One Thousand Suns Rising: Yoko’s Japanese songs

By Madeline Bocaro

© Madeline Bocaro, 2019. No part of this site may be reproduced or reblogged in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.


This is an excerpt from my Yoko Ono biography…

The true, complete and deeply insightful story of the extraordinary woman John Lennon loved.

Now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives

On several Best Music Books lists and Gift Guides

Recommended by Olivia Harrison on Instagram

Spotlighted on Apple Jam (The Beatles Channel – Sirius XM) 

Includes the love story of John and Yoko, and all the work they did together.

Signed hard cover books are exclusively available at:

Yoko Ono’s name  小野 洋子 means Ocean Child. She was born and raised in the land of the rising sun. This is why she can “Imagine one thousand suns rising at the same time…” 


Japanese thought and culture infuse much of Yoko’s work. Her writings are inspired by nature, Buddhist thought, Haiku poetry and Zen koans.

“I’m not conscious of myself as only Japanese.

But occasionally I try to communicate on a level with telepathy.

 I was thinking in terms of kehai vibrations…

it’s like the presence of a person behind or around you,

although you don’t see them.” 

– y.o. December 1971

YokoOneThousandSunsTweet-6-26-14Screen Shot 2019-07-30 at 4.27.43 PM

Having spent so much of her life in America, Yoko felt like a hybrid of east and west. No matter how modern her thoughts and her work became, she was rooted in Japanese culture. However, in her heart, she was not only from one place, but of the entire world.

In my life overseas, I still encounter many aspects in myself that show me how Japanese I am. It is a joy I cannot share with anybody around me…”

The blood flowing in my body is made in Japan, but my head is totally a head of the world.

From My Window exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo 2015

Her conceptual artworks ask us to imagine or complete a thought – releasing us from physical and mental limitations, expanding to the universe and extrasensory perception.

“I’m not conscious of myself as only Japanese.
But occasionally I try to communicate on a level with telepathy.
I was thinking in terms of kehai vibrations…
it’s like the presence of a person behind or around you,
although you don’t see them.”

– y.o. Vogue December 1971

Yoko’s art work Mend Piece is rooted in the Japanese practice of Kintsugi (金継ぎ, きんつぎ, “golden joinery”) the wabi-sabi aspect of mending broken china with powdered gold, enhancing its beauty. She also created Kintsugi tableware – Mended Cups – for the illy Art Collection in 2015.

Promise Piece (breaking a vase and having participants promise to meet in ten years and reassemble it) is based on ‘Ichi-go ichi-e’ – the premise that it’s a miracle that we meet and that each meeting could be our last.

Also see: Mend Piece / Promise Piece By Madeline Bocaro ©

Wish Tree, Yoko’s popular and most endearing work derives from an ancient custom at Japanese shrines where people tied pre-printed tags with messages onto trees. The multitude of white papers on the branches resemble blooming white flowers. Wish Tree has grown into a limitless worldwide forest of wishes, which are collected and placed inside another of Yoko’s works – the Imagine Peace Tower in Reykjavik Iceland.

“Many of my works are related to something in my roots.

Wish Tree comes from root experience as a child in Japan.”  – Yoko

Also see: Wish Tree – All My Works are a Form of Wishing  By Madeline Bocaro ©

In Japanese tea houses, the ordinary world is transcended by passing through small kuguri entrance. Everyone is forced to bend, stoop and bow down to get inside. In this way, a new world opens up when inside. This was also meant to equalize the status of all attendees from low and high society. No matter who you are or your background, we are all just people having tea. The literal meaning of tainai-kuguiri is ‘to pass through the womb’. Much of Yoko’s work was about making oneself humble.

“If politicians go through a tea house door (lowered, so people must bend very low to get through) before they discuss anything and spend a day watching the fountain water dance at the nearest park, the world business may slow down a little but we may have peace.

To me this is dance.”

– Yoko, To the Wesleyan People (who attended the meeting.)

a footnote to my lecture of January 13th, 1966

Yoko’s work is heavily influenced by Japanese thought. She can clearly see negative space, and always presents the idea of ‘mind over matter’ in her instructional pieces in her book Grapefruit and her 1971 exhibition title ‘This Is Not Here.’ Yoko’s music is made with the soul of a warrior.

