Tinsagu nu Hana てぃんさぐぬ花 “Balsam Flowers”

This is one of my favorite songs from Okinawa, the Ryukyu Islands.

When people usually think of Okinawa, they just mix it in with Japan.

The Ryukyu Islands have their own distinct cultural forms, language and ways of living. They have been invaded and colonized, and ruled by the Chinese and the Japanese, then the Americans. Japanese colonization has had the most lasting impact.

Their indigenous forms, as with many people’s cultures around the world, have been dwindling, forgotten. Today, the Okinawans struggle to survive admidst some of the most intense military activities on the planet by the United States.

I offer this music, as well, to remember our cultural heritages and to remember life lived with wisdom, a word that is hardly used anymore. It is not just the passing of time, the forgetting is made to happen and some strive to hold on and to honor their cultural differences and to honor the clans and communities, ecologies and plant, fast becoming after-thoughts in the modern world.

This song speaks to the wisdom of our parents and ancestors and how we must listen to them. This, of course, within the context of a traditional Okinawan family where wisdom teachings passed down, are valued and there is reciprocal relations of caring for parents as they age.

This version is arranged by the great Ryuichi Sakamoto and sung by traditional shima-uta singers. English translation of the lyrics are below the video.

Tinsagu nu Hana (Balsam Flowers

Tinsagu nu hana ya chimi sachi ni sumiti
Uyanu yushi gutu ya chimu ni sumiri
Uyanu yushi gutu ya chimu ni sumiri

Tin nuburi bushi ya yumiba yuma rishiga
Uyanu yushi gutu ya yumin naran
Uyanu yushi gutu ya yumin naran

Yuruha rasu funi ya ninu fua bushi miati
Wan na cheru uyaya wandu miati
Wan na cheru uyaya wandu miati

Takaradama yatin migaka niba sabisu
Asayu chimu migachi ychiyu watara
Asayu chimu migachi ychiyu watara

Makutu suru hitu ya atuya ichi madin
Umuku tun kanati chiyunu sakai
Umuku tun kanati chiyunu sakai

Nashiba nani gutun nairu gutu yashiga
Nasan yui karadu naran sadami
Nasan yui karadu naran sadami

Balsam Flowers (Chinsagu Nu Hana)

Just as my fingernails are dyed with the pigment from balsam flowers,

my heart is dyed with the teachings of my parents.

Although one may be able to count the galaxies in the sky,

the teachings of my parents cannot.

Just as the ships that run in the night are guided to safety by the north star,

I am guided by my parents who birthed me and watch over me.

Just as there is no point in owning splendid jewelry if you will not maintain it,

human beings who maintain their body-minds will live life wonderfully.

The wishes of those who live sincerely always come true and they prosper.

You can do anything if you try,

but you cannot if you do not.

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