H A Y A S H I K Y O K O There's a song my mother used to sing when she was seven or eight years old, part of which goes like this: Bought rice cakes in Nagasaki Got some fire in Himi Cooked them at Yagami Cooled them off at Koga Gobbled them up at Kuyama This fragment from childhood has stayed with her; she sings it even now, gazing into the sky. Perched on the edge of the veranda, her rounded back swaying to the rhythm, she sings, Gobbled them up at Kuyama. She speeds up when she gets to that line, as though she's gobbling up the words. Listening, I can see a traveler popping rice cakes in his mouth before anyone finds out he's got them, and it makes me laugh. My mother laughs with me. I don't know whether this song was popular throughout the Nagasaki region or just in the Isahaya region along the Honmyo River where my mother grew up. There's no telling how many generations of little girls sang it before it reached my mother and her friends, around 1907 or so, but it seems to have gone out
Manoa – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Jan 4, 2001
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