What is the Japanese national anthem?
The Japanese national anthem is ‘Kimigayo’ and its lyrics are probably the oldest set of national anthem lyrics in the world. It is also one of the shortest national anthems – with not many lines to learn!
Who composed the Japanese national anthem?
It is unknown who wrote the lyrics but ‘Kimigayo’ first appeared as a poem in the poetry anthology Kokin Wakashū, published in ca.920. Irish musician John William Fenton set the lyrics to music when the poem was chosen to be Japan’s national anthem in 1869. However his melody was deemed to lack the solemnity needed for a national anthem so in 1880 composer Hiromori Hayashi, along with his son Akimori Hayashi and pupil Yoshiisa Oku, composed a new melody, although some elements of Fenton’s original remained.
But this was not the end of the story. The German composer Franz Eckert then applied a Western-style harmony to the melody and today’s version was born. It was officially adopted as Japan’s national anthem in 1888.
What are the lyrics to the Japanese national anthem in English?
May the reign of the Emperor
continue for a thousand, nay, eight thousand generations
and for the eternity that it takes
for small pebbles to grow into a great rock
and become covered with moss.
Find lyrics to the different national anthems here