"KIMIGAYO" (君が代, ; His Imperial
Majesty 's Reign) is the
national anthem of
Japan . Its lyrics are the oldest among the world's
national anthems, and with a length of 11 measures and 32 characters
"Kimigayo" is also one of the world's shortest. Its lyrics are from a
_waka _ poem written in the
Heian period (794–1185), and the
current melody was chosen in 1880, replacing an unpopular melody
composed eleven years earlier. While the title "Kimigayo" is usually
translated as "His Imperial Majesty's Reign", no official translation
of the title or lyrics has been established in law.
From 1888 to 1945 "Kimigayo" served as the national anthem of the
Japan . When the Empire was dissolved following its
surrender at the end of
World War II
World War II , the State of
Japan succeeded it
in 1945. This successor state was a parliamentary democracy and the
polity therefore changed from a system based on imperial sovereignty
to one based on popular sovereignty . Emperor Shōwa was not
dethroned, and "Kimigayo" was retained as the _de facto _ national
anthem. The passage of the
Act on National Flag and Anthem in 1999
recognized it as the official national anthem.
* 1 Etymology
* 2 History
* 2.1 Empire of
* 2.2 Postwar
* 2.2.1 1945 to 1999
* 2.2.2 Since 1999
* 3 Protocol
* 3.1 Public schools
* 4 Present-day perception
* 6 Controversies
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 External links
"_Kimi_" has been used either as a noun to indicate an emperor or
one's lord (i.e., master) since at least the
Heian period ; as an
honorific noun or suffix to indicate a person or most commonly as a
friendly, informal word for "you." For example, the protagonist
Hikaru Genji _ (光源氏) of _the Tale of Genji _ is also called
_"Hikaru no Kimi" or "Hikaru-gimi"_ (光の君 or 光君). But before
Nara period, the emperor was often called "_ōkimi_" (great lord); so
it is controversial whether the word "_kimi_" in "_kimigayo_" had
meant emperor or not originally.
In Kamakura period, "Kimigayo" was used as a festive song among
samurai and then became popular among the people in Edo period. In
latter Edo period, "Kimigayo" was used in the Ōoku (harem of Edo
Castle) and Satsuma-han (now Kagoshima Prefecture) as a common festive
new year song. In those contexts, "_kimi_" never meant the emperor but
only the Tokugawa shogun, the
Shimazu clan as rulers of the
Satsuma-han, guests of honour or all members of festive drinking
party. After the Meiji Restoration, samurai from Satsuma-han
controlled the Imperial Japanese government and they adopted
"Kimigayo" as the national anthem of Japan. From this time until the
Japanese defeat in
World War II
World War II , "Kimigayo" was understood to mean
the long reign of the emperor. With the adoption of the Constitution
Japan in 1947, the emperor became no longer a sovereign who ruled
by divine right , but a human who is a symbol of the state and of the
unity of the people. The Ministry of Education did not give any new
meanings for "Kimigayo" after the war; this allowed the song to mean
the Japanese people. The Ministry also did not formally renounce the
pre-war meaning of "Kimigayo".
In 1999, during the deliberations of the Act on National Flag and
Anthem , the official definition of _Kimi_ or _Kimi-ga-yo_ was
questioned repeatedly. The first suggestion was given by Chief Cabinet
Hiromu Nonaka that, due to the new status of emperor as
established in Article 1 of the Constitution of Japan, _kimi_ meant
the "emperor as the symbol of Japan" and the entire lyrics wish for
the peace and prosperity of Japan. Then Prime Minister Keizō Obuchi
confirmed this meaning with a statement on June 29, 1999:
"_Kimi_" indicates the Emperor, who is the symbol of the State and of
the unity of the people, and whose position is derived from the
consensus-based will of Japanese citizens, with whom sovereign power
resides. And, the phrase "Kimigayo" indicates our State, Japan, which
has the Emperor enthroned as the symbol of the State and of the unity
of the people by the consensus-based will of Japanese citizens. And it
is reasonable to take the lyric of "Kimigayo" to mean the wish for the
lasting prosperity and peace of such country of ours.
Parties opposed to the Liberal Democratic Party , which was in
control of the government at the time Obuchi was prime minister,
strongly objected to the government's meaning of _kimi_ and
"Kimigayo". From the Democratic Party of Japan, members objected due
to the lack of any historical ties to the meaning. The strongest
critic was Kazuo Shii, the chairman of the Communist Party of
who strongly claimed that "Japan" could not be derived from "Kimigayo"
because the lyrics only mention wishing for the emperor for a long
reign. Shii also objected to the use of the song as the national
anthem because for a democratic nation, a song about the emperor is
EMPIRE OF JAPAN (1868–1945)
_ Sazare-Ishi_ pebbles are believed to grow into boulders in some
legends. A photo taken at _Shimogamo_ Shrine in Kyōto . Franz
Eckert 's notes, presented to the Meiji-Tennō in 1880 (cover design
Curt Netto ).
