“Hotaru no Hikari” at Graduation for Japanese High School Students

Saturday was graduation for many high schools, and it was a pretty sentimental day. Although I couldn’t understand most of what was being said I felt such a strong feeling of nostalgia when “Auld Lang Sye” was played at the end. The lyrics were in Japanese, but I associate this familiar tune with New Years and thinking about passing time.

I looked up the Japanese version later to see if it was a direct translation and it turns out it isn’t. It is titled Hotaru no Hikari, “Glow of a firefly”, and is about a hard working student who perseveres using the light of a firefly. So of course it’s perfect for a graduation ceremony, but I’ve also heard it in stores as they’re closing to signal shoppers to leave.

Here is the lyrics below in Japanese, Romaji and English. I am nowhere near capable of translating this myself, all credit goes to good old Wikipedia.  Just like the original, the sentiment is moving and I find the lyrics beautiful.


Japanese text


English translation


蛍の光 窓の雪

書よむ月日 重ねつつ

いつしか年も すぎの戸を

あけてぞ今朝は 別れゆく

Hotaru no hikari, mado no yuki,

Fumi yomu tsukihi, kasane tsutsu

Itsushika toshi mo, sugi no to wo,

Aketezo kesa wa, wakare yuku.

Light of fireflies, snow by the window,

Many suns and moons spent reading

Years have gone by without notice

Day has dawned; this morning, we part.


とまるも行くも 限りとて

かたみに思う ちよろずの

心のはしを ひとことに

さきくとばかり 歌うなり

Tomaru mo yuku mo, kagiri tote,

Katami ni omou, chiyorozu no,

Kokoro no hashi wo, hitokoto ni,

Sakiku to bakari, utau nari.

Stay or leave, either an end

Think as mementos; so many

Corners of my heart, in one word

Sing for peace


筑紫のきわみ 陸の奥

海山遠く へだつとも

その真心は へだてなく

ひとえにつくせ 国のため

Tsukushi no kiwami, michi no oku,

Umi yama tooku, hedatsu tomo,

Sono magokoro wa, hedate naku,

Hitoe ni tsukuse, kuni no tame

Far reaches of Kyushu and Tōhoku

Though separated by seas and mountains

Their sincere hearts are not.

Serve single-mindedly for our country.


千島のおくも おきなわも

やしまのうちの まもりなり

いたらんくにに いさおしく

つとめよわがせ つつがなく

Chishima no oku mo, Okinawa mo

Yashima no uchi no, mamori nari

Itaran kuni ni, isaoshiku

Tsutome yo waga se, tsutsuganaku

From the ends of Chishima to Okinawa,

All part of Japan.

Contribute to our great country.

I’ll faithfully devote my life.

Here is the song in all its audio glory.

Up until now, this experience has been about meeting new people and seeing new things.  It struck me that this was my first set of “goodbyes” in Japan. A little sad, but a good reminder to appreciate everything and everyone here fully.