Rainy Season in Japan and the Song "Amefuri Kuma no ko"

In most parts of Japan, in early summer, with the exception of Hokkaido, there is a rainy season called, "tsuyu". "Tsuyu" is written with a combination of the kanji characters for "plum" and "rain"; since it is the season when plums ripen. Let's learn the kanji character for "rain" with step-by-step kanji stroke order instructions. The rainy season begins in early June and lasts until mid July, though it usually begins a month earlier in Okinawa.

There are quite a few rain themed songs in Japan. I will now introduce a children's song called, "Amefuri Kuma no ko". "Ame" means, "rain" and "amefuri" means "rainfall, rainy day, rainy weather". "Furi" is a noun form of the verb "furu (to fall)". "Kuma no ko" means "little bear". "Ko" means "child".

Amefuri Kuma no ko

おやまに あめが ふりました
あとから あとから ふってきて
ちょろちょろ おがわが できました

いたずら くまのこ かけてきて
そうっと のぞいて みてました
さかなが いるかと みてました

なんにも いないと くまのこは
おみずを ひとくち のみました
おててで すくって のみました

それでも どこかに いるようで
もいちど のぞいて みてました
さかなを まちまち みてました

なかなか やまない あめでした
かさでも かぶって いましょうと
あたまに はっぱを のせました

Romaji Translation

Oyama ni ame ga furimashita
Ato kara ato kara futtekite
Choro choro ogawa ga dekimashita

Itazura kuma no ko kaketekite
Soutto nozoite mitemashita
Sakana ga iruka to mitemashita

Nannimo inai to kuma no ko wa
omizu o hitokuchi nomimashita
Otete de sukutte nomimashita

Soredemo dokoka ni iruyoude
Moichido nozoite mitemashita
Sakana o machimachi mitemashita

Nakanaka yamanai ame deshita
Kasa demo kabutte imashou to
Atamani happa o nosemashita

Vocabulary

oyama お山 (yama) --- mountain
ogawa 小川 --- stream
dekiru できる --- be made
itazura いたずら --- mischievous
nozoku のぞく --- to look, to peep
sakana 魚 --- fish
nannimo 何も (nanimo) --- nothing
omizu お水 (mizu) --- water
hitokuchi 一口 --- a mouthful
otete おてて (te) --- hand (used to or by children)
sukuu すくう --- to scoop
nomu 飲む --- to drink
dokoka どこか --- somewhere
moichido も一度 (mou ichido) --- once again
yamu やむ --- to stop
kasa かさ --- umbrella
kaburu かぶる --- to put on, to wear
atama 頭 --- head
happa 葉っぱ --- leaf
noseru のせる --- to put on

Onomatopoetic Expressions

"Choro choro" and "soutto (sotto)" are onomatopoetic expressions. They are words that describe a sound or an action. "Choro choro" is an adverb that is usually used with specific verbs. It describes the sound or appearance of water, or other liquids, when trickling. It is also used to describe a small thing running around. Here are some examples.

  • Kago no naka de nezumi ga choro choro ugoiteiru. かごの中でねずみがちょろちょろ動いている。 --- The mouse is running around in the cage.
  • Suidou no mizu ga choro choro nagareteiru. 水道の水がちょろちょろ流れている。 --- The water from the tap is trickling.

"Sotto (sootto)" describes an action that carefully avoids making a sound.

  • Akachan o okosanai youni sotto heya o deta. 赤ちゃんの起こさないようそっと部屋を出た。 --- I left the room quietly so that I didn't wake up the baby.
  • Benkyou shiteiru aida wa, sotto shite oite. 勉強している間は、そっとしておいて。 --- Leave me alone while I am studying.

~ ka (dou ka)

The lyrics, "Sakana ga iruka to mitemashita", translate into, "The bear was looking at the stream to see if there were any fish." "~ka" is a marker for an embedded yes-no question. It can be translated as, "whether or not".

  • Takashi ga genki ka dou ka shirimasen. 隆が元気かどうか知りません。 --- I don't know whether Takashi is doing well or not.
  • Sore ga hontou ka shirabete miyou. それが本当かどうか調べてみよう。 --- Let's find out if that is true or not.

The Polite Prefix "O"

The polite prefix "o" is used with verbs, adjectives and nouns to express respect or politeness. Although, "o" can be used by both genders, there are some words where only women tend to use it. In lyrics, the prefix "o" is added to nouns such as, "yama (mountain)" and "mizu (water)". Here are some examples.

o-tegami お手紙 --- letter
o-denwa お電話 --- phone
o-sakana お魚 --- fish
o-hashi お箸 --- chopstick
o-ryouri お料理 --- dishes
o-suhi おすし --- sushi
o-tomodachi お友達 --- friend

"Machi machi" means, "while waiting". "Machi" is the stem of the verb "matsu (to wait)". "~ nagara" also expresses an action that occurs simultaneously with another action.

  • Ase o fuki fuki, hatake shigoto o shita. 汗を拭き吹き、畑仕事をした。 --- He worked in the field while continually wiping off his sweat.
  • Ase o fuki nagara, hatake shigoto o shita. 汗を拭きながら、畑仕事をした。 – He worked in the field while occasionally wiping off his sweat.

The first sentence has a nuance that he is wiping off his sweat more frequently. In English, it is more obvious.