The lyrics first appeared in the _
Kokin Wakashū _, a poetry
anthology, as an anonymous poem. The poem was included in many
anthologies, and was used in a later period as a celebration song of a
long life by people of all social statures. Unlike the form used for
the current national anthem, the poem originally began with "_Waga
Kimi wa_" ('you, my lord') instead of "_Kimiga Yo wa_" ('your reign').
The first lyrics were changed during the _Kamakura_ period , while
the rest of the lyrics stayed the same. Because the lyrics were sung
on formal occasions, such as birthdays, there was no sheet music for
it until the 19th century.
John William Fenton , a visiting Irish military band leader,
realized there was no national anthem in Japan, and suggested to Iwao
Ōyama , an officer of the
Satsuma Clan , that one be created. Ōyama
agreed, and selected the lyrics. The lyrics may have been chosen for
their similarity to the British national anthem , due to Fenton's
influence. After selecting the anthem's lyrics, Ōyama then asked
Fenton to create the melody. After being given just two to three
weeks to compose the melody and only a few days to rehearse, Fenton
debuted the anthem before the Japanese Emperor in 1870. This was the
first version of "Kimigayo". This was discarded because the melody
"lacked solemnity", according to the Japanese government although
others believe it is because the melody was actually "unsingable" for
the Japanese. However, this version is still performed annually at
the _Myōkōji_ temple in
Yokohama , where Fenton served as a military
band leader. _Myōkōji_ serves as a memorial to him.
In 1880, the
Ministry of the Imperial Household adopted a new melody
composed by Yoshiisa Oku and Akimori Hayashi. The composer is often
Hiromori Hayashi , who was their supervisor and Akimori's
father. Akimori was also one of Fenton's pupils. Although the melody
is based on a traditional mode of Japanese court music, it is composed
in a mixed style influenced by Western hymns, and uses some elements
of the Fenton arrangement. The German musician
Franz Eckert applied
the melody with Western style harmony, creating the second and current
version of "Kimigayo". The government formally adopted "Kimigayo" as
the national anthem in 1888 and had copies of the music and lyrics
sent overseas for diplomatic ceremonies. By 1893, "Kimigayo" was
included in public school ceremonies due to the efforts of the then
Ministry of Education .
At the turn of the 20th century, "Kimigayo" was beginning to be
closely associated with the idea of honoring the Emperor. It was also
associated as a part of Japanese education. However, opinions
expressed in an
Osaka paper in 1904 calls "Kimigayo" a song for the
imperial family and not the state as a whole.
Uchimura Kanzo , a
Christian leader in Japan, stated at the turn of the 20th century that
"Kimigayo" is not the anthem of
Japan by saying the song's purpose is
to praise the emperor. According to Kanzo, a national anthem should
express the feelings of the people. The Japanese were not familiar
with "Kimigayo" as the anthem until there was a surge of celebrations
after victories in the First Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars .
Previously, papers were critical of fellow Japanese who could not sing
"Kimigayo" properly at ceremonies overseas.
World War II
World War II , the
Japanese Empire ordered that
schoolchildren, both from its homeland and its colonies , were to sing
the "Kimigayo" anthem and salute Emperor
Hirohito every morning.
POSTWAR JAPAN (1945–PRESENT)
1945 To 1999
During the American occupation of
Japan , there were no directives by
Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers
Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to restrict the use of
"Kimigayo" by the Japanese government. This was different from the
regulations issued that restricted the use of the _Hinomaru_ flag.
Along with the encouragement to use "Kimigayo" in the schools to
promote defense education and patriotism, the national broadcaster NHK
began to use the song to announce the start and ending of its
Act on National Flag and Anthem as it appears in the Official
Gazette on August 15, 1999
Act on National Flag and Anthem _ was passed in 1999, choosing
both the _Hinomaru_ and "Kimigayo" as Japan's national symbols. The
passage of the law stemmed from a suicide of a school principal in
Hiroshima who could not resolve a dispute between his school board and
his teachers over the use of the _Hinomaru_ and "Kimigayo".