 “I come from the Asian tradition of making music with anything, almost like a warrior.” Recalling the tale of “a very famous Japanese warrior” who once welcomed a visitor, she said: “This guest asked, ‘How do you make music?’ There was a pan, which was sitting right in the middle of the irori (sunken hearth) and the warrior just took that and said, ‘This is my music.’ I thought that was beautiful.”

– Yoko Ono’s Vintage Sonic Blasts Still Sound Like the Future

 The New York Times, October 29, 2016

A very important true story (Kinkaku-ji) always lingered in Yoko’s mind. In Kyoto (1950) a young Buddhist monk (Shoken Hayashi) set fire to a Japanese temple called The Golden Pavillion, burning the national treasure to the ground. The young man was deeply obsessed by its shimmering beauty which reflected brightly in Kyoko pond. He destroyed the temple so that its exceedingly beautiful image at that very moment could exist forever in his mind. Yukio Mishima wrote a novel about this, Temple of the Golden Pavillion (1959). Yoko felt that in essence, John Lennon had implemented this idea by “putting a stop to the Beatles before the Beatles deteriorated. Now the Beatles stay as a perfect myth and will never deteriorate.”

Yoko referred to the story about the burning of Kinkaku-ji many times. It appealed to her because it mirrored her own conceptual art and ideas; imagining things to exist only in your mind.


Yoko at Kinkakuji in Kyoto, August 1974

See pictures of Kinkaku-ji before and after burning!!!

“I want to deal with the world that is in subconscious.

Not the world in consciousness but underneath the consciousness.

That is where I am…

The only sound that exists to me is the sound of my mind.

My works are only to induce music of the mind in people.”

– Yoko, Free Time, PBS 1972

Reverence for the quiet ambience of ancient times is inherent in traditional Japanese sound design. 2000 years ago, flute music soothed the soul, making soldiers of ancient wars feel nostalgic for home.

People feel uncomfortable  with total silence –  it goes across against their DNA

We are programmed to feel threatened by total silence

It conveys a negative feeling.

Instead of aiming for silence Japanese sound designers try to create a sense of quiet

A quiet state with subtle changes

– Yoko

Vocally, Yoko incorporates aspects of Japanese theater in her wordless pieces.

Do you use any techniques from very old Japanese music in your vocal work? From which period?

“I have no idea which period. Ancient, I suppose. When I performed at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1961, and performed subsequently in Sogetsu Kaikan in Tokyo in 1962, I took and morphed my vocalization, consciously, from Kabuki and Noh. It was a very early avant-garde musical attempt made only by me at the time, and I was conscious of presenting something that had a familiar reference to it to be understood more clearly. Otherwise, I usually fly away from all references. Therefore, I am not aware of what I am doing with my voice in terms of where it stems from. Some people told me that it was very close to the Spanish vocalization which couples their classic dance. Well, it’s quite possible, since we/I have had many lives, I’m sure. I might have been Spanish in one life.”

– Yoko, 2017

“I think she was a revolutionary individual. One of a kind… Her conservative Japanese family didn’t quite understand her art… She felt very hurt by that. She was channeling a sort of fundamental avant-garde that was connected to Japanese folk singing which wasn’t a Western style of singing. If you look at the notation, it’s actually sort of an abstract poem. There was no Western notation. It would just go up and down. I think she’s very influenced by enka also in terms of her minor chords. Even Okinawa folk music. There’s something in her heart that’s very Japanese that’s not bound by Western conformist musical technique and theory. I think she applied that to her avant- garde theory to break through all the barriers. Pure expression, not limited music.” 

– Sean Ono Lennon,  2016

Yoko’s father dreamed of becoming a professional pianist but was pressured to pursue his family’s banking business. Eisuke Ono expected that his firstborn child would achieve his unfulfilled dream.

