A---T---S---U---M---O---R---I
S---O---N---G-----&-----D---A---N---C---E

 

This is another thing Oda Nobunaga has been characterized with, for the last five centuries until today: his favorite song and masculine dance called Atsumori, a warrior-hymn perfectly embodying the very essence of the Buddhist and Shinto faiths and the way of the samurai at once. It's not for entertainment; it's closer to spiritual stuff, almost a ritual. Some also call the dance to Atsumori 'kouwakamai'.

Atsumori was made to be sung and danced to by one samurai, using a fan, without any musical instrument or, at most, accompanied by one small bongo played by an attendance.

Although I guess everybody knew this song and could dance to it in 16th century, somehow the one and only true fan and performer of it has been said of as Oda Nobunaga.

It's not so clear why. Perhaps because of his own sense of dramatic climaxes, and the way he lived and died; anyway, here we are now having the memory of Oda Nobunaga that simply cannot exclude the song and dance of Atsumori. It has been identical with him since 1549. It summarizes his life.

Oda often sang and danced to this hymn, the best remembered one was in the morning of his very first 'against-all-odds' battle against the Imagawa clan of Suruga, when he was only in his twenties and having just a few hundred of soldiers, in an impossible war against tens of thousands.

But Oda won that battle.

In Kurosawa Akira's movie Kagemusha Oda Nobunaga sings and dances to the hymn when finally the Takeda clan announces that Shingen is dead, verifying the Oda ninja's reports. Shingen was 53. In the anime movie, Oda sings to the death of Mori Ranmaru (this movie turns real history topsy-turvy, so it shouldn't surprise you).

 

Atsumori and Oda Nobunaga
The lyrics to Atsumori

 

It's no sweat at all to remember the lyrics of this song -- it's too simple and too true to forget. Romanized, the lyrics sound like this:

 

" Ningen Gojuunen,
Geten no uchi wo kurabureba,
yumemaboroshi no gotokunari.
Hitotabi sei wo ete,
metsusenu mono no
arubekika? "

 

Anglicized, the Atsumori would read:

 

" A man's life of 50 years under the sky
is nothing compared to
the age of this world.
Life is but a fleeting dream, an illusion --
Is there anything that lasts forever?
"

 

Nobunaga himself died at 49, in an ambush of several thousands of soldiers led by one of his own Generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, when Oda was virtually alone resting in a temple in his days-off in Kyoto, right at the peak of his career (click here for story and pictures). When he danced this dance, he couldn't have known that.

 

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