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Review: ‘Sunday in Kyoto’

I’m utterly enchanted with this app. The story, the music (“oh so zen”), and the visuals work in perfect harmony. There’s something very soothing about it, which I suspect children will respond to as well. (They may also discover the names and sounds of a few instruments they didn’t know about.) If you enjoy Sunday in Kyoto, be sure to take a look at the other musical titles apps produced by The Secret Mountain and Les Productions Folle Avoine: A Duck in New York City and The Little Blue Doggy.  

Title: Sunday in Kyoto
Lyrics and Music by: Gilles Vigneault
Published By:
The Secret Mountain
Illustrated By:
Stéphane Jorisch
Translation by:
Suzanne Campagne, Michelle Campagne
Music Played By: Gilles Vigneault and Bruno Fecteau
Sung By:
Coral Egan, Thomas Hellman, Patrick Watson, Jessica Vigneault, Ndidi O 
Developed by:
Les Productions Folle Avoine and The Secret Mountain
iOS, requires iOS 4.3 or later

PreS–Gr 5-Derived from the lyrics of a folk song, this whimsical app tells the tale of an improbable group of musicians who come together to play their instruments in old Kyoto. The curious cast includes cane-wielding Joe from “Cajun land,” his Japanese wife adorned in a floral kimono, their Spanish friends, and a Buddhist monk.

The catchy tune is sung by alternating male and female voices. Each character plays a different instrument, including a banjo, koto, guitar, piano, bouzouki, harp, and shamisen, creating a enjoyable learning experience for listeners. The gorgeous, color-washed line drawings, taken directly from the original picture-book-plus-CD combo (The Secret Mountain, 2009), nicely reflect the flavor of ancient Kyoto. There’s an old wooden temple gate, a pond teeming with carp, and a low table set for afternoon tea. Humorous touches add to the merriment, as when a bronze Buddhist statue claps along with smiling monks as a mouse inexplicably comes out and takes a bow at the end of a nearly silent concert.

Screen shot from 'Sunday in Kyoto' (Vigneault) Les Productions Folle Avoine/Secret Mountain

This app has three simple modes: “Read,” “Watch,” “Sing.” “Read” has no sound or animation. Children can swipe through pages on their own. In “Watch” and “Sing,” the pages turn automatically. Pause/jump icons and a navigation slider allow for quick movement through the pages. In “Watch,” the text is sung with accompaniment and sound effects. Pans, close-ups, and subtle animations, such as hands strumming instruments and feet tapping to the music, seem to make the illustrations move to the beat. In “Sing,” the text is not sung but highlighted, word-by-word, in sync with the accompaniment, encouraging children to read, or sing, along. A “Shop” icon leads to the publisher’s store and iTunes.—Kathleen S. Wilson, New York University, New York, NY


  1. Based on your recommendation I bought this App., and I have to say it is thoroughly enchanting experience.
    I has echos of a true story I heard about on the BCC just a few days ago about a lady who has made a recording of Bluegrass music with the lyrics translated to Mandarin!
    Interesting things happen when cultures mingle in a creative way.


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