“He wanted his firstborn to be a pianist. But while I was a woman, okay, whoops.” – Yoko

Yoko attended the prestigious Gakushūin School (School of the Free Spirit) for children of the wealthy and of nobility. She was “trained in Japanese spirit and Western skills” but was uncomfortable taking piano lessons, intimidated by her parents’ talents. Her father was a good pianist. Her mother and grandfather were painters. Yoko’s elegant, beautiful and refined mother Isoko who came from a wealthy and privileged family, valued education –  especially in the arts.


“…my parents put me into early education in music school, when I was about 3 ½  4 years old… harmony and melody and everything – how to write music. So my first song was when I was four (smiles)…Well my Dad was actually a very good pianist. And, well, he did a few concerts and got good reviews and everything, but his father was a banker, there was a tradition of being a banker, and so he had to be a banker.”

“My mother was a very good Asian instrumentalist. She could play five or six instruments. She played koto, biwa, shamisen, tsuzumi.”

“Singing in Japanese? Well, I did, you know. I did about 10 songs that are just in Japanese and I think that that could come out, made into a Japanese CD or something. But also, I did some Japanese classical —classical’s not the word —Japanese pop songs of, say, 1930s, ’40s traditional stuff on [New York radio station] WBAI.”

In 1965, Yoko represented Japan in a 4-part radio series on WBAI, New York City. She was interviewed by avant-garde composer Ann McMillan about traditional wartime and post-war tunes. Yoko explained the culture and thought behind several tunes including  “Manchu Musume” and “Tonarigumi”.

Eisuke Ono concluded that his daughter would not be a successful pianist, which was not her dream anyway.  She then was given opera lessons.

“…I know that my voice became a joke in this society, so people are going to say-oh, no! But I had an incredibly good voice then which was when I was around 17 or 18, and I had instructors who would say that I could probably make it as an alto, or mezzo-soprano. I started to dislike it so intensely. I was supposed to go to music school to study voice, and then eventually go to Italy. I thought, there’s something wrong with it. I didn’t enjoy singing other people songs. You know, I like good German lieder and all that, but I had an urge to compose…” 

– Yoko, 1986

Yoko decided that she wanted to compose music and not sing other people’s songs. She would not be discouraged by her dad’s concerns that a woman could not become a successful composer.

However, there was one point on which (in retrospect) they both agreed:

“My great-grandfather Zenjiro created a huge financial power. And the reason was, in those days bankers were the people who were seriously changing the world.” But her father, who was a frustrated concert pianist, had a different view.

“He said, ‘No, they’re not the ones — it’s going to be music that’s going to change the world.’ And he was right.”

– Yoko, 2010

After studying musical composition and literature at Sarah Lawrence College in New York for two years, Yoko’s rebellious nature kicked in. She began to pursue less conventional forms of musical expression, frequently traveling to New York City. At a teacher’s suggestion in 1955, Yoko connected with minimalist composer John Cage. She also met her first husband, avant-garde composer Toshi Ichiyanagi. From December 1960-June 1961 Yoko presented an innovative and popular series of concerts in her studio loft on Chambers Street NYC presenting avant-garde musicians.

As Yoko was mainly an artist, most of her first musical performances were collaborations with Cage and with Toshi consisting of primal vocalizations and even silence, but that all changed when Yoko met John Lennon in 1966. Their first recording together (two years later, in May 1968, released in November) a sound collage with random vocalizations shook the world – especially because of the album cover on which the couple appeared naked.

Yoko mentions the number 33 several times in her songs. 33 windows are shining in ‘Mind Train’ on Fly (1971). There is a song called ‘Extension 33’ on her Season of Glass album (1981).

Yoko’s early artwork Morning Piece consisted of 33 broken pieces of glass for sale. Her book Grapefruit (1964) contains Two Snow Pieces. The instruction in Snow Piece No. 2 is, “Watch snow fall until it covers thirty-three buildings”. In Japan, the number 33 signifies misfortune, translating as “SAR-ZAN – “misfortune without a way out”. The Tibetan Book of the Dead has 33 heavens. In Buddhism, the number 33 reflects the interface of the familiar world with a higher spiritual realm. In Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, the sacred goddess Kuan Yin assumes 33 appearances and undergoes 33 transformations in 33 holy places. She aids souls in reaching nirvana.

The following are songs

which Yoko sings in Japanese,

or with some Japanese lyrics…


‘Omaeno Okkaa Wa’ (‘Slow Blues) – 1970

An outtake, ‘Omaeno Okkaa Wa’ was subtitled ‘Slow Blues’ was recorded during the sessions for Yoko’s debut album Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band (1970) to contrast ‘Fast Rocker’ (later titled ‘Why’). Its first unofficial release was in 1999 on the bootleg album Odds & Ends. The recording is from Abbey Road engineer John Barrett’s direct cassette dubs. This is the prototype for the rocker ‘Midsummer New York’ which appeared on her next album, Fly. Yoko sings in Japanese: “Your mother is sad / Your mother is dead / Your mother has died / has forgotten you / she is nowhere” (Omaeno okkaa wa kanashigatteiruyo / kanashigatteiruyo / Shinjimattayo).

It is interesting that she says, “omae” – a way to say “you” in Japanese, only spoken by men. Women would normally never use this form of speech. Even for men it’s not very polite. So Yoko is probably speaking as a man here. Also, she says “mommy” in the language of a small child.

‘Hirake’ – Fly 1971 a.k.a. Open Your Box’

A wild version of the B-Side of John’s ‘Power to the People’ single later appeared on Yoko’s album on Fly as ‘Hirake’ (ひらけ) which means ‘opening’ in Japanese. The song is sung in English although the title is Japanese.

Read more in my story: ‘Open Your Box’  By Madeline Bocaro ©

‘Airmale’ – Fly  

Winding down at the end of this somewhat chaotic free-form piece, Yoko speaks the lyrics to ‘Airmale ‘quietly and casually in Japanese, as if talking to an intimate friend. Her echoing voice, “Nee, anta, chotto asonde ikanai?  ねぇ あんた ちょっと 遊んでいかない?”  suggestively asks, “Hey, why don’t you play with me?” It is a solicitation used by prostitutes and sailors during wartime. This same phrase was previously uttered by Yoko on her first collaboration with John, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins in 1968. ‘Airmale’ is one of two soundtracks on Yoko’s double album Fly (1971). It was also the audio track to John Lennon’s film Erection (a reverse homage to Andy Warhol’s film Sleep, which features the close-up face of a man receiving a blow job). Despite its suggestive title, Erection ironically shows a time-lapse of a building being erected.

‘Telephone Piece’Fly

This ends Side Four of Fly. A phone rings six times, Yoko answers it and says, ‘Hello, this is Yoko’. It is so cool that she voiced it in the language (and particular ringtone) of each country that the Fly album was released in; USA, UK and Japan. In the case of the UK version, the phone ring is different. On the Japanese vinyl, Yoko answers, “Moshi moshi, Yoko desu. “もしもし ヨーコです ”

Listen to all three versions.

My story:

Hello, This is Yoko!  Telephone Piece   By Madeline Bocaro ©

Sakura’ (Cherry Blossoms) – The Mike Douglas Show – 1972

On The Mike Douglas Show which John and Yoko co-hosted for a week in 1972, Yoko introduced this old Japanese folk song that she learned as a child.

‘What a Mess’ – Approximately Infinite Universe – 1973

During the middle eight, Yoko speaks in Japanese. “Anata, anata! otoko sukoshi!”  She is saying, “Hey, you! Man…What is it? What is it? You guys are a bit impudent. Be careful! なんだ、なんだ、お前ら男ども、生意気だぞ、少し / 少し気をつけろ Nanda, Nanda, Omaera Otokodomo, namaikidazo, sukoshi / Sukoshi ki o tsukero”

‘Shiranakatta’ Approximately Infinite Universe

This gorgeous ‘song is sung in English, French and Japanese.  On the stunning, symphonic Craig Armstrong remix on Yes, I’m a Witch, the extended tape play reveals John excitedly uttering, “That was BEAUTIFUL!” at the end.

