What is the most popular wedding song in Japan? Need a hint?
More than twenty-three million Japanese (20% of the population) sing this song every year. Ok, I’ll tell you about the author.
Joseph Scriven, an Irishman born in 1819 and graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland is the author. Name, still doesn’t ring a bell with you. We’ll continue on with the tale of Mr. Scriven:
Things were going well for young Mr. Scriven, he fell in love with a young woman and they planned to marry.
But tragedy struck. The evening before the wedding, his bride drowned. Joseph moved to a teaching post in Port Hope in Canada but sadness followed him. He again became engaged, but once more, just before the wedding his bride became ill and died.
In 1855 his mother in Ireland also became ill and to encourage her, he wrote a poem. That poem went on to become one of most beloved hymns in Christendom.
The words came easy for Mr. Scriven to write; he knew sorrow and pain. His whole life had been devoted to caring for the sick and needy. But in the end it all became too much; his spirit and finances went into steep decline.
Late one night, 10th August 1886, poor Joseph Scriven was deeply depressed. He was left alone while a friend stayed in an adjoining room. Later, when the friend went to check if Joseph was all right, he was surprised to see the room empty. A search was made but it wasn’t until the middle of the next day Joseph’s lifeless body was found, lying in some water.
To this day, we do not know if his death was an accident or suicide.
Shortly before the death of Mr. Scriven, the poem was found by Ira Sankey who added music written in 1868 by Charles Crozat Converse.
Converse named his pinned melody Erie, after the port town in Pennsylvania. On that note, here’s a clue for those of you who read music.
The newly paired poem and melody quickly became popular in Britain especially with the British troops during World War One. Easy to sing, easy to accompany on a harmonica and uplifting lyrics for the millions of soldiers in the trenches.
Britain? Pennsylvania? Ireland? World War One? How does all this fit in with a Japanese wedding song?
Before his death in 1915 Daisui Sugitani, applied the tune to a children’s Japanese folk song. Born in 1874 in Tottori, Japan, he moved to Tokyo to study but had to give up his work due to illness. He died at the age of forty.
Today the Japanese use the same music by Converse and the words are Joseph Scriven’s original poem, written to his bedridden mother in Ireland more than 150 years ago, is translated as:
Itsu ku shimi fu kaki, tomo naru Iesu wa,
Tsu mito ga ura i o, tori sari tam ou
Kokoro no nageki o, tsutsu mazu nobete,
Nadoka wa oro sanu, oeru o moni o
Itsu ku shimi fu kaki, tomo naru Iesu wa
Wa rera no yowak i o, shi rite awaremu
Nayami kana shimi ni, shizu meru tokimo
Inori ni kotae te, nagu same tamawan
Itsu ku shimi fu kaki, tomo naru Iesu wa
Ka rera nu ai mo te, michi biki tamou
Yono tomo ware ra o, sute saru tokimo
Inori ni kotae te, ita wari tamawan
At first sight, it seems strange to sing this song at weddings since it has miserable associations with death, illness and war. But married life, as many of us know, often encounters grief and pain, trials and temptations, trouble and sorrow. Just before a wedding, couples are naturally apprehensive, indeed often terrified, of the unknown life before them. This hymn, therefore, can be a measure of comfort to know that if such problems arise, they can “take it to the Lord in prayer”.
Now can you tell me the name of the most popular wedding song in Japan?
One final hint; here is Joseph Scriven’s poem:
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry, everything to God in Prayer.
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry, everything to God in Prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? take it to the Lord in prayer;
in his arms He’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.