”Kimi Ga Yo” is one of the world's shortest national anthem with the world's oldest lyrics.
When that peculiar tune with its distinctive melody was played along with the national flag, it created a not-so-favorable feeling in me for a long time. I knew it was because I subconsciously recalled the painful war history.
However, when I came across a bilingual picture book published last year, my image changed drastically. I learned the magnitude and beauty of the human and world views expressed in the short lyrics of the song.
The title of that picture book is
"Chiyo ni Yachiyo ni"
An Eternity The Journey of a Love Song
The waka poem on which "Kimi Ga Yo" is based is a poem from the Kokin Waka Shu (Anthology of Ancient Japanese Poetry), compiled with 32 syllables more than 1,100 years ago in the early Heian period (794-1192). We do not know who the author is.
The original song is a passionate love song sung by a person who lived in the Heian period to the person she was in love with, asking him to live long and forever.
It is said that it was not until the Meiji period (1868-1912) that it became a national anthem, a song dedicated to the emperor.
When the national anthem is sung by the Emperor and the Japanese people, the people wish for His Majesty's long life and for this peaceful country to last forever and ever. At the same time, as the highest priest of Shintoism, his Majesty wishes for the preciousness of the people's lives and for the safety, happiness, and peace of Japan and the world.
It is a song that resonates with the spirit of caring for each other.
＜From the English translator's afterword＞🍀
"When we sing this song, we are free to choose who we refer to as "KIMI (君）＝My precious”. It goes beyond country borders, religions, and even time and space.
It doesn’t even have to be a person. Set your imagination free and let it expand. Insects, animals, plants, mountains, oceans, the earth, the moon, and even outer space can be included, too. "Kimigayo" is the ultimate love song, filled with generous and harmonious love for humanity, the earth, and the universe. This picture book was published with an English translation to share their wonderful gift from our ancestors with people from all over the world. The journey of "Kimigayo" will go beyond time and space and light up our family's future, living on this planet. "
It has been 76 years since Japan renounced war (with the Peace Constitution).
My grandmother, who is 98 years old, does not talk about her memories of the war. But there must be no one in the world who does not feel pained that war has not been eliminated yet.
When I listen to "Kimi Ga Yo" while feeling the new interpretation, I feel differently at the Olympic awards ceremonies and at graduation /entrance ceremonies at schools.