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The Yo Scale

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Japanese pentatonic scale

There are many traditional intruments and songs in Japanese music history. Many of these are folk songs that have been passed down through the ages and are still popular today.

In Japanese schools, school children often learn many of the traditional tunes and songs.

In this blog by Oosawa sensei, a Japanese language teacher at JOI online school, she introduces one of the staple points of Japanese music... the pentatonic scale.

The Yo Scale








To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video.






The Yo Scale

When you listen to this tune, what kind of impression do you get ? I guess some people will think that it sounds quite Japanese. In fact, it is the beginning of a traditional Japanese tune called 'Haru no Umi'.

Recently, the term 'Yona nuki onkai' has become a popular topic. During the Meiji Period in Japan, the musical scale of “Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do” was expressed as “Hi Fu Mi Yo I Mu Na Hi”. And 'Yona nuki onkai' means a musical scale not using the notes Yo and Na, in other words a five note scale of “Do Re Mi So La Do”. If you make a song using just these notes, the melody ends up sounding Japanese. This song also uses the 'Yona nuki onkai' (or 5 note scale without the notes Yo and Na).

This scale is not only used in old songs but also in recent pop music too. And it is also apparently one of the tricks to make a hit song in Japan. It is probably because Japanese people find this scale kind of nostalgic and get a familiar feeling from it.

It might also be used in a Japanese song that you know.

抜(ぬ)き pick; pull

音階(おんかい) musical scale

印象(いんしょう)を受(う)けます receive the impression

日本的(にほんてき) (traditional) Japanese

伝統的(でんとうてき)な traditional

話題(わだい)になりました became a topic

明治時代(めいじじだい) Meiji Period (1868-1912)

表(あらわ)して it means to

メロディー melody

使(つか)われている be used to

ヒット曲(きょく) hit tune

裏技(うらわざ) a trick

なんとなく I just feel

親(した)しみを感(かん)じる feel close to


While all of you may have a different goal, there is one common purpose that you all share, which is to use the Japanese language in order to achieve something. I would be really glad if by learning Japanese here at JOI with me, and with your peers we can help to influence your life – even a little.
When I was a child, I used to perform a musical instrument, and played various kinds of music including pop and jazz. I also love to look at old buildings like temples and shrines and so I often travel. In my class, I would like to introduce some of Japanese culture and the traditions, through learning Japanese, and also introduce some of the characteristics of Japanese people. Lets face our goals together and go for it !

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  • mark stanes Thursday, 23 June 2016


  • Oosawa Miki Thursday, 23 June 2016

    Markさん こんにちは!
    こちらこそ ありがとうございます:D

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