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Japan's National Anthem (Kimi Ga Yo)





Japan's national anthem, known as "Kimi ga Yo" (His Majesty's Reign; 君が代 in Japanese) comes from the 10th-century anthology 古今和歌集 (Kokinwakashu). No one knows who wrote it, but the music was composed by Hayashi Hiromori in 1880. Although never officially designated as the national anthem, in 1893 the Ministry of Education made "Kimi ga Yo" the ceremonial song for elementary schools on national holidays. It was soon sung at state ceremonies and some sporting events.

The lyrics are given below.

君が代は Kimi ga you wa
千代の八千代に Chiyo ni yachiyo ni
さざれ石の Sazare ishi no
巌となりて Iwao to nari te
苔のむすまで Koke no musu made

An excellent translation was created by Basil H. Chamberlain, author of the book Things Japanese:

Thousands of years of happy reign be thine
Rule on, my lord, till what pebbles now
By age united to mighty rocks shall grow
Whose venerable sides the moss doth lie

The Japanese themselves often consider "Kimi ga Yo" to be very somber and unpleasant, and some would like to see a more upbeat, pleasant anthem for their nation. Others, particularly those with nationalistic leanings, are pleased with the content and connotations of the ancient poem that provides the lyrics.

But despite these mixed feelings, "Kimi ga Yo" is not likely to be replaced anytime soon.


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