Languages › Japanese Kimigayo: Japanese National Anthem Share Flipboard Email Print Sakura Photography/Getty Images Japanese History & Culture Essential Japanese Vocabulary Japanese Grammar By Namiko Abe Japanese Language Expert B.A., Kwansei Gakuin University Namiko Abe is a Japanese language teacher and translator, as well as a Japanese calligraphy expert. She has been a freelance writer for nearly 20 years. our editorial process Namiko Abe Updated March 29, 2017 The Japanese national anthem (kokka) is "Kimigayo." When the Meiji period began in 1868 and Japan made its start as a modern nation, there was no Japanese national anthem. In fact, the person who emphasized the necessity of a national anthem was a British military band instructor, John William Fenton. Words of the Japanese National Anthem The words were taken from a tanka (31-syllable poem) found in the Kokin-wakashu, a 10th-century anthology of poems. The music was composed in 1880 by Hiromori Hayashi, an Imperial Court musician and was later harmonized according to the Gregorian mode by Franz Eckert, a German bandmaster. "Kimigayo (The Emperor's Reign)" became Japan's national anthem in 1888.The word "kimi" refers to the Emperor and the words contain the prayer: "May the Emperor's reign last forever." The poem was composed in the era when the Emperor reigned over the people. During WWII, Japan was an absolute monarchy which moved the Emperor to the top. The Japanese Imperial Army invaded many Asian countries. The motivation was that they were fighting for the holy Emperor. After WWII, the Emperor became the symbol of Japan by the Constitution and has lost all political power. Since then various objections have been raised about singing "Kimigayo" as a national anthem. However, at present, it remains sung at national festivals, international events, schools, and on national holidays. "Kimigayo" Kimigayo waChiyo ni yachiyo niSazareishi noIwao to nariteKoke no musu made 君が代は千代に八千代にさざれ石の巌となりて苔のむすまで English Translation: May the reign of the Emperorcontinue for a thousand, nay, eight thousand generationsand for the eternity that it takesfor small pebbles to grow into a great rockand become covered with moss.