by Tim Boyle, missionary
? ? ? Buraku Liberation Center, Osaka
Japanese Hymns in English is the title of a book I ran across that was
written by Pauline Smith McAlpine in 1975.? It contains her translations of
50 hymns written by Japanese Christians, along with short biographies of the
composers of the hymns.?Few of these hymns have been known in the West, but
in recent hymnals of several mainline denominations, some now
appear.?Likewise, two specialized hymnals focusing on Asian hymns contain
numerous translated Japanese hymns.?The following website gives a complete
listing of the hymnals that contain particular hymns:
I want to highlight a hymn that is often confused with the hymn described in
another article on Japanese hymns in this KNL issue, since both begin with
the words “Gariraya no Kaze” (Winds of Galilee).?The other “Gariraya no
Kaze” hymn was composed by Yuki Ko, the “Charles Wesley” of Japanese hymn
writers.?In fact, Yuki’s 10 hymns in the new Hymnal 21 is second only to
Wesley’s 15, unless the 24 hymns attributed to the Kyodan’s Hymnal Revision
Committee are counted.
First, a brief biography of Yuki Ko: Born in 1896 in Tottori Prefecture, he
was educated at Kwansei Gakuin University in Nishinomiya. In 1921, he was
installed as the pastor of Tokyo Futaba Independent Church, the predecessor
of the Kyodan’s Higashi Nakano Church.?He also was a lecturer at Aoyama
Gakuin University and a member of the Board of the Christian School of
Music.?He passed away in 1985.
Yuki’s version of the “Galilean breezes” is set to “Missionary Hymn,” a
Lowell Mason tune that in English hymnals is usually associated with “From
Greenland’s Icy Mountains.” While McAlpine includes her translation of this
popular hymn, it does not appear in any standard English hymnal, most likely
because it is not associated with a Japanese melody.
Another of Yuki’s best-known hymns, however, now appears in several English
hymnals, including the New Century Hymnal published by United Church of
Christ (UCC). “In A Lowly Manger Born” (also known by the title “Behold the
Man”) is set to a tune known as “Mabune” (Japanese for “manger”), written by
Abe Seigi in 1930.?
1. In a lowly manger born,
Humble life begun in scorn;
Under Joseph’s watchful eye,
Jesus grew as you and I;
Knew the suff’ring of the weak.
Knew the patience of the meek,
Hungered as but poor folk can;
This is he. Behold the man!
2. Visiting the lone and lost,
Steadying the tempest tossed,
Giving of himself in love,
Calling minds to things above.
Sinners gladly hear his call;
Publicans before him fall,
For in him new life began;
This is he. Behold the man!
3. Then to rescue you and me,
Jesus died upon the tree.
See in him God’s love revealed;
By his Passion we are healed.
Now he lives in glory bright,
Lives again in Pow’r and might;
Come and take the path he trod,
Son of Mary, Son of God.
The UCC’s New Century Hymnal contains four other Japanese hymns, while the
United Methodist Hymnal and the Presbyterian Hymnal each contain three.
Interestingly, the Japanese hymn that appears most often in English language
hymnals is to a tune called “Tokyo.”?It appears in eight hymnals, with three
slightly different translations, but all close to “Here, O Lord, Your
Servants Gather.”?Yet, it must not be sung very often in Japanese churches
because to use a musical phrase, it does not “ring a bell” with me.
The next most common hymn appears in four hymnals and is one I am very
familiar with, as it is frequently sung in Japanese churches. “Mikotoba
Kudasai” appears in the United Methodist hymnal as “Send Your Word, O Lord,”
while in the UCC hymnal the first line is, “Make a Gift of Your Holy Word.”
These few Japanese hymns that are included in English language hymnals are a
good beginning. I can think of several other beautiful Japanese hymns that
would be excellent additions.?Hopefully, some of them will find their way
into our various hymnals, along with hymns from other cultures as well.