Posted by: yoko | April 11, 2004

Words From Childhood 2.7

Today’s words: O-Chatsumi Uta

O-Chatsumi Uta is the tea-picking song. Spring is the time for harvesting tea leaves in Japan. My mom taught us this song, which we learned as a hand-clapping game, similar to Pattycake or Miss Mary Mack. The first verse goes like this (roughly translated into English):

Natsu mo chikadzuku hachi-ju-hachi ya (Summer is coming, from the 88th night)
No nimo yama nimo wakaba ga shigeru (In the fields as well as the mountains, the new leaves are thickly growing)
Are ni mieru wa cha-tsumi ja naika? (Isn’t that tea-picking I see over there?)
Akane dasuki ni suge no kasa ([I see] kimono sleeves tied up with red cords and straw hats)

The 88th night refers to the eighty-eighth night after the first day of spring– according to this website, the first day of spring is February 4 (inconceivable to me, from my vantage point!), so the 88th night would fall sometime around the 2nd or 3rd of May.

As a hand-clapping song, we would sing ton-ton, the onomatopoeic words for clapping, at the end of every line. I visited a class in a Japanese elementary school when I was nine, and the kids stood up and sang this song at the beginning of the day, very much like singing the national anthem. I was thrilled that I knew the words to the song (even though I had no idea what they meant), but I had to stifle myself from singing ton-ton.

You can hear a cheesy synth version of the song (complete with claps!) here.



  1. I’d imagine that the Japanese seasons are centered around the equinoxes and soltices instead of beginning on them. It makes sense to me, living where I do, becasue there’s only about a week’s lag between the length of day and the temperature, rather than the six weeks typical of the area where you live. I don’t know what the lag is in Japan.

  2. I’ve been told that the winters are very mild in the area of Japan my mother is from, which is also not too far from one of the major areas of tea-growing there. Since I’ve only ever lived in the Northeast and Midwest parts of the US, where the temperature really only starts to feel springlike in May, I don’t have much experience with more temperate climates. I hope someday to experience them.


%d bloggers like this: