Big Bird in Japan

Lyrics

“Homesick”

Written by Tony Geiss

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Oh why did I come to this faraway place
Why oh why oh why oh
Where everyone talks in Japanese
But they say they’re from Ohio

I miss New York where you eat with a fork
And English comes in handy
Gee, things were sweet on Sesame Street
Where the people all understand me

There’s a friendly nest
Where I love to play
On a friendly street
That is far away
And I want to be there right now
Can’t wait for a plane
‘Cause I’m homesick, homesick, homesick
If I ever get well, I’ll never leave home again

There’s a teddy bear
And he waits for me
There’s a friend named Snuffy
That I have to see
Don’t have a fever
But I do feel a pain
‘Cause I’m homesick, homesick, homesick
If I ever get well, I’ll never leave home again

Gee, it hurts when you think of your friends at home
On the street you left behind you
When you’re lost on the other side of the world
And no one will ever find you

I don’t have a fever
But I do feel a pain
‘Cause I’m homesick, homesick, homesick
If I ever get well, I’ll never leave home again

 

[Reprise]
Pretty paper houses, funny twisted trees
All the little children speaking Japanese
And a mountain shining through the sun and the rain
Make me homesick, homesick, homesick
I’ve gotta go home, but I will come back again

 

 

“Going to Kyoto”

Written by Tony Geiss

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[spoken] Oh, Kyoto is a very pretty city

[Kaguya-Hime] The prettiest in the country, so they say
The capital of the nation in its day
[Big Bird] You think we’ll find our tour there?
[KH] We’ll find your tour for sure there
[BB] Then come on, Barkley, let’s be on our way

We’re off to Kyoto
Like Dorothy and Toto
We’ve really go to go-toh
Or else we’ll miss the plane
[both] We’re off to Kyoto
Three hundred miles or so-toh
[BB] I’ve got feathers, he’s got fleas
[KH] I speak Japanese

[BB] I’m coming out of Tokyo with my doggy on my knee
I’m going to Kyoto where a tour bus waits for me

[spoken interlude, BB] What else is in Kyoto?
[KH] There’s the imperial palace.
[BB] Gee, I always wanted to play at the palace

[BB] When I’m in Kyoto
I’m gonna take a photo
Of things from long ago-toh
And one for you and me

[KH] It’s far to Kyoto
[BB] We’re going awful slow-toh
[KH] Soon we’ll take the Shinkansen
[both] I can’t wait till then

[BB] We’re off to Kyoto
And not to awful low-toh
[both] No rain or sleet or snow-toh
Will keep us from our goal

So ta-ta to Tokyo
Hi, hi, Kyoto
[BB] I’m a bird and he’s a hound
[KH] I’m a friend that you have found
[BB] And like Webster’s Dictionary
[both] We’re Kyoto-bound

 

 

“Ichi, Ni, San”

Written by Carol Hall

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[Mariko and Aiko] One, two, three is ichi, ni, san
[Big Bird] Ichi ni what?
[M&A] Ichi, ni, san
Ohayo means good morning
[BB] That’s my favorite one
[M&A] But one, two, three
[all] is ichi, ni, san

[M&A] Please is dohzo
[BB] Yes is hai
[M&A] Sayonara means goodbye
Arigato: thank you
Now we’re nearly done
[all] And one, two, three is ichi, ni, san

[spoken interlude, one sister] Now we have an examination.
[BB] Oh no, an examination!
[other sister] Ready?
[BB] Well, I’ll five it a try.

[M&A] One, two three
[BB] is ichi, ni, san
[M&A] Perfectly correct on question number one
Ohayo
[BB] Good morning—that’s my favorite one
[all] But one, two, three is ichi, ni, san

[M&A] Please
[BB] Is dohzo
[M&A] Yes
[BB] Is hai
[all] Sayonara means goodbye
[M&A] Arigato
[BB] Thank you
[all] Now we’re nearly done
[BB] Backwards! San, ni, ichi
[all] is three, two, one

 

 

“Moon, Moon”

Written by Carol Hall

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Moon, moon, hanging in the trees
So pretty and white
Moon, moon, softer than a breeze
In the dark, starry night

Moon, moon, I don’t know what’s coming
What do you see?
Moon, moon, what’s in store for you and for me?

Sometimes the darkness holds something bright
Sometimes the sadness turns into morning’s sweet sight
I feel so alone but I have to go home tonight

Moon, moon, higher than a kite
That’s broken its string
Moon, moon, sailing like a ship
Over everything
Moon, moon, I don’t know the future
What can you say?
Moon, moon, what you gonna bring my way?

Sometimes the darkness holds something bright
Sometimes the sadness turns into morning’s sweet sight
I feel so alone but I have to go home tonight

 

*Underlined words are my best guess at deciphering the lyrics, but I need your help to finish them. Comment with your own best guess, and we’ll complete the puzzle together like we did with The Tale of the Bunny Picnic.


Music from Big Bird in Japan

As once posited in an episode of Dear Hank & John, the saddest thing in the world is sad Big Bird, and “Homesick” is a perfect example. It’s not as gut-wrenching as “I’m So Blue” in Follow That Bird, but it’s up there. And while the song is pretty specific about being lost in Japan and missing New York, the general sentiment is something nearly everyone has felt at some point. As much as I love Portland and the life I’m building here, there are times when my bones miss the Verde Valley in Arizona, when my frayed nerves long for the huge autumn maple trees of small-town Iowa. And all it takes is a few days visiting Orange County to make me want to run back home to my rain-drizzled weirdoes.

But this song (and the film in general) raises the question: who the hell let a six-year-old fly to Japan with no adult supervision? When Kaguya-Hime asks, “What kind of a tour would abandon a bird and a dog in a strange country?” Big Bird replies, “Well, probably the kind of tour that would take a bird and a dog along in the first place.” And so we are left to wonder about greedy, irresponsible travel agents and panic-stricken Sesame Street residents.

“Going to Kyoto” and “Ichi, Ni, San” are both fun little songs that get stuck in your head but without much depth to analyze. I did have to do some googling to figure out that “I always wanted to play at the palace” is a reference the the Palace Theater, like the old joke of “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” And although we have to assume that Webster’s Dictionary was at one time printed and bound in Kyoto, I couldn’t find anything to confirm this. Google also was no help in figuring out which sister is Mariko and which is Aiko, as neither seems to have appeared in anything else since.

“Going to Kyoto” introduces Kaguya-Hime, Big Bird’s helpful new friend and secret bamboo princess from the moon. “You know, it’s weird: she shows up outta nowhere, helps me and Barkley, and then just disappears; and I don’t even know her name. Maybe she’s the Lone Ranger.”

“Moon, Moon” allows us a glimpse into Kaguya-Hime’s heart, torn between her love of Japan and her duty to return home to the moon. Yet the lyrics are beautifully nonspecific about her dilemma; it could be sung by any one of us who’ve gazed up at the moon in confusion and heartache, looking for guidance.

But, again, there are questions raised here. The line is “I have to go home tonight,” but she leaves for the moon the next night. Maybe it’s past midnight when she’s singing and so the next night is technically tonight? But then why does she tell Big Bird, “Tomorrow we reach Kyoto; tomorrow we must say goodbye”? Is it just because “tonight” sounds way better in a song than “tomorrow night”?

Some people get stuck for twenty-something years on misleading lyrics and bizarre premises from Sesame Street movies. Those people are me.

3 thoughts on “Big Bird in Japan

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