Shiranakatta, shiranakatta
Tatta hitokoto ittekuretara
Sugunimo tonde ittanoni

Shiranakatta, shiranakatta

‘Winter Song’ – Approximately Infinite Universe

Although not sung in Japanese, these lyrics evoke images of Japan:

The lake is shining like a drop of Buddha’s tears…

The bed is shining like an old scripture that’s never been open before.

Also See: Yoko Rocks My Universe – Approximately Infinite Universe 

By Madeline Bocaro ©

‘Joseijoi Banzai’ ‘女性上位ばんざい’ – Japanese Single, May 1973

This very cool song with a funky bass line was commissioned by Japanese feminist Yoko Sasaki. The lyrics translate as ‘Female-on-top (position) Banzai’ or ‘Hooray to female higher position’. There is a play on words when Yoko says ‘jokon’. In Japanese it has two meanings: woman/soul or male/root which combined means ‘penis’. ‘Joriki’ is Yoko’s way of saying ‘Woman Power’.

Joseijoi Banzai is also the title of an essay in the book Just Me (Yoko’s autobiography, essays and interviews in Japanese compiled by Takahiko Iimura) in 1986.

The songJoseijoi Banzai’ was recorded with the Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band in January 1973 and released only in Japan on May 5. A version of the same song was on the B-Side with Yoko vocalizing and repeating the song’s title. At the end of the B-side rendition, you can hear John say, ‘Yes dear.’ Yoko’s follow-up single ‘Yume O Motou’ was recorded on July 3, 1974 and released in Japan on September 20. Neither of these songs appear on Yoko’s studio albums. They were performed live during her Yume O Motou 夢をもとう (Let’s Have A Dream) tour of Japan in the summer of 1974.

Read more about the song and listen here:

Yoko Songs: ‘Joseijoi Banzai’ (女性上位ばんざい)   By Madeline Bocaro ©女性上位ばんざい/

‘Joseijoi Banzai’ Banzai 女性上位ばんざい / – Part 1 Yoko Ono

‘Joseijoi Banzai’

Long version 女性上位ばんざい  Part 2 –


‘Yume O Motou’ 夢をもとう (Let’s Have A Dream)’/ ‘It Happened’

September 1973 – Japan Single

On July 3, 1974 Yoko recorded a new single in light of her upcoming tour of Japan. ‘Yume O Motou  夢をもとう  (Let’s Have A Dream)’ / ’It Happened’. The single was released only in Japan on September 20, 1974.

The melody of ‘Yume O Motou’ is reminiscent of Yoko’s ballad ‘If Only’ on her album Feeling The Space. The uplifting lyrics are about dreaming and loving each other through life’s struggles.


Let’s have a dream, let’s have a dream
No matter how hard it is let’s survive till the end
I wanna be blown by the willows in Ginza
Let’s have a dream, let’s have a dream
I wanna be immersed in the green in Japan…






Listen to Single Mix:

Listen here (Onobox mix):

‘One Way Road’ – 1974 – Japan concert tour

Also sung completely in Japanese

Performed during Yoko’s concerts in Japan (August 1974)

Tabetai’ is another song that Yoko performed live in 1974 on her tour of Japan with lyrics completely in Japanese. The meaning is, ‘I want to eat.’

The melody and lyrics were re-worked on her album Take Me to the Land of Hell (2015). Juicy steak, sweet pancakes and fried chicken are all on the menu. This version is a playful commentary on famine/gluttony, in an upbeat/offbeat song. When there is no food left (as in her childhood in war-torn Japan) Let’s go to another country.’ Accented by strange and beautiful beats and a bottle played like a Japanese flute. A collaboration with tUnE-yArDs.

Also See: Let’s Have a Dream – Yoko’s Concert Tour of Japan   By Madeline Bocaro ©夢をもたう-yokos-concert-tour-japan-1974/


The unreleased Buddhist chant南無妙法蓮華経 (Nam myo ho ren ge kyo) had been recorded in the early 1970s and released in 1992 on Onobox (Rykodisc). This prayer is also chanted during ‘Franklin Summer’ (Rising Mixes 1996).

 ‘Kiss Kiss Kiss’ – Double Fantasy 1980

Yoko screams in orgasmic ecstasy during this song, in her native tongue,  “抱いて / 抱いて/ もっと強く抱いて  Daite, Daite, Motto Tsuyoku Daite”. She is saying,  “Hold me, hold me , hold me tighter”.

