| Traditional Japanese nursery rhymes were expelled from school in the
Meiji era. Since then, their influence was rapidly lost, and a new kind
of verse for children was created by Kitahara Hakushû and others
in the Taisho era. In 1970, the creation of modern verses for children
like Hakushû's came to an end with a new trend in the Japanese music
industry. Modern Japanese poetry emphasizes the importance in meaning (expression
of inner self) rather than the sound of words, and became difficult to
understand. Under such circumstances, Tanikawa (1931 -) opened a new phase
in the field of Japanese poetry and rhyme with Kotoba Asobi Uta. He was interested in English nursery rhymes, and tried to emphasize the amusing aspects of the sound of words. He used affluent alliteration, rhyme, and the repetition of the same sound in the pieces collected in this book.|
In "No no Hana" [Wild Flowers], the repetition of "no" and "na" ("Hana no no no no hana／Hana no na nani. . . .") makes an amusing rhythm with the soft "n" sound that describes the relaxed atmosphere of a field full of flowers. In "Kappa," a noun "kappa" changes into a verb "kapparatta" [snatched], followed by "rappa" [a trumpet], "nappa" [greens], and "ippa" [a bunch]. Plosive sounds as "k," "t," and "p" make a lively rhythm and describe an active kappa playing the trumpet or eating greens. "Iruka" [Is a Dolphin There?] makes use of the double meaning of the word "iruka," which means both a dolphin and the question if something exists. The ambiguity of the word "iruka" is amusing.
"No no Hana" was written at the request of a magazine. The other fourteen pieces first appeared in Haha no Tomo [Mother's Companion]. When it was published as a book, the color illustrations by Segawa Yasuo were added. The illustrations in vivid combination of red, green, yellow, and black well express Tanikawa's verses. "No no Hana" and "Iruka" are used in Japanese textbooks for elementary school. An LP record and compact disk of this book have also been produced. In the field of Japanese poetry, Kotoba Asobi Uta is highly praised as an epoch-making work in the history of Japanese poetry.