Keizō Obuchi of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
decided to draft legislation to make the _Hinomaru_ and "Kimigayo"
official symbols of
Japan in 2000. His
Chief Cabinet Secretary ,
Hiromu Nonaka , wanted the legislation to be completed by the 10th
anniversary of the coronation of
Akihito as Emperor. This is not the
first time legislation was considered for establishing both symbols as
official. In 1974, with the backdrop of the 1972 return of Okinawa to
Japan and the
1973 oil crisis
1973 oil crisis , Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei hinted at
a law being passed legalizing both symbols.
Main supporters of the bill were the LDP and the
Komeito (CGP), while
the opposition included the Social Democratic Party (SDPJ) and
Communist Party (CPJ), who cited the connotations both symbols had
with the war era. The CPJ was further opposed for not allowing the
issue to be decided by the public. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of
Japan (DPJ) could not develop party consensus on it. President of the
Naoto Kan stated that the DPJ must support the bill because the
party already recognized both symbols as the symbols of Japan. Deputy
Secretary General and future prime minister
Yukio Hatoyama thought
that this bill would cause further divisions among society and the
Before the vote, there were calls for the bills to be separated at
Waseda University professor Norihiro Kato stated that
"Kimigayo" is a separate issue more complex than the _Hinomaru_ flag.
Attempts to designate only the _Hinomaru_ as the national flag by the
DPJ and other parties during the vote of the bill were rejected by the
Diet. The House of Representatives passed the bill on July 22, 1999,
by a 403 to 86 vote. The legislation was sent to the House of
Councilors on July 28 and was passed on August 9. It was enacted into
law on August 13.
"Kimigayo" played at a volleyball tournament in Ōsaka .
The lyrics and musical notation of the anthem are given in the second
appendix of the
Act on National Flag and Anthem . As for the sheet
music itself, it displays a vocal arrangement with no mention of tempo
and all of the lyrics in hiragana . The anthem is composed in 4/4
(common time ) in the
Dorian mode . The Act on National Flag and
Anthem does not detail how one should show respect during performances
of "Kimigayo". In a statement made by Prime Minister Obuchi, the
legislation will not impose new regulations on the Japanese people
when it comes to respecting the flag or anthem. However, local
government bodies and private organizations sometimes suggest or
demand certain protocols be followed. For example, an October 2003
directive by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government required teachers to
stand during the national anthem at graduation ceremonies. While
standing, the teachers are required to sing "Kimigayo" while facing
the _Hinomaru_ . United States military personnel are required by
regulations to render honors with a hand salute, or when in civilian
dress, to place their right hand over their heart when "Kimigayo",
The Star-Spangled Banner _, or any other national anthem is
Act on National Flag and Anthem also does not dictate
when or where "Kimigayo" should be played. The anthem, however, is
commonly played at sporting events inside of Japan, or at
international sporting events where
Japan has a competing team. At
_sumō_ tournaments, "Kimigayo" is played before the awards ceremony.
Since the end of World War II, the Ministry of Education has issued
statements and regulations to promote the usage of both the _Hinomaru_
and "Kimigayo" at schools under their jurisdiction. The first of these
statements was released in 1950, stating that it was desirable, but
not required, to use both symbols. This desire was later expanded to
include both symbols on national holidays and during ceremonial events
to encourage students on what national holidays are and to promote
defense education. The Ministry not only took great measures to
explain that both symbols are not formally established by law, they
also referred to "Kimigayo" as a song and refused to call it the
national anthem. It was not until 1977 that the Ministry referred to
"Kimigayo" as the national anthem (国歌, kokka) of Japan. In a 1989
reform of the education guidelines, the LDP-controlled government
first demanded that the _Hinomaru_ flag must be used in school
ceremonies and that proper respect must be given to it and to
"Kimigayo". Punishments for school officials who did not follow this
order were also enacted with the 1989 reforms.
The 1999 curriculum guideline issued by the Ministry of Education
after the passage of the _Law Regarding the National Flag and Anthem_
decrees that "on entrance and graduation ceremonies, schools must
raise the flag of
Japan and instruct students to sing the "Kimigayo"
(national anthem), given the significance of the flag and the song."
Additionally, the ministry's commentary on 1999 curriculum guideline
for elementary schools note that "given the advance of
internationalization, along with fostering patriotism and awareness of
being Japanese, it is important to nurture school children's
respectful attitude toward the flag of
Japan and "Kimigayo" as they
grow up to be respected Japanese citizens in an internationalized
society." The ministry also stated that if Japanese students cannot
respect their own symbols, then they will not be able to respect the
symbols of other nations.