‘Your Hands’ (‘Anata no Te’) あなたの手 Milk & Honey  – Recorded 1982 / Released 1984

After his passing, It was incredibly difficult to hear Yoko ‘s words about her love for John and how beautiful he was to her in every way. The emotions are so deep that Yoko sings in her native language, speaking the words in English after each verse.

I know I speak of his hands a lot. I loved his hands.

He used to say he had wanted hands like Jean Cocteau — long and slim fin­gers.

But I grew up surrounded by cousins with those aristocrat­ic hands.

I loved John’s, clean, strong, working-class hands

that grabbed me whenever there was a chance.”

– Yoko, Rolling Stone London, October 18th, 2010 


In a lifetime / No matter how many times we meet / It’s not enough
In many lifetimes / No matter how many times we meet / It’s not enough 

Futarino koi / Konnani tsuyoi
Futarino koi / Konnani moroi
Futarino koi / Itsumademo 

 Our love / So strong / Our love / So frail
Our love/ Forever 

 Anatano me / Konnani kereina / Anatano me 

Your eyes / So beautiful / Your eyes

‘Kurushi’ – Rising 1996

At the Meltdown Festival (Royal Festival Hall – 14 June 2009) Yoko performed a gorgeous live version of her beautiful and intense song about the suffering of a young Hiroshima bombing victim named Sadako. ‘Kurushi’ from her 1996 album Rising is completely in Japanese. Yoko told us the meaning of the song.

“When I went to Hiroshima there were many, many thousands and thousands of paper cranes all over. There’s a tradition that if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, then your wish will come true or something. But it wasn’t 1,000 – it was 8,000/10,000. They said this is a monument to a very young girl who died after the Hiroshima bombing.

It was a very slow death and she kept calling her mother and they just felt very bad about her.

I was very touched about that and so I dedicated this song to her.

I’m singing Japanese. There’s a word ‘Kurushi’ that I couldn’t translate in English. There’s no equivalent in English. It’s ‘Kurushi’ because you can’t breathe – but it’s not just for the physical thing, but it’s to do with a situation which you just can’t breathe or you just can’t get out.

So it’s a very heavy word. It’s interesting that this girl kept saying ‘Kurushi’ when she was so young.”

“Mother, ….I cannot breathe, there’s no way out I can’t do this it hurts.”

Watch and listen here:

‘Kurushi’ Live at Meltdown 2009

Read more about the song here:

Yoko Songs: Kurushi   By Madeline Bocaro ©

Also see: Bowie/Sadako/Yoko

Rising II’ – Blueprint for a Sunrise 2001

There is a live performance from Yoko’s show at Japan Society (NYC) in which she opens with Japanese narration, speaking of the ghost of a WWII soldier. She speaks in Japanese on this track.

Listen – album version:

 ‘Hashire Hashire’ – Between My Head and the Sky 2009

It’s a crazy, fun and bitter sweet song. One of my best.”

“Hashire Hashire” is a beautiful image that came to me. A woman’s husband, he died, and amid all these terrible things that are happening, this woman is saying, “I want to cry, I want to cry, I want to cryeeeee.” The woman is saying, “They took my heart, they cut my breast, and took my…” All sort of things in her body they took away, and there’s nothing left. And to her cat, she says, “You’re always under the desk.” But suddenly she realizes that the cat is not under the desk, then she sees him running away in the horizon. And she’s saying, “Oh, I see you, I see you in the horizon. Well, there’s nothing left, go, go!” “Hashire, Hashire” means run, run.

– Yoko to John Payne, L.A. Weekly Sept. 21, 2009

‘Unun. To’ – Between My Head and the Sky

The title is an assimilation of moaning in Japanese. This beautifully delicate song is uplifting and encouraging despite its title.

