Japanese Hand Clapping Game: Omochio Tsukimasho
In thinking about how children play with music and through music, I was reminded of a fun chanting and clapping game I taught to a second grade general music class to align with their Japan unit. This chant is called "Omochio Tsukimasho" and involves chanting the words while carrying out a clapping pattern to specific rhythms guided by the beat in the lyrics. If you watch, it takes a bit of coordination as well as rhythm to carry out this song successfully!
At first glance, this chant appears to be a simple children's game. However, it is implications for musical, cognitive, physical and social development. According to Lew & Campbell (2005, p. 58), "Play is an important medium for learning in young children's lives-wherever they may be. It assists them in their development of language and reasoning skills, and it fosters social competence and peer-group interaction". Musically, it challenges the players to keep a steady beat and to clap and move to the rhythms accurately. This involves precise physical moments and coordination. Cognitively, it involves memorizing words and associating them with movements. Socially, this game requires cooperation amongst peers. Players must trust each other to perform to the best of their ability and that each child will tap the other's hand appropriately.
This playful game also has cultural significance and has much to tell about the society in which the Japanese children live. The game is a reference to the process of making mochi, a tasty rice cake dessert made by pounding rice into a paste and then molding it into the desire shape. In Japan, it is traditionally made in a ceremony called "mochitsuki".
Here are the lyrics along with a rough translation:
Omochio tsukimasho – We are going to make smashed rice.
Mochi – smashed rice
Petanko – sound of patting
Konete – sound of flattening
Ton ton ton – just a sound