I listen to this record quite often, but I only discovered recently that this song called Shina No Yoru (支那の夜, which means “China night”) had a special and controversial story. It was actually not so easy to find out who was its original performer, so that I had to make several researches to make this clear.
According to the information I found, this song was first performed in 1938 by Japanese singer Watanabe Hamako (渡辺はま子, 1910-1999) and was used during the Japanese occupation of China as the main theme of 1940 propaganda movie Shina No Yoru.
There is also a cover version performed in 1941 by Japanese singer and actress Yoshiko Ōtaka (山口淑子, also known as Li Xianglan 李香兰 and Shirley Yamaguchi), who actually played the main role in the same film (I told you it’s a bit complicated). According to this post and the comments I read on Youtube, it seems that there is still a controversy concerning the identity of the original performer.
Later on, the song became popular among American GI’s based in Japan and Korea after World War II, and its hard to pronounce title became “She Ain’t Got No Yoyo”. You can easily find anecdotes about it in Korean War veterans forums on the web.
The record was published by Columbia Japan (コロムビア・レコード). Lyrics written by Yaso Saijo (西條八十), music composed by Nobuyuki Takeoka (竹岡信幸).
You can read more information about this song and both singers in this post. Read also this article written by Michael K. Bourdaghs from the University of Chicago.
44 thoughts on “Watanabe Hamako – Shina No Yoru (China night / She Ain’t Got No Yoyo) on 78 rpm record”
This is a terrific tune. I am glad I was introduced to it.
Thanks for your comment !
Thank you, it was a nice ballad.
The bakground reminds me of the hummingbirds sound in a Disney film.
Nice recording! Thanks for posting it. I run into Japanese Columbias from time to time.
That’s right ! I just listened to this song based on Disney films samples and I had the same impression ! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAwR6w2TgxY
Thanks for your comment !
Thanks for this song ! This is music I really like !
(I finally have a bit of time to go on your blog…)
Memories from my childhood. I was a little girl in Chanea (Crete, Greece), when I first heard it.
Thanks for your comment ! Your post about this song was also very interesting, people should read it as well (Google translator gave me a correst and understandable version) : http://ketivasilakou.blogspot.com/2011/12/shina-no-yoru.html
This one took me back 50 years and half a world! (Okinawa 1962 as a young Marine)
And I thought time travel was impossible…
Hi Ray, thanks for this comment! Do you have any other memories linked to this song?
I was in Okinawa in 1958 , heard this song at the real ” Teahouse Of The August Moon.”
Here is a comment about this song posted on my Youtube Channel:
“My Dad was in the Navy from 1932-52, he spent most of that time in the Pacific Rim. He brought back this record, among others, from his time overseas. This was his favorite. I cracked up when I saw the title. My mother and I, and I am sure countless others, came up independently with the “She Ain’t Got No Yo-Yo” moniker. I still remember laughing about it with her. Great memories, thanks!”
Lovely memories this evokes my dad was in Korear in 1952 and brought a kitbag full of goodies back for me of toys via Japan he was in the royal Artillery thank you so much he used to call it ” I ain’t got no yoyo ” he was an RSM
Thanks for your comment!
Tnx for the post!
I came across this exact record in a shop i Oslo, Norway. Had to buy it to find out what it was. Do you know what year it is from?
Hi, thanks for your comment! The song was recorded in 1938. I went to Oslo earlier this year and found 78s in two different stores (you can fond them on this list : https://ceintsdebakelite.com/where-to-find-78-rpm/). Could you tell me where you found your record?
Hi! Tnx for answering!
The shop is called “Råkk og Rålls brukthandel” adress: Akersgata 39 Oslo.
It has mostly 33rpm’s and dvd’s and such, but also some boxes of old 78rpm’s 😉
I came across, and bought, some old 80rpm records as well- i know nothing about them, except that they look very old, two french ones and one Chinese(i think)- they are also bigger that the 78s- do you know what type of player i would need? (my gramophone certainly can’t play them)- they are not as thick as the Edison records(i’ve googled a bit)
Thanks for your comment! I will add this store to my list.
I guess the 80rpm you mention are Pathé records, aren’t they? They are probably “vertical cut” records, you can’t indeed play them on a standard gramophone. Chinese 80rpm Pathé records are really scarce, you’re lucky!!! Could you send me a scan of this record?
Do you mean like, send you a photo of the records?(I will do it when i am back home) because, i have no way of playing them, unfortunately. I am only in possession of my gramophone, which cant do more than 78rpm, and a normal vinyl-record player(33/45rpm)- do you have any idea where i can get a player who can play it?
I am new to this hobby btw, so I am no professional- but i couldn’t resist buying the 80rpm’s when i only had to pay 30NOK for them 🙂
I would be very happy indeed if you could tell what you know about these records, because the info on the internet is scarce, and misleading from time to time 🙂 I will send you photos of the discs later on
I actually have the same problem… I recently found these North-African “vertical-cut” Pathé records (including a center-start etched one!), but I cannot play them: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=438660622902533&set=a.342776692490927.58610.130354473733151&type=1 and https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=430802767021652&id=130354473733151
There are several stores in Paris selling gramophones for vertical cut records, but these machines are expensive… Try eBay?
