Father, How Strong You Were

(between 1939 and 1941)

IHL Cat. #2684


A patriotic fan sample color lithograph, most likely produced between 1939 and 1941 amid the backdrop of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), depicting a woman dancing to the tune of the patriotic song "Father, How Strong You Were."[1] This very popular war song (gunka) was released in 1939 by Nippon Phonograph Co. under the Columbia brand name, the rights to which they received in 1931 from US Columbia.[2] The fifth verse of the song, as shown below, is inscribed on the print.

The song's lyrics won first place in a contest held by the Osaka Asahi Shimbun and Tokyo Asahi Shimbun newspapers in October 1938. The contest was for a song of gratitude dedicated to Imperial Japanese Army officers and soldiers. The lyrics for this winning song were composed by Fukuda Setsu (福田節), described as an "ordinary woman,"  with music composed by Akimoto Kyōsei 明本京静 (1905-1972) who was affiliated with Nippon Columbia. 

As early as 1932, with Manchuria under Japanese control and Shanghai under Japanese attack, the power of war songs to "stir up patriotism" was recognized. In the preface to the 1932 "Collection of Newest Japanese Military Songs" (Saishin Nihon Gunkashū), the editors declare: "Sing these gunka proudly to raise up the nation! These are the glorious songs of the emperor's nation of Japan!"[3]

The seven colored "bubbles" appearing on the print each contain a patriotic slogan, as follows:

Sino-Japanese Friendship 日支親善          

Endurance and Perseverance 堅忍持久 

East Asia Construction 東亞建設          

Unity and Solidarity 致團結

Promoting National Prestige 国威宣揚

Labor and Service 勤労奉仕 

Saving Money for the Benefit of the Country 貯金報國

The print carries the sample catalog number そ印 參百五拾六號 (so in sanbyaku go jū roko gō [356]). These numbered fan prints (uchiwa-e 団扇絵) were gathered into a sample book (uchiwa mihonchō 団扇見本帳, or uchiwa gachō 団扇画帖.) to show wholesale customers the range of available designs.

Note: Transcriptions and translations are my own unless otherwise noted.

[1] The Second Sino-Japanese War is known in China as the War of Resistance Against Japan. 

[2] Website of Nippon Columbia Co.. LTD. https://columbia.jp/company/en/corporate/history/ [accessed 9-10-23]

[3] Translation as shown in "Music, Politics and Memory: Japanese Military Songs in War and Peace," Sarah Jane McClimon, a dissertation submitted to the graduate division of the University of Hawai'i, 2011, p. 302.

The Song

"Poignantly commemorative and stirring in its patriotic sentiment, this final verse from the war song 'Father, How Strong You Were' captures the popular ethos of Japan in the first years of the China-Japan War (1937-45). . . . Written by Fukuda Setsuo, the lyrics express a woman's perspective on the sacrifices of family during war."[1] 

Father, How Strong You Were

(verse 5)
Oh, the glorious deeds of your bodies
The true hearts of one hundred million people
Are bound together into one by the Japanese Spirit

And now, blue skies extend across the continent

As we see the Rising Sun flag flying high
Weeping, we honor your helmets of steel[2] 


(5番の歌詞 )


Chichi yo Anata wa tsuyokatta

(Goban no kashi)
aa..onmi rano isaokoso
ichioku tami no magokoro wo
hitotsu ni mutsubu yamato dama
ima tairiku no aozora ni

hinomaru takaku haerutoki
naite ogamu tetsu kabuto

[1] "Entertaining War: Spectacle and the Great 'Capture of Wuhan' Battle Panorama of 1939," Kari Shepherson-Scott, appearing in The Art Bulletin, Vol. 100, No. 4 (DECEMBER 2018), pp. 81-105.

[2] Ibid. p. 81.

Print Details