What could the Japanese learn from the English?

Georg Biegholdt

The Japanese national anthem in music lessons

The Japanese national anthem was created with the participation of Japanese, a British and a German and thus a testimony to the connection between national Japanese pride and cosmopolitanism. On the one hand it contains traditional Japanese elements, on the other hand the European influence cannot be denied. The children get to know them by listening to them, making music and maybe even singing.

The text of the Japanese national anthem "Kimi ga yo" (see info box 1) comes - depending on the source - from the 10th or 12th century and was sung to changing melodies.
The setting by John William Fenton (see info box 2) from 1870 was only able to hold its own as a national anthem for a short time, but it established the text in the long term. Fenton's version is still performed annually today in the Myōkōji shrine in Yokohama, Fenton's place of residence in Japan.
In 1880 Hiromori Hayashi (see info box 2) set the hymn to music in the traditional Japanese style - but the influence of European hymns cannot be ignored in this version either. Finally, in 1880, Franz Eckert (see info box 2) notated the melody in the European style (based on the Doric scale) and orchestrated the hymn for orchestral reproduction. In this version it was declared the Japanese national anthem in 1888. A solemnly sung version can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29FFHC2D12Q&feature=youtu.be
Musicians involved in the creation of the national anthem
John William Fenton (3/12/1828 - 4/28/1890)
was an Irish musician of Scottish descent and the leader of a military band in Japan at the beginning of the Meiji period. He came to Japan in 1868 with a regiment protecting the small foreign community in Yokohama. When Fenton's regiment left Japan in 1871, he remained for another six years as Kapellmeister with the newly formed Japanese Navy and then with the chapel of the imperial court. In April 1877, Fenton left Japan for California.
Hiromori Hayashi (December 28, 1831–5 March 1896)
was a Japanese composer who is credited with composing the Japanese national anthem. From 1875 he worked in Tokyo and helped to combine Western music theory with Japanese theory. Whether he was actually the composer of the hymn remains unclear: there are historians who instead attribute it to two subordinates of Hayashi - Oku Yoshiisa and Akimori Hayashi (also Hiromori Hayashi's son and a student of Fenton).
Franz Eckert (April 5, 1852 - August 6, 1916)
was a German composer and musician who composed the harmonies for Japan's national anthem "Kimi ga yo" and the national anthem of the Korean empire "Aegukga". At the invitation of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the military musician traveled to Japan in 1879, where he worked in the Ministry of Education for the Music Examination Commission in the field of brass and string music between 1883 and 1886 and published songbooks for Japanese elementary schools. In March 1888 Eckert joined the department for classical music of the imperial budget ministry and composed ceremonial music for court and military. Eckert returned to Germany in 1899, but followed an invitation from the Korean Empire to Seoul in 1901.
Discussion of the anthem after World War II
When the role of the emperor was redefined after the Second World War - no longer a ruler who rules according to divine law, but a person who is a symbol of the state and the unity of the people - the hymn was discussed without it but to change or replace.
In the 1990s the discussion flared up again, but the Prime Minister at the time tried to end it: The emperor in the text should be understood as a symbol of the state and the unity of the people and the lyrics of "Kimi ga yo" consequently as a wish for ...