventually post the whole lullaby.

We’d be happy to receive the Japanese text to any of the above lullabies that don’t have it. You can email any info to me at lisa@mamalisa.com . Thanks in advance!

Many thanks to Linda Austin from Cherry Blossom Memories for providing the transliteration to the YouTube video! Thanks to Ayako Egawa for the Japanese text and for helping with the English translation!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2009 at 2:42 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Holidays Around the World, Japan, Japanese, Japanese Kids Songs, Japanese Lullabies, Languages, Lullabies, Mama Lisa, Nenne ko yo. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “Japanese Lullabies called Nenneko Yo with a YouTube Video”

  1. Linda Austin Says:

    That’s funny, the song on the video sounds just like The Cradle Lullaby melody, but with different words! That’s one of the songs from the beautiful “Best Loved Children’s Songs from Japan” by Yoko Imoto.

  2. Lisa Says:

    I found another version of Nenneko yo in ” Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs” (1886) by Countess Evelyn Martinengo-Cesaresco:

    “Toys are also promised in a Japanese lullaby, which the kindness of the late author of “Child-life in Japan” has enabled me to give in the original:

    Nén-ne ko yō—nén-né ko yō
    Nén-né no mori wa—doko ye yuta
    Ano yama koyété—sato ye yuta
    Sato no miyagé ni—nani morota
    Tén-tén taiko ni—shō no fuyé
    Oki-agari koboshima—ìnu hari-ko.

    Signifying in English:

    Lullaby, baby, lullaby, baby
    Baby’s nursey, where has she gone
    Over those mountains she’s gone to her village;
    And from her village, what will she bring?
    A tum-tum drum, and a bamboo flute,
    A “daruma” (which will never turn over) and a paper dog.

    Scope is allowed for unlimited extension, as the singer can go on mentioning any number of toys. The Daruma is what English children call a tumbler; a figure weighted at the bottom, so that turn it how you will, it always regains its equilibrium.”

  3. Maureen Nishimoto Says:

    Thank you so much for this site.
    My husband is Japanese, and sang a Japanese Lullaby to each of our three (now grown) children.
    He does not remember all the words, so maybe I can find them in the above mentioned book by Yoko Imoto.
    It would mean alot to our children for him to sing it again at our upcoming 50th anniversary.
    Mo

  4. Japanease lullabies | Kiibouyanrunlu Says:

    […] Japanese Lullabies called Nenneko Yo with a YouTubeJul 30, 2009 … There are some lullabies in Japan that start with variations of the line, Nenneko yo. Nenneko yo is literally Sleep, baby child. Here are some I. […]

  5. Claude Says:

    The lullaby with the toys looks like Edo Komori Uta. Some say it’s the oldest of the lullabies and the inspiration for most of the surviving songs.
    Takeda no Komori Uta is probably the most famous.

  6. salnisha Says:

    i am really interest in japanese lullabies.i am writing my thesis of university on that topic.further i hope to do some comparative study on lullabies in japanese and sinhala.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting