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Akatombo (red dragonfly) --- a traditional song in autumn with nostalgia

Submitted by Maki_00000 on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 20:46

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It's getting autumn in full swing in my country Japan. The climate is cold sometime, which reminds me that winter is also coming toward us over fall. But on televisions and in schools around the country, people are singing autumn songs. One of my favorite is called "Aka Tombo (Red Dragonfly)."  That song reminds me and other folks that old homes where they used to stay with their mom behind the beautiful sceneries.


Here are links introducing the song, "Red Dragonfly."

Akatombo (赤とんぼ, red dragonfly)  (In Japanese)

Also, this video clip is sung along with English lyrics.

And this is the first part in the song ----
Following Japanese, there are how to read and translation.

Yuyake Koyakeno, Akatonbo
A red dragonflies in the evening red sky

Owarete mitanowa, Itsunohika
(I am) wondering such a long time ago when I saw (red dragonflies), (as a child) on my mother's back.


(What is sung about?)


Frankly, how did you feel after listening to the song? Actually, as this is my imagination, but, this adult man (who wrote the poem) is thinking about his old hometown along with childhood memories when he was with his mother. 

On this song, he's remembering now that the small child was carried on a back of his mom. Or, when he became a school boy, he might have tried catching the insects spreading all over the red sky.

Red dragonflies are filled with the red-colored sunset but in a certain period of fall, which doesn't change as seasonal tradition over decades. That's why this particular view reminds this man and other adults of sweet memories in fall. Many people live far from their parents following marriage, taking a job or other life-changing occasions.


(By whom and when was it made?)


According to Wikipedia in Japanese, this children's song was written by Rofu Miki and composed by Kosaku Yamada, both of them are well-known musicians in their time. Following the songwriting, the music was latter added in 1927. Yet, this has been so popular among Japanese over generations. More or less, we associate the song with nostalgia to their country home like our predecessors had already put into their motions.

Do you have such a feeling like us? We still endear our childhood memories when we lived in the countryside.




Although I never have lived in Japan, or in anything like 里山, I also get nostalgic when  I hear this song. We sing it each year at the Japanese community 忘年会, and of course this song is payed on music program on NHK International TV, broadcast throughout the world.

I looked at the Wikipedia article. I was surprised that the red coloration changes:

International NHK TV early this year had a TV broadcast about this type of dragonfly. According to the program, they travel up to the tops of hills during the summer prior to returning to the rice fields in the fall, which explains why you suddenly see so many of them appear in the fall.

--- Steven W. Johnston

red dragonfly


Thanks for the interesting information and picture as well as your thoughts. I didn't know how red dragonflies are born and appear over red sky.

Those red dragonflies are so familiar to Japanese people.

Thank you very much.