What more is known about the Japanese mythical and folk origins of the Wedding Chant in Making of Cyborg and Reincarnation, the main theme songs of Ghost in the Shell?

Making of Cyborg is the amazing main theme and first chant of Ghost in the Shell (1995), and Reincarnation is the third chant. (Lyrics at the bottom of the question)

YouTube: With lyrics, Live Version. (The first video is Reincarnation, the third chant, which uses the same chant as Making of Cyborg, the first chant, and is exactly the same until the 4 minute mark where it adds a single line repeated thrice: "The distant god may give us the precious blessing")

The entire soundtrack was made by Kenji Kawai. About all the information I can find on it is limited to this:

The main theme from GitS is actually a traditional Japanese song about two lovers meeting under a full moon, sung in a Japanese key but in the style of Bulgarian folk singing

cyberpunkdreams - Reddit

If I recall the wedding song was used only in the intro to signify the "marriage" between man and machine.

IfTheseTreesCouldTal - Reddit

It is said to be in ancient Japanese. When was it created? Is it still used as a wedding chant to this day? How popular was it and/or is it as a wedding chant? Is a specific traditional wedding dance being referenced?

What is the story behind the chant and which god is referenced? The first YouTube video has comments which say that the chimera bird referenced is the mythical Nue, and that the chant is based on a Japanese folk tale, but doesn't say which one.

Further, regarding the the Nue chimera claim: "Since the people of the Heian Period regarded the sorrowful sounding voices of this bird as an ill omen, they were considered to be a wicked bird, and it is said that when the emperor or nobles heard its crying voice, they would make prayers that nothing disastrous would happen." The claim the chimera bird is the Nue doesn't seem to fit in with the lyrics or this being a wedding chant.

I'm amazed that it's so hard to find more information on such a famous and iconic cyberpunk's main theme.

Note: I'm not interested in the Bulgarian folk harmonies in this question. But if anyone is then someone said this is the Bulgarian inspiration for the chant: The Great Voices of Bulgaria.

(Note: There's also the question of whether I should ask this on SciFiF or Mythology. Perhaps I should see if I get an answer and if in a month or two I don't then I should ask the Moderators to migrate to Myth? But me likes being on SciFF more 4 this 1, narf. Besides, it's not verified as being of Mythological origins.)

Lyrics (English Translation)

Because I had danced, the beautiful lady was enchanted

Because I had danced, the shining moon echoed

Proposing marriage, the god shall descend

The night clears away and the chimera bird will sing

[The distant god may give us the precious blessing]

Lyrics (Original KanaKanji)







From this fantasyland.net page I got an alternative translation which uses the future tense (eg. "If I were to dance" instead of "Because I had danced"), so I asked a Japanese Language SE question to determine which translation was correct and broccoli forest was kind enough to link a previous related question explaining the grammar, so the above past-present tense translation is correct.

But regarding the meaning the fantasyland.net site had these interesting points:

The opening song is what Kenji Kawai and Mamoru Oshii perceived as a wedding song, to be rid of all evil influences that are about to follow. Originally, Mr. Kawai envisioned Bulgarian Folk Singers doing the opening song. However they found that there is not a single professional folk singer in Bulgaria, so Mr. Kawai relied on a Japanese folk song choir he had dealt with in previous works (Ranma 1/2) which inspired him to use an ancient tongue, mixed with Bulgarian harmony, with traditional Japanese notes, confesses Mr. Kawai on the soundtrack liner notes. 

And regarding the line "結婚に神降りて" (upon the wedding/proposing marriage, the god shall descend):

In ancient times, sneaking into the bedroom of a love interest constituted a proposal for marriage. Hence here rather than to say "kekkon/wedding," it is read as "yobai/nightly crawl into bedroom." Besides, living separately (excpet for reproductive activities) from a spouse was common practice by nobles in ancient times, before the feudal age.

And regarding the bird, which they translated as "the sterling bird":

The sterling bird singing (it sounds considerably less melodic than other birds) at night or dawn creates the feeling that the song is an omnious sign.

And regarding "遠神恵賜" (The distant god has given us the blessing)

When Shinto used to have more shamanic styles, there was a means of fortune telling by burning the shell of a turtle. These "god words" were the signal that fortune had been told. From that, the line came to be used for prayer to cleanse impurities.

It seems the chant, although in ancient tongue, was only written in modern times by Kenji Kawai as his conception of a wedding chant. But the question of the bird and mythology remain. Was it based on a folk tradition or myth, and which bird is referenced? Ringil added this comment on my Japanese Language question:

You can read a bit more about 鵺 on Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nue, but the basic idea is that en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaly_thrush made creepy chirps, which made people think that it was some monsterous 鵺. I'd imagine though given the nature and old language of the chant, they mean the mythical animal 鵺 as opposed to the real bird that might be making the creepy sounds.

Whether the mythological Nue or actual Scaly Thrush is referenced it still seems odd to put an ill-omen in a wedding chant?

  • 2
    If I understand what you're asking correctly, reference to the Nue is an intentionally ill-omen. I've always thought of this opening scene as being an extension of the dangers of humans playing God beyond simply creating beings (e.g. Frankenstein to clones). Rather in imbuing Kusanagi with a 'ghost' or soul remembering 'free will' is the thing that differentiated us from, and drew the ire of, angels in apocrypha. So, the ill-omen, to me, perpetuates humanity's desire to engage in such taboos and the 'terrible beauty' that comes out of it. Kawai's lyrics highlight this tension...Best I got :-)
    – wcullen
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 2:24
  • 2
    I don't quite understand what you mean when you say " the ill-omen in the context of a wedding chant" and then say "Love the idea that the wedding chant reflected the marriage between man and machine"...I am seeing this is the point within Kawai's use of the ill-omen in that wedding chant: the marriage of human and machine is fraught with proverbial peril...Can you clarify this for me?
    – wcullen
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 7:21
  • 2
    Fascinating question BTW :-)
    – wcullen
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 7:22
  • 2
    I can't find quotes from Kawai himself, but outside of the links you've found, it seems to be a bit of a pastiche of old and new (something quite common in art in general and in modern Japanese story-telling, esp. anime/manga--Think: 'everything is a remix'). I interpret this as an interesting, and likely intentionally ironic, patchwork between wedding as metaphor with a dash of Yōkai for ominous overtone. I don't know that there's more than this to it, really (all while recognising it as pretty innovative and creative, too) :-)
    – wcullen
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 19:18
  • 1
    @wcullen Thanks. Will wait to see if anyone turns up anything. Hopefully Kawai is a secret Sciff Stacker who's just been bubbling to answer this question for 25 years, kehehe ;)
    – Johan88
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 2:12

1 Answer 1


From a Japanese friend who is an anthropologist specializing in music:

This chant (both text and melody) is not a folk song, but written by Kawai. Its Japanese title "Utai" usually means a genre performed in Nō theatre, and out of the theatre often associated with wedding ceremonies. But this is never sung in the wedding as the text suggests a kind of unusual, dire union of human and god or puppeteer in cyberspace.

  • Thanks a lot !!!
    – Johan88
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 2:11

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