Unun to / Unun to
Unatteiru / kurushii omoi de na

Unun to / Unun to
Unatteiru / wasureta hazu na no ni

Yume de shika
“miracle” to no nai
Kokoro no kuragari de
Ima mo mada
shite hatto shiteiru

Unun to / Unun to
Unatteiru / Kurushii omoi de na
Unun to / Unun to
Unatteiru / Wasureta hazu na no ni

In a day, sometimes I feel so much love for the world;
then my heart is bursting.
Sometimes I feel so scared,
I want to shrink myself even further.

Don’t ever give up on life!
Life can be so beautiful,
especially after you have spent many years with it.
Because then, life becomes like a lover you have been close to.
You know him so well, and yet every day he gives you a surprise.
When you say, “I love you,” remember you are not just saying it to the one you love.
You are saying it to yourself, the planet, and the universe.

Unun to
Unun to
Kurushii omoi de na
Unun to
Unun to
Wasureta hazu na.

Hanako’   – Between My Head and the Sky  Bonus Track – Japan

The song ‘Hanako’ appears as a bonus track on the Japanese version. Its twin song with a completely different meaning ‘Ode to Meadow’ (sung in English) was released on an animal rights charity album in 2016.

Read all about ‘Hanako’/’Ode To Meadow’:

By Madeline Bocaro ©

‘Higa Noboru’ – Between My Head and the Sky 2009

What was the inspiration for the song: “Higa Noboru”?

“The rising of the sun I saw during the second world war.

Sun rises over dead bodies as well.”

– Yoko, 2014

‘Higa Noboru’ is a delicate transcendent song in which Yoko communicates the wisdom divined via her telepathy with nature. I strongly believe that she hears the voices of birds and of fish. In this song, she communicates this alternately in Japanese and in English.

‘Higa Noboru’ means ‘The sun is rising.’ And it starts when the sun is down, and it’s just after you wake up, and you proceed with all the sort of earthly daily things that you go through, and the awareness you draw from it — and then, I’m going away smiling. In the end, the sun bites the dust.”

…this time several of these songs came out in Japanese, and I thought, That’s good, too. I didn’t sort of plan it. You know, I do think there was a point in my life that I was just dreaming in English. And then several years ago I started to go to Japan every year to do this charity concert for Africa, and I started to get more acquainted with the new Japanese, the new Japan, so to speak, and it was really very mind-boggling. And so now I find the Japanese language coming out.

– Yoko, 2009

Read more about the song:

Yoko Songs: Higa Noboru   By Madeline Bocaro ©

Higa Noboru

The sun is rising/ the sun is rising

A thousand days in a single instant

My piano has melted
The room and the walls have also melted
and the ceiling

Something-a shining thing-
I know that it’s in the sky

The sun is rising / the sun is rising

I am surrounded by green (as in grass and trees)
I am sitting in a room with no walls or ceiling

I am here again.

Higa noboru / Higa noboru

Issen no hi ga
ichidoki ni

Watashi no piano wa
Heya mo kabe mo
Tenjō ga

Hikatteru mono ga
Sora ni aru no wa wakaru

Higa noboru / Higa noboru

Midori ni kakomarete
Watashi wa
kabe mo tenjō mo nai heya de

I write, I light
a message on the invisible wall
fall on my prison cell

Higa noboru / Higa noboru

Watashi wa
kage mo tenjō mo nai heya de

I hear the fish calling from the ocean
I hear the birds warning in the sky

Higa noboru / Higa noboru

Issen no hi ga / ichidoki ni

Ah, why is it- why is this life so beautiful,
so interesting?
Why, this planet-

Ah, higa noboru / Higa noboru
Higa noboru / Higa noboru

Watashi wa mada koko ni iru


‘Tabetai’ – Take Me to the Land of Hell 2013

(See “Tabetai” 1974 above)


‘Ai’    Take Me to the Land of Hell –  bonus track – Japan

A free form vocal track. (The meaning of Ai is love).

Japanese folk song (unreleased)

John and Yoko held a press conference in Vienna for the world premiere of their film Rape on Austrian Television on March 31, 1969. The couple concealed themselves inside bags (one of Yoko’s art pieces Bagism). The story is referenced in their song “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. John ironically hummed ‘The Blue Danube’ (the Viennese waltz). Yoko sang a Japanese folk song. You can barely hear this in film footage of the press conference.

