Kimi ga Yo



The lyrics first appeared in a poem anthology, "Kokin Wakashū", as an anonymous poem. While anonymous poems were not uncommon at that time, and the author may have been in fact known, the anonymity might be because the author belonged to one of the lower classes. The poem was also included in a lot of anthologies, and in a later period used as a celebration song by people of all walks of life. Unlike the current anthem, the poem began with "Wa ga Kimi wa" ('you, my lord') instead of "Kimi ga Yo wa" ('your reign'). The change of the lyrics occurred during the "Kamakura" period.cite web
author=Mayumi Itoh
title=Japan's Neo-Nationalism: The Role of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo Legislation
publisher=Published by [ Japan Policy Research Institute]

In 1869, around the start of the "Meiji" Era, John William Fenton, a visiting Irish military band leader, realized that there was no national anthem in Japan, and recommended Iwao Ōyama, an officer of the Satsuma Clan, to make the national anthem of Japan. Ōyama agreed and selected the lyrics.cite web
author=Aura Sabadus
title=Japan searches for Scot who modernised nation
work= [ The Scotsman]
publisher=Published by Johnston Press Digital Publishing
] The lyrics are said to have been chosen for their similarity to the British national anthem, due to Fenton stressing the song and also the importance of having a national anthem.cite web
author=Colin Joyce
title=Briton who gave Japan its anthem
work= []
publisher=Published by Telegraph Media Group Limited
] Ōyama then asked Fenton to make the melody for it. The melody was composed and was performed before the Emperor in 1870. Due to the pressure of the Japanese, Fenton had only three weeks to compose the music and a few days to rehearse before performing the anthem to the Emperor. This was the first version of "Kimi ga Yo", which was discarded because the melody lacked solemnity.cite web
author=Ministry of Foreign Affairs
year=2008|month=By May
work=Japan Fact Sheet
publisher=Site [ "Web Japan"] sponsored by the [ Ministry of Foreign Affairs]
] However, this version is performed annually at the "Myōkōji" Shrine in Yokohama, as this is where Fenton was based as a military band leader. "Myōkōji" serves as a memorial to him.

In 1880, the Imperial Household Agency adopted a new melody composed by Yoshiisa Oku and Akimori Hayashi. The composer is often listed as Hiromori Hayashi, who was their supervisor and Akimori's father. Akimori was also one of Fenton's pupils. The German musician Franz Eckert applied the melody with Western style harmony. This is the second and current version of "Kimi ga Yo". By 1893, "Kimi ga Yo" was included in public school ceremonies due to efforts by the then Ministry of Education. According to The Japan Times, "Kimi ga Yo" is played in C major.


Since the end of World War II, there has been criticism of the anthem for its association with militarism and the virtual worship of the emperor as a deity, which some see as incompatible with a democratic society. Similar objections have been raised to Japan's current national flag, and demonstrations are sometimes held against both. In 1999, the Japanese government passed the bill on national flag and anthem, which designated "Kimi ga Yo" as the national anthem and "Hinomaru" as the national flag.

Since Oct 23, 2003, 410 teachers and school workers have been punished for refusing to stand and sing the anthem as ordered by school principals. This has made recent headlines. [cite web
title=2 teachers punished for refusing to stand up, recite 'Kimigayo'
work= [ JAPAN TODAY]
publisher=Published by Kyodo News

Schools have seen conflict over both the anthem and the flag, as the Tokyo Board of Education requires that the anthem be sung and that the flag be flown at events at Tokyo metropolitan government schools, and that school teachers respect both (by, for example, standing for the singing of the anthem) or risk losing their jobs. [cite web
author=Justin McCurry (of Guardian)
title=A touchy subject
work= []
publisher=Published by Guardian News and Media Limited
] [cite web
author=The Asahi Shimbun
title=EDITORIAL: National anthem ruling
work=IHT/Asahi via []
publisher=Published by The Asahi Shimbun Company
] Some have protested that such rules violate the Constitution of Japan, while the Board, for its part, has argued that since schools are government agencies, their employees have an obligation to teach their students how to be good Japanese citizens.

Opponents respond that as Japan is a democratic country, a national anthem praising a monarch is not appropriate and that forced participation in a ceremony involving the singing of an anthem is against the freedom of thought clause in the Constitution (Article 19). The government stated at the time of the Act of 1999 that the lyrics are meant to wish for Japan to be at peace with the emperor as a symbol of unity.

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. [cite web
author=Kyodo News
title=FEATURE: Upcoming verdict on retired teacher draws attention
publisher=Published by Kyodo News
] 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. [cite web
title=Japanese teacher fined for anthem protest
publisher=Published by The Taipei Times

As a way to avoid that type of punishment, teachers who are opposed to the compulsory singing of the anthem have tried to expand various English-language parody lyrics across Japan and through the Internet. [cite web
author=Masahiro Morioka
title=Parody of the Japanese national anthem, Kiss me Kimigayo
work= [ Life Studies Blog]
] The parodies take the Japanese syllables and replace them with English phonetic equivalents (for example, in one of the more popular versions, "Kimi ga yo wa" becomes "Kiss me girl, your old one"), allowing those who sing the new version to remain undetected in a crowd. [cite web
author=Justin McCurry (of Guardian)
title=Japan's rebels sing out with English parody of anthem
work= []
publisher=Published by Guardian News and Media Limited
] Japanese conservatives deride what they describe as 'sabotage'. There is also a political significance to some of the alternative English lyrics as they can allude to comfort women. [cite web
title=「君が代」替え歌流布 ネット上「慰安婦」主題?
work= [ 正論 Web]
publisher=Published by The Sankei Shimbun

On September 21, 2006, the Tokyo District Court ordered the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to pay compensation to all the teacherswho had been subjected to fines and/or 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". This was seen as a landmark ruling in Japan upholding the Fundamental Law of Education in Japan. The ruling has been appealed by the Metropolitan Government. [cite web
author=The Japan Times
title=City Hall to appeal 'Kimigayo' ruling
work= [ The Japan Times ONLINE]
publisher=Published by The Japan Times Ltd


In the Act on national flag and anthem, there is no detailed protocol on how to show respect towards "Kimi ga Yo" when it is being performed. However, local government bodies and private organizations either give suggestions or demand a certain protocol is to be followed. For example, an October 2003 directive by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government told all teachers to stand during the national anthem at all graduation ceremonies. While standing, the teachers are required to sing "Kimi ga Yo" while facing "Hinomaru". [cite web
author=The Japan Times
title=EDITORIAL: Coercion can't foster respect
work= [ The Japan Times ONLINE]
publisher=Published by The Japan Times Ltd
] United States military personnel in Japan, while in civilian dress, are required by regulations to place their right hand over their heart when either "Kimi ga Yo", "The Star-Spangled Banner" or any national anthem is performed. [cite web
author=Trevor M. Carlee
title=Corps places hand over heart for national anthem
work= [ Okinawa Marine]
publisher=From United States Marine Corps
] The Act also does not dictate when or where "Kimi ga Yo" needs to be played. "Kimi ga Yo", however, is commonly played at sporting events inside of Japan, or during international sporting events where Japan has a competing team. At "sumō" tournaments, "Kimi ga Yo" is played before the award ceremony.


See also

*Flag of Japan
*Korean Empire Aegukga (modified to resemble the "Kimi ga Yo")


External links

* [ National Flag and Anthem]
* [ Japanese national anthem - Kimigayo]

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