The Conditional "nara" and the Song "Shiawase Nara Te o Tatakou"

School children (6-11) singing in classroom
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"Shiawase nara te o tatakou (If You're Happy, Clap Your Hands)" is a popular Japanese song that is based on a Spanish folk song. It became a big hit in 1964, when the song was released by Kyuu Sakamoto. As 1964 was the year that Tokyo hosted the Olympics, the song was heard and loved by many foreign visitors and athletes. As a result it became known all over the world.

Another famous song by Kyuu Sakamoto is "Ue o Muite Arukou", which is known as "Sukiyaki" in the US.

Click this link to learn more about the song, "Ue o Muite Arukou".

Here are the Japanese lyrics of "Shiawase nara te o tatakou" in Japanese and romaji

幸せなら 手を たたこう
幸せなら 手を たたこう
幸せなら 態度で しめそうよ
そら みんなで 手を たたこう

幸せなら 足 ならそう
幸せなら 足 ならそう
幸せなら 態度で しめそうよ
そら みんなで 足 ならそう

Shiawase nara te o tatakou
Shiawase nara te o tatakou
Shiawase nara taido de shimesou yo
Sora minna de te o tatakou

Shiawase nara ashi narasou
Shiawase nara ashi narasou
Shiawase nara taido de shimesou yo
Sora minna de ashi narasou

Let's learn some vocabulary from the song.

shiawase 幸せ --- happiness
te 手 --- hand
tataku たたこう --- to clap (hands)
taido 態度 --- attitude
shimesu しめす --- to show
Sora そら --- Here! Look!
minna みんな --- everybody
ashi 足 --- feet
narasu ならす --- to sound

The English version of the song is, "If You're Happy and You Know It". It is often sung among children. Here is the English version of the song, though it is not a literal translation.

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you're happy and you know it,
And you really want to show it,
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.

If you're happy and you know it, stomp your feet.
If you're happy and you know it, stomp your feet.


If you're happy and you know it
And you really want to show it,
If you're happy and you know it stomp your feet.

Grammar

The "nara" used in the song, indicates a supposition and result. "Nara" is the simplified form of "naraba". However, "ba" is often omitted in modern Japanese. It translates into "if ~ then; if it is true that ~". "Nara" is often used after nouns. It is similar to the conditional "~ ba" and "~ tara" form.

  • Mokuyoubi nara hima ga arimasu. 木曜日なら暇があります。 --- If it's Thursday, I'm free.
  • Asu ame nara, shiai wa chuushi ni narimasu. 明日雨なら、試合は中止になります。 --- If it's raining tomorrow, the game will be cancelled.
  • Taro ga iku nara, watashi wa ikimasen. 太郎が行くなら、私は行きません。 --- If Taro is going, I am not going.
  • Ichiman-en nara, kau n dakedo. 一万円なら、買うんだけど。 --- If it is ten thousand yen, I will buy it.
  • Anata ga tadashii to omou nara, shitagau wa. あなたが正しいと思うなら、従うわ。 --- If you think it is right, I will follow you.

"Nara" also indicates that a topic is being brought up. It can be translated as "as for." Unlike the topic marker "wa", which introduces the topic originating from the speaker, "nara" introduces topics, which have often been suggested by the addressee.

  • Sono mondai nara, mou kaiketsu shita. その問題なら、もう解決した。 --- As for that problem, it had already been settled.
  • Yoko nara, kitto chikara ni natte kureru yo. 洋子なら、きっと力になってくれるよ。 --- As for Yoko, she will definitely help you.
  • Eiwajiten nara, watashi no ie ni arimasu. 英和辞典なら、私の家にあります。 --- If it's English-Japanese dictionary (that you are looking for), it is in my house.

"Yo" is a sentence-ending particle, which emphasizes a statement of suggestion. It is used after the form "ou" or "you". There are quite a few sentence-ending particles used in Japanese sentences. Check out my article, "Sentence-Ending Particles" to learn more about them.

  • Daibu aruita kara, chotto yasumou yo. だいぶ歩いたから、ちょっと休もうよ。 --- Let's take a break, as we've already walked quite a bit.
  • Ano resutoran ni itte miyou yo. あのレストランに行ってみようよ。 ---Let's try that restaurant.
  • Konya wa sushi ni shiyou yo. 今夜は鮨にしようよ。 --- Shall we have sushi tonight?