The Russo-Japanese War

← Back to Brass

The Russo-Japanese War marks the beginning of Japanese war-related classical music in the Western style. Yamada Kosaku’s 1912 symphony is subtitled “Triumph and Peace”, although it is in a romantic style in the manner of his composition teacher Max Bruch. During the war Yamada collaborated with the war effort and composed many gunka (military songs) which has somewhat affected his postwar reputation.

Yamada: Symphony in F Major “Triumph and Peace”

Michael Holderer: “Japanese Western Classical Music from the Meiji to the Modern Era”

Thou Shalt Not Die

One of the most famous war poems in Japan is “Kimi shinitamō koto nakare” (Thou Shalt Not Die) by Yosano Akiko (1878-1942). In the poem, Yosano urges her younger brother to come back alive from the war. Here it is read in English translation by Roger Pulvers.

Roger Pulvers Reads: “Oh my little brother”

You can read the original in Japanese here: 与謝野晶子:君死にたまふことなかれ.

Yosano Akiko was born in Sakai city near Osaka. Her life and work is remembered in the Yosano Akiko Museum.

“Kimi shinitamō koto nakare” has been set to music at least twice. This choral setting is by Ishiwaka Masaya, who is also from Sakai and has set a number of Yosano’s poems to music.

“Kimi shinitamō koto nakare”, composed and conducted by Ishiwaka Masaya

The second piece is by Nobunaga Takatomi, who has written a number of other pieces related to war such as Fragments, which is based on the letters of tokko (kamikaze) pilots.

“Kimi shinitamō koto nakare”, composed by Nobunaga Takatomi.

Forward to World War I