The Light Of Fireflies

Have you ever been an “annoying” customer who does not stop shopping even after the closing time of the shop in Japan? As you know, Japan is a country of “Good Customer Service”, and no shopkeepers do not drive you away by crying “shoo!” in most cases, if you are not too annoying to reach the limits of the patience of shopkeepers…

If you have ever been the last customers, you may have heard this music played in a shop.


The narrative goes:


Saionji’s translation:
Thank you very much for visiting our shop today.
We would like to close the shop now if you allow us.
We are waiting for your next visit.
Thank you very much.


I would say that the point is the phrase “させていただきます”, which I translated into “if you allow us”. I think many Japanese people hesitate to give orders, especially shopkeepers in the relationship with their customers. I said “customers”, but I would like to specify that the word “customers” includes any kinds of “potential customers”. So, anybody can be a “potential customer” just by taking one step inside a shop even though you do so to take shelter from the rain.

I remember so well the words of a shopkeeper who explained to me why they express their gratitude with words and attitude deeply even to those who don’t buy anything at their shop. She said that was a gratitude for having chosen their shop among zillions. And if they find the shop comfortable, the chances will be increased to come back as real clients, she continued. In fact, I went back to that shop another day and became a real customer!

However, these days, many people make unreasonable demands of shopkeepers taking advantage of their kindness and patience. It’s a great pity because that kind of people could exterminate a good service maintained by the patience of shopkeepers…

Anyway, many people, especially who are from Europe and American Continent, will recall the celebration of the New Year. That’s it! Auld Lang Syne, originally a Scottish traditional folk song.


In Japan, however, the song of “Auld land Syne” is known as “The Light of Fireflies”. We imported this song but Japanized it with Japanese lyric, whose meaning is completely different from the Scottish original.

ほたるのひかり まどのゆき
ふみよむつきひ かさねつつ
いつしかとしも すぎのとを
あけてぞけさは わかれゆく

とまるもゆくも かぎりとて
かたみにおもふ ちよろづの
こゝろのはしを ひとことに
さきくとばかり うたうなり

つくしのきわみ みちのおく
うみやまとほく へだつとも、
そのまごころは へだてなく
ひとつにつくせ くにのため

ちしまのおくも おきなはも
やしまのうちの まもりなり
いたらんくにに いさをしく
つとめよわがせ つつがなく

作詞 稲垣 千穎

Saionji’s translation:
Day after day, we read books with the light of fireflies in summer
and with the the light reflected from the snow in winter
Time passed and here comes the moment of farewell
This morning you open the door of *cedar for a new journey
(*cedar: Japanese word for cedar is “sugi”, whose pronunciation is the same for “time passes”)

Some will remain and some will go far from hometown
but equally we have billions of good memories with each other
Now we sing this song
to express all the feelings we have
Wishing you a good luck

To the farthest west of Kyushu and to the far northeast
Although wide oceans and high mountains will do us part
Our sincerity will be always with you
For you work for the good of our country

From Kuril Islands to Okinawa
They belong to our Eight Islands (Japan)
For those who will go out of our country
We wish you a good luck

Words by Chikai Inagaki


The lyrics of Japanese version was created in 1878, with several later minor changes by the Meiji government, for elementary school children. Now it is normally sung at the ceremony of graduation to the new graduates by all the students remaining in school, only the first and the second verses. The third and the forth are not sung now because it refers to the war time. As a matter of fact, this song was played in the graduation ceremony of Imperial Japanese Naval Academy.

As most of the Japanese learn this song in school, we are so familiar with it. Of course, some believe that it is a Japanese original song and some remember that the teacher told them that it was a Scottish folk song. But I think many of us don’t know the lyrics are not the translation of the original but our own creation, and some may believe that fireflies exist in Scotland as well. I guess they are found only in temperate and tropical environments so they may not be found in Scotland… (If you are from Scotland, please tell me if it is true or not!)


a light of a firefly is very beautiful, but not so big and bright enough to enable students to read a book after dark…


I introduced two different usages of “Auld land Syne” in Japan. But I found a small difference between the two …

Did you?

The version used for the announcement of the shop closing is in triple time, on the other hand, the song “The Light Of Fireflies” is in quadruple time.

(If you didn’t notice it, please listen to them once again…)

This is the fact that proves that the shop closing version was inspired by the music played in the film, Waterloo Bridge (1940 film).


So, if you happen to be in a big department store in Tokyo with your boyfriend or girlfriend, stay there until you hear the music. When the music starts, dance a waltz to let people know the original usage! (but please don’t tell them that I told you to do so. Please…)

If you want to know more about fireflies and where to go for fireflies watching, please refer past articles of our site, 2 Hours Drive From Tokyo.

にほんブログ村 歴史ブログ 日本の伝統・文化へ
にほんブログ村 英語ブログ 英語の日記(和英併記)へ

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