Old tune in my village: Chu-in Wasan

I've been playing Jazz or improvisation music since my twenties. On the other hand, I also respect the ethnic music, ordinary peoples' music passed down from their ancestors. My village has a long history and villagers are almost farmers and still have traditional lifestyles. But I have to admit that those customs are disappearing. Recently I started to make the scores of the old tunes as the first step. I'm sure that it will help me understand myself and where I live as well as music. Those tunes are almost connected with religious ceremonies. Since Japanese are open-minded to religions, the religious customs have various sources, for example, from Buddhism, shin-to, animism and so on.



Let me introduce one of the old tunes passed down in my village, Kannonnji-cho, Kashihara city, Nara.

Chu-in Wasan in Kannonnji-cho, kashihara city
Chu-in Wasan in Kannonnji-cho, kashihara city

This is the score of Chu-in Wasan. In recent years not everybody knows the melody and especially young people have seldom listened to it.


Chu-in Wassan is a song in Buddhist services to mourn for deceased persons. The services are held everyday from the funeral until "shijyuu-ku-nichi", the 49th day from the death.  For 49 days, people would gather and chant sutra and sing Chu-in Wasan. It is believed that on the 49th day from the death, the dead reach Saihou-johdo, heaven in Buddhism. The tune has lyrics which refer to how the person goes to Saihou-johdo.


Wasan means the Buddhist anthem in Japanese to praise Buddha or his disciples and the lectures. It is said that the origin of Wasan dates back to Nara period [AD 710-784] and the melody got popular in Heian period[AD 794-1192]