"I would like to introduce a traditional children's game from Japan called 'Kendama'. It's quite similar to the 'cup and ball' game in the UK. The main goal is to get the ball in the cup. Many Japanese children sing this song 'Hare and Tortoise' while playing Kendama. It was composed more than 100 years ago. The song lyrics are from an Aesop's fable.

I made the English translation match the music-notes for easy singing. So this is not exactly the same meaning as the Japanese text." -Sadao Mazuka

You can find the literal meaning and the pronunciation in the Song Notes.

うさぎとかめ - (Usagi to Kame) - Japanese Children's Songs - Japan - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image


Literal Translation:

Hello, hello, Tortoise, Mr. Tortoise
There's no one in the world like you,
No one walks as slow as you.
Why are you so slow?

What do you say Mr. Hare?
I'll do my best against you in the race
To the foot of the small hill over there
Where did he run ahead to?

No matter how fast the tortoise runs
Anyhow, he'll take till night,
I'll take a nap here
Zzz zzz, zzz zzz, zzz zzz zzz

I messed up and overslept
Hop jump, hop jump, hop jump, jump
Too late Mr. Hare
You said boasting, what was that?


Usagi to Kame (Sing in Japanese)

Moshi moshi kame-yo kame-san-yo
Sekai-no uchini omae-hodo
Ayumino noroi mono wa nai
Doushite sonnani noroinoka

Nanto ossharu usage-san
Sonnara omaeto kake-kurabe
Mukou-no koyama-no fumoto-made
Dochiraga sakini kake-tsukuka

Donnani kame-ga isoidemo
Douse ban-made kakarudaro
Kokorade chotto hito-nemuri
Goo goo, goo goo, goo goo goo

Kore-wa nesugita shikujitta
Pyon pyon, pyon pyon, pyon pyon pyon
Anmari osoi usage-san
Sakki-no jiman-wa doshitano


Author Wasaburo Ishihara 石原和三郎 (1865-1922)

Composer Benjiroh Nosho - 納所弁次郎 (1865- 1936)

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Sheet Music

Sheet Music - うさぎとかめ - (Usagi to Kame)

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Sadao Mazuka for sharing this song with us with the translations, pronunciation, midi tune and sheet music. Literal translation by Sadao Mazuka and Lisa Yannucci.

Photo by Tomomarusan, CC 2.5.