Yoko got the idea for Bag Piece from the Popular children’s story, The Little Prince. The moral of the story is that “One sees rightly only with the heart, the essential is invisible to the eyes.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Hotel Sacher press conference (Vienna)

Also see Bagism: John & Yoko’s Viennese Waltz   By Madeline Bocaro ©

Yoko and Hiroshima

For personal reasons, Yoko has always had an affinity with Hiroshima.

In 1995, Yoko and Sean gave an acoustic concert at Itsukushima Shrine in Japan consisting of strings, table, wind instruments and percussion.

Also in 1995, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing on Hiroshima, Paul McCartney collaborated with Yoko and Sean on the track ‘Hiroshima Sky is Always Blue’.

In 1997, Yoko’s collaboration with writer/director Ron Destro – an off Broadway play titled Hiroshima opened on John’s birthday. She provided some of the tracks from her 1995 album Rising.

“In his script there is a scene where a little girl tries to fold 1,000 paper cranes,” wrote Ono in her album liner notes. “In Japan, there is a tradition of folding 1,000 paper cranes to make a wish, [but] the little girl dies before she is able.” Touched by that idea, Ono went into the studio and recorded “Hiroshima Sky Is Always Blue,” which was broadcast in Hiroshima on the 50th anniversary of the bombing. Soon thereafter she recorded “Kurushi,” which translates, roughly, to “pained” or “suffocating”. “That little girl was me,” she realized.

Ono also felt the play bringing back memories of her mother: “In the dark booth of the studio, I felt my soul-antenna reaching out for her and touching only emptiness. It was sad, but it also made my head clear.”

(Read more)

Yoko Ono Off-Broadway Epic, Hiroshima, Hits Oct. 9

In 2011, Yoko, at age 78 was awarded the 8th Hiroshima Art Prize for her contributions to art and for peace at a ceremony held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Hiroshima on July 29th. She also visited the Hiroshima Peace Park and laid a wreath at the Memorial for the victims of the atomic bombing. This all coincided with her exhibition Road of Hope. The exhibition featured works inspired by the disaster at Fukushima, as well as the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Hiroshima 2015\


This is an excerpt from my Yoko Ono biography

In Your Mind – The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono

An all-embracing look at Yoko Ono’s life, music and art – in stunning detail.

Read all about the book, see the reviews and

Order here:

HARD COVER books are only available at…
Conceptual Books


Yoko speaking and performing at One Step Festival Japan 1974

Also See:

Yoko Art – Toshiro Mayuzymi album cover – 1958  By Madeline Bocaro ©

Sun Piece

Watch the sun until it becomes square.

1962 winter


Tunafish Sandwich Piece

Imagine one thousand suns in the sky at the same time

Let them shine for one hour

Let them gradually melt into the sky

Make one tuna fish sandwich and eat

1964 Spring




There are one thousand suns rising every day.

We only see one of them because of our fixation on monistic/monolithic thinking.

Grapefruit / Acorn (excerpt)




Watch the sun

Until it comes into your body

And stays as a tiny sun.

It will keep your face shining

Even in the coldest of winter.

Acorn 2013

Dance Piece VIII

Imagine one thousand suns rising at the same time.

Dance in the field.

Acorn 2013 

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4 thoughts on “One Thousand Suns Rising: Yoko’s Japanese songs

  1. Amazing, epic post … this site is peerless. Totally fascinating, many thanks. Bringing in some Western esoteric notions, I am struck by this synchronicity: ‘a thousand lights, look at you’. The story of the warrior and the guest dredged a half remembered quote from John up from my consciousness, something along the lines of ‘…I’m a musician, give me a [tuba???] and I’ll give you a song’, or get a note out of it, anyway, the spirit is the same. John and Yoko, the warrior and the guest. Yoko wasn’t the fifth Beatle, although she was, she was the Beatles yin, Lennon the black dot in the yoke of the yang that pushes toward the pull in need of wholeness. Well, I’m rambling. The magic of chance led me here – and I’m pleased it did, hopefully, I will be here again – ‘Ichi-go ichi-e’

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