Traditional Hymns

(esp. in Japan)

Score of What a Friend we have in Jesus

(Schoolboy joke: Why do we say 'hymn' and not 'her'? Because we say Amen and not Awomen!)

Here are a few of the traditional hymns featured on this website, including old favourites 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus' and 'The Old Rugged Cross'.

In particular, we look at some of the common hymns sung in Japan at weddings and at Christmas time.

Why 'hymn'?

The word hymn comes from the Middle English word imne, Old French ymne, Latin hymnus and Greek humnos. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary describes it as a song of praise to God, to a saint or to a nation, although in reality many hymns are just poems set to music about ourselves.

Of old, hymns were mainly the chanting of a Psalm, whereas today the definition is more loose and can take the form of a Christmas carol, Gospel song, anthem, etc., or even a folk song.


Singing makes us feel good and that's why we sing; whether it's a hymn, pop song, rap, opera, or whatever turns us on. Singing helps us feel young and energetic, even if we're not very proficient. Singing helps relieve tension. (Tip: If you think you might start crying and feel embarrassed at a wedding or funeral, make sure you join in that opening hymn. Singing with an appropriate amount of gusto really is therapeutic!)

Research has shown that choral singing increases the amount by which an individual's heart rate varies, and it is known that low variability in heart rate is related to high blood pressure. In addition, the singers' heart rates fluctuate in synchrony, which is linked to 'respiratory sinus arrhythmia', or in layman's terms, soothing.


The congregation at a Christmas Carol service, or guests at a wedding, are not an audience; communal hymn singing makes people participants. Communal hymn singing is a concerted exercise that helps everybody get in tune with each other; mentally and spiritually, if not musically.

Weddings in Japan

At a Western-style wedding in Japan the hymn usually sung at the start is quite an interesting choice for a wedding, and probably chosen for the familiar melody rather than the words. The hymn is:

Christmas in Japan

Japanese enjoy Christmas carols as much as the rest of the world, even though only a tiny percentage of Japanese are Christian. They enjoy the old favourites, such as:

See also:

What's the origin of Amen

Frontiers in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00334


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