According to a survey conducted by TV Asahi, most Japanese people
perceived "Kimigayo" as an important song even before the passage of
Act on National Flag and Anthem _ in 1999. However, a poll in
the same year conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun found that most
respondents opposed legislation making it the national anthem or felt
the Diet should take more time in passing such a law. Many Japanese
students, who must sing the song at entrance and graduation
ceremonies, say they cannot understand the old language of the lyrics
and are not educated on its historical uses. Controversies
surrounding the use of the anthem in school events still remain.
KANA (HIRAGANA )
POETIC ENGLISH TRANSLATION BY BASIL HALL CHAMBERLAIN _ _
Chiyo ni yachiyo ni
Iwao to narite
Koke no musu made
May your reign
Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,
Until the pebbles
Grow into boulders
Lush with moss
Thousands of years of happy reign be thine;
Rule on, my lord, until what are pebbles now
By ages united to mighty rocks shall grow
Whose venerable sides the moss doth line.
Japan's national anthem is deemed the world's most controversial due
to its post-war history. Schools have been the center of controversy
over both the anthem and the national flag. The Tokyo Board of
Education requires the use of both the anthem and flag at events under
their jurisdiction. The order requires school teachers to respect both
symbols or risk losing their jobs. In 1999, several teachers in
Hiroshima refused to put up the anthem while the
Board demanded that they do so. As the tension arose between them, a
vice-principal committed suicide. A similar incident in
Osaka in 2010
also occurred, with 32 teachers refusing to sing the song in a
ceremony. In 2011, nine more teachers joined the rebellion, along with
another eight in 2012.
Hashimoto Toru , the mayor of
Osaka , slated
the teachers as "It was good that criminals who are intent on
breaking the rules have risen to the surface ". Some have protested
that such rules violate the
United Nations Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and the "freedom of thought, belief and conscience"
clause in the Constitution of
Japan , but the Board has argued that
since schools are government agencies, their employees have an
obligation to teach their students how to be good Japanese citizens.
Teachers have unsuccessfully brought criminal complaints against Tokyo
Shintarō Ishihara and senior officials for ordering teachers
to honor the _Hinomaru_ and "Kimigayo". After earlier opposition, the
Japan Teachers Union accepts the use of both the flag and anthem; the
Japan Teachers and Staffs Union still opposes both symbols
and their use inside the school system.
In 2006, Katsuhisa Fujita, a retired teacher in Tokyo, was threatened
with imprisonment and fined 200,000 yen (roughly 2,000 US dollars )
after he was accused of disturbing a graduation ceremony at Itabashi
High School by urging the attendees to remain seated during the
playing of the anthem. At the time of Fujita's sentence, 345 teachers
had been punished for refusing to take part in anthem related events,
though Fujita is the only man to have been convicted in relation to
it. On September 21, 2006, the Tokyo District Court ordered the Tokyo
Metropolitan Government to pay compensation to the teachers who had
been subjected to punishment under the directive of the Tokyo Board of
Education. The then Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi commented, "It is
a natural idea to treat the national anthem importantly". The ruling
has been appealed by the Metropolitan Government. Since October 23,
2003, 410 teachers and school workers have been punished for refusing
to stand and sing the anthem as ordered by school principals.
Teachers can also be punished if their students do not stand while
"Kimigayo" is played during school ceremonies.
On 30 May 2011 and 6 June 2011, two panels of the Supreme Court of
Japan ruled that it was constitutional to require teachers to stand in
front of the Hinomaru and sing the
Kimigayo during school ceremonies.
In making the ruling, the panels ratified the decision of the Tokyo
High Court in ruling against 13 teachers who had asked for court
relief after being disciplined between 2003 and 2005 for refusing to
stand and sing the anthem.
Outside of the school system, there was a controversy regarding
"Kimigayo" soon after the passage of the 1999 law. A month after the
law's passage, a record containing a performance of "Kimigayo" by
Kiyoshiro Imawano was removed by Polydor Records from
his album _Fuyu no Jujika_. Polydor did not want to attract harassment
from far-right groups . In response, Imawano re-released the album
through an independent label with the track in question.
* Music portal
Instrumental and Vocal Recording made in 1930 (1m:30s)
Instrumental Midi rendition of Fenton's original
Problems playing these files? See media help ._
* Flag of
* Imperial Seal of
Rising Sun Flag
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Anthems_, Windmill Books, 2016, ISBN 9781473507531
OCLC 919397311 -
contains chapter on the song, and its meaning today focusing on
* Government of Japan. 国旗及び国歌に関する法律
(法律第百二十七号) ; 1999-08-13 . (in Japanese).
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