Pin It
Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Japanese Music and Dance for Children

Taiko drums from Japan/ © flickr

Every year at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum families are invited to “ring” in the New Year Japanese style, by participating in the auspicious Japanese tradition of striking a temple bell. According to Japanese custom, striking the bell symbolically welcomes the New Year. It is hoped that with each reverberation, the bad experiences and ill luck of the past will be wiped away, giving space to a joyous and fresh New Year.


I was inspired by this community event and decided to have the children and families in my classes participate in our very own New Year tradition. So during our first 2013 classes children sang a Good Morning song I learned from Doug Goodkin; then each took a turn striking a bell and listening to the sound reverberate in the room. It’s a very calming ceremony and the perfect introduction to the music and dance of Japan.


Traditional Japanese music is quite different from Western music. With a sparse rhythm and periods of silence, the music tends to calm and tries to inspire feelings of nature. I am personally fascinated by the sounds of the Koto and the Taiko drums and the dreamy sounds of Japanese folk music.


In this article I would like to share with you some songs and a dance I introduce to all my preschool classes. The very first Japanese song I learned is called Moshi Moshi, and it is sometimes referred to as The Telephone Song. The song is sung to the tune of London Bridge and here are the lyrics:


Moshi Moshi a no ne, ah so desu ka!


Children really enjoy the song and it’s fun to sing it as a call and response. Another song I really like is called Okina Taiko. This song is great played with drums or sticks and teaches beat as well as the difference between big drums and small drums.


Okina Taiko don, don

Chiisana Taiko ton, ton, ton

Okina Taiko, Chiisana Taiko

Okina Taiko don don.


Last but not least, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite folk dances called Tanko Bushi. This dance is traditionally performed during the Bon Festival and depicts the actions of coal miners, i.e., digging, pushing a cart, etc.


You can find a nice rendition on youtube.

© 2013, Viola Pellegrini. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:

Are French Kids Better Behaved Because They are Spanked?

Should spanking be part of your parenting toolkit to have well behaved kids?

Ramadan Star and Moon Craft

A craft recycled from your kid's art work!

Overheard on the Beijing Subway When People Don't Think I Speak Mandarin

The awesome stuff I overhear like what these two Chinese women think of foreigners.

How I Made My Forgotten Native Language My Child’s Strongest

I started off by speaking dodgy Cantonese. No word for remote control? No problem! ‘Pressy thingy.’


Viola Pellegrini, born and raised in Florence (Italy), holds a Bachelor's Degree in Child Development from Mills College. She has received extensive training in music education from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has attended teacher trainings in both Suzuki Method and Orff. She has also taught preschool for seven years and has been a private music instructor for the past ten years. Viola currently teaches multicultural music and movement to young children and families. She hopes to inspire children to develop a lifelong enjoyment and appreciation for music and cultures from around the world. Viola plays violin, piano, guitar and recorder, and is constantly adding new instruments to her repertoire. In addition to English, she is fluent in Italian and German, and is working on her Spanish. In her free time she enjoys attending music and dance events, cooking, practicing yoga and traveling the world with her husband.

Leave us a comment!

Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!

What Cultural Norms Around Bare Feet Taught This Mother in Guatemala

Her baby's bare feet ended up being a lesson on poverty and privilege.
[…] the breastfeeding culture in Mongolia compared to America. Did you have any idea that something as simple as breastfeeding attitudes can […...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
My mother born in the 1930's is originally from the northern part of Germany. I am in my mid fifties and have a terrible relationship with my mother. She is domineering and hurts those where it hurt...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
[…] JC Niala, InCultureParent […...
From Why African Babies Don’t Cry
[…] […...
From Breastfeeding Around the World
Although humanity is one Man (in a generic sense, including woman)has identified himself endless groups, religious, nationalistic, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, etc. Once you separate ME from YOU on...
From What’s an Asian? Race and Identity for a New Generation
[…] […...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
Some great tips here but not many working mothers could feed baby every hour especially if you work in a major multi-nationa...
From Why African Babies Don’t Cry
So true!!! Thanks for being so honest and self reflective. It's a proof of true characte...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
As a first-time mom I've spent the last two months of my four-month-old's life stressed out about her sleep and I recognize how crazy this is. It's clearly not working for me! I'm wondering how non-...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

More Multicultural Books, Etc.