I’d be glad seeing a photo of the record, thanks!
Hello. I was a young GI in Japan 1948/1950 and enjoyed the China Night on armed forces hit parade. its been 60Years + but truly enjoyed Hearing the Music again. thank you
Thanks for your comment!
love the song so much. i heard this song when i was 5 six years old. my late father and mother was at the indonesian special force. both of them use to song this song in Indonesian. they translate it to indonesia the title is SI Cantik Jelita wihich mean The Beautiful One.. i enjoy read the story and listen to the original music. thanks
HEARD THIS TUNE MANY TIMES WHEN AT K-13 SUWON, KOREA, DURING MY TOUR 1953-1954, WITH THE USAF, 319TH FIS.
I have the same record you posted here. But I also have another 331/3 RPM version as well. It may be performed by another artist (you mentioned there were more than 1 recordings) The album is called : Japan Song-A Night of China and other G.I. Favorite Songs. There are no other notes besides the J102 number. The cover is red. I’m wondering if it was a reissue although the recordings sound as though they are of 1930’s era. Other songs on the record are Japanese Rhumba/Ginza Kan Kan/Waga Yuma/Aloha Boogie/Uramachi Paradise
There are two versions of this song that are just slightly different commonly found; both are on Columbia and have the catalogue number A93; this version here is matrix no. 2204519 and is the version I have always heard since my father brought home his copy from Korea. A second one I have recently heard out there on the Net is on both archive.org and youtube.com and has matrix no. 1213874. The differences are very subtle, but they are noticeable. To me, it sounds like they are made by two different vocalists. Can anybody shed more light on this? One disc is backed by “Hill of Pure Heart” and the other by “Nagasaki Butterfly.”
The singer on the Nippon Columbia record A93 1213874 is 胡美芳 Hu Mei Fang. I was able to read it from a pic of the label of an eBay item for sale. Also I was able to catch a screen shot of the label from a youtube vid of the record being play. The poster attributed it to another singer, Li Xiang Lan, who also covers this song, but a commenter caught the error and posted the correction which was Hu Mei Fang.
Personally, I like this (posted) [A93 2204519] version by Hamako Watanabe as it’s the one I grew up with. Those subtle tom-tom beats in the background make the difference for me. Otherwise, they sound nearly identical. Oddly, the record we own is a 45 rpm-size, purple-ish lacquer/shellac on a metal disk plate. Never seen another like it.
@BUZZKILL — Thanks for the clarifcation; Most of my life I had heard Hu Mei Fang’s version of the song and never heard the version by Hamako Watanabe until I pulled it from archive.org. “Hill of Pure Heart” btw, is a great instrumental. I listen to it as much as I do China Night. I wish we had more info on that side.
Thanks for the information. My dad, who was stationed in Korea and Japan in the 60’s, often sang the phrase “She aint got no yo-yo”. I never heard the original or knew of its origin until now.
Martin Denny, resident in Hawaii in the 50s and composer of what is now called Exotica, was probably the first American to make use of the tune. I wrote about it briefly here: http://richiekaye.tumblr.com/post/56783705880/now-this-is-fascinating-here-is-martin-dennys
Okinawa and Korea can not tell you how many times I have heard this since the first time in 1955 wish I could buy a tape can get 78s but of no use to me Great tune ty
Has great sentimental memories for me. My father brought this back in his kitbag from Korea via Japan in early fifties He left the. Royal Artillary in1963 as a RSM
If you want to learn more about Shina no Yoru and other songs popular at that time (such as Ye Lai Xiang – the huge 1944 hit sung by Li Xianglan, or her “Candy Peddling Song” of 1943 ) please see the below website and click on the music page.
Love this song; it is one of the songs I grew up with. My mother taught me the words to it, and we would often sing it together in her later years. I find the translation to be very romantic. She died 5 years ago at age 89. I am Japanese, born in the USA, as were my mother and father. They were born here but raised in Japan and shortly after they arrived back in the US and married, war with Japan broke out and they were interned in Manzanar, where my oldest sister was born. She and I are the last remaining of our parents. My husband is Chinese, so I like to think the song has special meaning for us. The song is very popular among older Japanese Americans at least; it brings back memories of my beautiful mom however, who had a lovely voice, and was often asked to sing at special events in her younger years.
Another memory of a time long gone, we played this often in the late forties and early fifties in the far east.
Loved it then and still do. Long time memories for an old soldier. Thanks
My father was a US Marine stationed in Japan around 1952. He’s been gone 6 yrs now. Anyway, he used to sing the line , “She ain’t got no yoyo.” when he was doing things around the house, in the yard or around the store. He didn’t know all the words but my brothers picked up on that when they were young and were singing it back and forth to each other at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather thought they were upset that they didn’t have a yoyo and went and bought one for each of them. It’s a great story that still gets told frequently.