This is the greatest song in Japan's music history
Kojo-no Tsuki ('The Moon over the desolate castle' ) by Doi Bansui (lyrics) and Taki Rentaro (music)
1. Haru koro-no hana-no en/
Meguru sakazuki kagesashite/
Chiyo-no matsu ga e wakeideshi/
Mukashi-no hikari ima izuko/
Mukashi-no hikari ima izuko
Aki jinei-no shimo-no iro/
Nakiyuku kari-no kazu misete/
Uuru tsurugi ni terisoishi/
Mukashi-no hikari ima izuko
Ima kojo-no yowa-no tsuki/
Kawaranu hikari ta ga tame zo/
Kaki ni nokoru wa tada kazura/
Matsu ni uto wa tada arashi
Tenjokage wa kawaranedo/
Eiko wa utsuru yo-no sugata/
Utsusan toteka ima mo nao/
Ah! Kojo-no yowa-no tsuki
A banquet was held in the splendid castle in the season of the cherry blossom/Where is the light now, that shadowed the glasses and flew through the old pines?
The encampment was covered with frost in the autumn/Where is the light now, that shone on the swords like plants, that were as numerous as the cackling wild geese, that flew ?
Now there is the moon over the desolate castle/Whom is it shining for without change? /Only tendrils remain on the walls/Only the storm sings between branches of the pines
The shadow of the sky doesn't change/But the moon is reflecting it as before, changing for better to worse?/Ah! The moon over the desolate castle!
Doi Bansui (1871-1952) was born in Sendai on October 23, 1871. His actual name was Tsuchii Rinkichi. He studied at the Tokyo Teikoku University (nowadays known as Tokyo University). He published under his pen name Bansui. When he wrote Kojo-no Tsuki, he was a student taking his doctorate and a teacher at Ikubunkan High School. He became a professor at the Second Senior High School (nowadays known as Tohoku University). He studied in London, Paris and Leipzig in Germany from 1901 to 1904. He met the composer of Kojo-no Tsuki, Taki Rentaro in London, when Taki was on the way back to Japan. Then he taught again at the Second Senior High School and the Tohoku Teikoku University(the nowadays known as Tohoku University).
After he had retired in 1934, he devoted himself to writing. He changed the reading of his last name Tsuchii to Doi, as he was popularly known as. Bansui's daughter had passed away, and her final request was that the family be known as Doi, not Tsuchii. So Bansui wanted to be known as Doi from now on to respect his daughter's last wishes. His private life was not so happy. During World War II, he lost his house with about 30,000 books and he lost all his five children before the war. His students and the supporters in Sendai had his house Bansui Sodo rebuilt. He died there on October 19, 1952.
Bansui had heard about the Aizu-Wakamatsu (Tsurugajo) and the Boshin War from his father and his grandfather, since he was a child. He went the Tsurugajo ruined castle as a student of Second Senior High School. He was impressed by the ruined castle very much.
When Bansui was asked to write the lyrics, he quickly remembered the Tsurugajo and a poem by Yamamoto Yaeko (Niijima Yae). Before the castle capitulated, she wrote the poem on the wall in the castle with an arrow. The meaning was "Who will see the shadow of the moon from tomorrow, that remains in the great castle?" Then he remembered the poem by Date Masamune, who was the feudal lord of Sendai, where Bansui was born. Inspired by the two ruined castles Bansui wrote Kojo-no Tsuki.
After WWII Bansui was disheartened, what with the loss of his house and his children. The people of Aizu wanted to offer their support and encouragement. They invited Bansui to Aizu. They prepared a special stone in the castle grounds upon which Bansui wrote the lyrics of Kojo-no Tsuki. They also held a festival at that time.