In all Japanese schools, whether public or private, a choir takes place annually where all students usually participate and sing, usually one song per class. In this article we will talk a little about orchestras and choirs in Japanese schools.
Japanese schools are full of cultural activities with students such as artwork, research, choir, concert, theater and other performances. Not to mention the school clubs that also cover these activities.
It is not necessary to be in a singing or choir club to participate in the choirs that usually take place in Japanese schools. All students in each class are encouraged and prepared months in advance to present a singing performance.
You may have already seen these situations in anime, where students prepare months in advance. There is usually competition between classes and sometimes even inter-school.
Every year, important national competitions are organized to choose the best orchestra or choir. This allows students to feel motivated in terms of practicing their singing or instrument, in order to defend the honor of their school.
The choir groups in schools are called gasshoudan [合唱団]. In the West we have a strong connection to the choir in churches, when the choir refers to something religious, it is called seikatai [聖歌隊].
What are the benefits of choir in Japanese schools?
Japanese classical singing generally has a much more positive effect than popular songs among young people today. From an early age, Japanese children are encouraged to appreciate the true art of classical music and singing.
Music in Japanese schools is just as important as mathematics. Since the Meiji era, the study of music in Japanese culture has become mandatory in primary and secondary education.
At just 6 years old Japanese children can now be encouraged to participate in a choir or learn some musical instrument. Children have at least an hour and a half of music lessons per week.
These orchestras and choirs also help students to have a social interaction, they are encouraged to work as a group. They work together to create a performance as a whole, and are judged as a whole.
Students participate regardless of whether they like or know how to sing. All of this work results in cooperation, teamwork and discipline. Skills that the Japanese have carried throughout their lives.
The voice of Japan
At the time, there was a social and political movement that probably served as an influence for the popularization of corals in schools. The “Voice of Japan” movement in Japanese nihon no utago[日本歌声]e.
This movement carried an ideology of communism and democratic socialism, the movement provided musical and choral activities throughout Japan in factories, schools and residential areas focused on the working class.
The movement peaked in 1950 until 1960 and was supported by Japanese singer Akiko Seki, considered the founder of the Voice of Japan movement. With increasing capitalism dominating Japan, the movement’s goal has lost its strength but continues to promote chorals across the country.
Of course, Japan’s voice is not the only movement or group focused on hosting school orchestral and choral events across Japan. In 1927 Kosuke Komatsu, who had returned from France, founded the “National Music Association” which later became the country’s largest “Japanese Coral Association”.
JCA is responsible for promoting choir in Japan in elementary, middle and higher schools, as well as factories, companies and private groups. It is believed that there are more than 30,000 coral bands spread across Japan.
There is also the All-Japan Band Association, an organization responsible for the competitions of bands and orchestras that take place across the country. It is estimated that there are more than 14,000 AJBA school bands and orchestras.
Orchestras and choirs in schools in Japan
We have already seen the influence and importance of choirs and orchestras in Japanese culture. You are also already aware of how the Japanese appreciate this type of music and strive to spread this art in society.
There are many popular songs that are sung in choirs or orchestras, mainly in Japanese school graduations. You must have heard the song “Tsubasa wo Kudasai” or “3gatsu 9ka” that played in the drama “A liter of tears”.
In addition to these popular songs, we can list:
- “Sotsugyou Shashin” by Yumi Matsutoya
- “Okuru Kotoba (Presenting Word)” by Kaien-tai
- “Sakura (Cherry Blossom)” by Naotaro Moriyama
- “My graduation” by SPEED
- “Tabidachi no hi ni (The Day of Departure)” a chorus song
- “Sotsugyou” by Yutaka Ozaki.
- “Sakura (Cherry Blossom)” by Kobukuro
- “Michi” by EXILE
- “YELL” by Ikimono-Gakari
Choirs and orchestras in Japanese schools can take place at competitions, graduations, cultural events, school events and even outside schools. We realized that the influence of choirs and orchestras is strong throughout Japan.
Even in J-POP songs or idols, we perceive great cooperation, classic instruments and group choir. It is interesting how popular music mixes with classical and Japanese and Western choirs.
Have you ever had the chance to participate in a choir at Japanese school? Do you have any curiosity or additional information to comment? We appreciate comments and shares.