The Little Red Bird (a Japanese Nursery Rhyme)

Have you seen the beautiful book Japanese Nursery Rhymes: Carp Streamers, Falling Rain and Other Traditional Favorites yet? It is definitely worth flipping through and listening to the accompanying CD. I snagged it out of the new books pile because I thought several rhymes would make wonderful flannel boards. 
The first one to catch my eye was page 15's The Little Red Bird (Akai tori kotori). The book translates the words as: 
Little bird, red bird
Why oh why so red? 
Because it ate a red fruit. 
Little bird, white bird
Why oh why so white? 
Because it ate a white fruit. 
Little bird, blue bird
Why oh why so blue? 
Because it ate a blue fruit. 

I did a little Google search, and you can download a karaoke version of this song from Amazon or iTunes if you'd just like the instrumental version. Also because this is a full-service blog, here is a video of an adorable little girl singing part of this song. What we do without YouTube? 

I picked this rhyme because you can easily add different colored birds and fruit. For my version, I just did the three colors mentioned in the song. As it is a simple song, I didn't want to invest tons of time in making pieces from felt. Instead I downloaded a bird from Open Clip Art and used Microsoft Publisher to recolor it to blue and Microsoft Paint to recolor it to white. You could use this technique to make birds in as many colors as you'd like. Once I printed the artwork, I used a black Sharpie to go over the lines on the white bird so it wouldn't have an orange outline. It was much faster to trace by hand rather than do it pixel by pixel in Paint. 

I also used Open Clip Art to find the cherry, blueberry, and onion. You will have to give me artistic license on onions being considered a fruit. If anyone thinks of a white fruit, let me know! Since Open Clirt Art content is free for all uses, I can share my file. Download the PDF here. I will say that clip art hardly does justice to Helen Acraman's artwork. 

The book is wonderful because it has three lines for each actual line of the rhyme. First you are given the Japanese script in black, then romanized Japanese in white, and then the English translation in black. On the CD, you are given the song in Japanese (track 11) and then in English (track 12). 


  1. How fun! I will have to check that book out since we often do Magic Tree House events based on Jack and Annie's visits to Japan. We love to share Japanese traditions with our MTH friends at these events. ;o) Thank you!

    1. It is definitely a great book. No idea how authentic it is but it is a fun browse.


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