Journey Into Wholeness
Hamabe no uta (Song of the Beach) is one of the most popular and beloved Japanese folk songs written in 1914.
When I was working as a music therapist at hospice in the U.S, my patients and families often asked me to sing or play a Japanese song. Hamabe no uta was one I often sang because of its lyric: It talks about memory and reflection, which is a fitting theme for people at hospice.
Hamabe no Uta （浜辺の歌）
By Hayashi Kokei & Narita Tamezou
Ashita hamabe o samayoeba
Mukashi no koto zo shinobaruru
Kaze no oto yo kumo no sama yo
Yosuru nami mo kai no iro mo
Yuube hamabe o motooreba
Mukashi no hito zo shinobaruru
Yosuru nami yo kaesu nami yo
Tsuki no iro mo hoshi no kage mo
In the morning as I wandered about along the seashore
I remembered things from the old times
The sound of the wind, the shape of the cloud
The wave that came and the color of the seashell too
At dusk as I wandered about along the seashore
I remembered people from the old times
The wave that came, the wave that went away
The color of the moon and the light of the star too
Hamabe no uta is a beautiful song about remembering the past. Sometimes the patient may play an instrument, such as an ocean drum, while I sing the song with a guitar or harp accompaniment. Upon singing the song I’d explain the meaning of the song to the patient, if that seems appropriate, which can lead to discussions about his or her own memory from the past.
Recalling memories is a natural and important process for the dying, because it helps them understand the meanings of their lives. Music therapists play an unique role in helping them do this, using songs (this process is called musical life review). Typically we use songs familiar to the patient to support the life review process, but I’ve found that some songs transcend borders and languages, touching peoples’ hearts and eliciting powerful memories in them. “Hamabe no uta” is one of those special songs.
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