Tragedy of the wandering mother and daughter

Three Muchakana monuments in three islands

Kakeromajima, Kikaijima, Amami Oshima

There is an island song which has been sung in the Amami islands. This song is about tragedy of a mother and a daughter, and has been inherited to three monuments in three islands.

              Harei Kikyaya Onozu nu yo Yarei Tobaya Muchakana yoi

              Harei aosanuri hagi ga yarei imoro

(Translation: Muchakana at Ten banyan trees in Onozu, Kikaijima. Why don’t we go pick up seaweeds, Muchakana.)

A young woman who refused to be the island mistress of a Satsuma clan officer escaped from the island. After drifting ashore she got married with an islander and gave birth with a baby daughter. The baby daughter grew up beautifully, however, died by drowning while gathering seaweed. In this episode, I have followed the traces of the legend story of “Muchakana.”

There is a song monument on the hill where the daughter hid from the enemy at the first stage the song was memorialized, Kakeromajima (Ikenma, Setouchicho). When the local Shimauta singer won the first place of National Japanese Minyo, this monument was built in Setouchicho. The residents still clean and visit on the 9th of each month according to the old calendar even now.

Shimauta is a wonderful and proud oral culture in Amami. The mystery of who first started to sing the song remains. Although some say that the daughter’s name is Muchakana and she escaped to Kikaijima with her family, as in “Amami Oshima Minzokushi (Amami Oshima ethnolography)” (1927), later in the 1933 “Amami Minyo Daikan (Amami folk songs overview)” the daughter’s name is Uratomi and the name of the song is Uratomibushi. It seems that this Uratomibushi is generally known. Others say that Uratomi was a singer who sang gate by gate. Hachigatsu Odori (August dance) still remains in every island. In the era with no letters, songs were the media used to tell stories. The tragedy may have swallowed all the dramas as it was sung era after era.

According to “Onozuji-shi (Onozuji history),” however, where the daughter takes the main stage in Kikaijima, the beautiful young shamisen expert and singer Masukana who had been thrown ashore was the Muchakana. A round carved stone monument welcomes sightseers in this place. Her relatives have been mourning her soul and visiting the monument on June 18th by the old calendar ever since.

She appears on her last stage in Aoku in Sumiyocho, Amami island, where a legend tells of how villagers buried her when Muchakana’s body drifted ashore. The monument was built near the coast. People are still seen praying there today.

The author would like to dedicate the prayer that her soul rests in peace forever at the three monuments.

monumnent in Ikenma, Setouchicho

monument in Onozu, Kikaijima

monument in Aoku coast in Ichi, Sumiyocho

Posted on Minami Nihon Shinbun ”Southern Kyushu Bungaku no Ishibumi(Monument of Literiture)” August 7th, 2022

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