What does the Japanese anthem (Kimigayo) mean

The national anthem with the oldest lyrics and the shortest number of characters.

That is the Japanese anthem, Kimigayo (君が代).

This time I (japanese people) will introduce about the Japanese anthem.


A song to celebrate “the reign of the Emperor”, but another there is an important sense, the song hope that a peaceful world will continue indefinitely.

There is origin of lyrics in Kokin Wakashu (古今和歌集) compiled more than 1100 years ago from now. The original author of the lyrics is unknown.

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Japanese national anthem full lyrics

First I will introduce youtube videos of Japanese full lyrics. Please listen by all means because about 60 seconds and short.

国歌 君が代 歌詞付き【歌入り】

Because it is Kanji and Hiragana notation, it may be difficult to grasp the number of characters, but you can understand very short things.

I write the lyrics of Kimigayo in Japanese and Romaji.

君が代はkimigayo wa
千代に八千代にchiyo ni yachiyo ni
さざれ石のsazare ishi no
いわおとなりてiwao to narite
こけのむすまでkoke no musu made 

Next I will explain the meaning of the lyrics in English.

Explain the meaning of Japanese national anthem in English

To tell you the truth, this lyrics do not have a clear interpretation. The Japanese interpret it to suit one’s own purpose.

Three meanings are considered mainly in this lyrics.

  1. Song to honor the emperor (天皇).
  2. Song that wishes that a peaceful world will last forever.
  3. Love song that hoped that male and female couple’s bond will be firmly tied.

The current mainstream is the meaning of No. 1 and No. 2. Since the interpretation of Kimi (君) is various, meaning changes variously.

The meaning after “Chiyo ni Yachiyo ni” has almost the same interpretation.

  • 千代に八千代に= Forever
  • さざれ石のいわおとなりて= Very strong bond, or a metaphor of a very long time
  • こけのむすまで= A metaphor of a much longer year for moss to grow

What does Kimi mean in japanese

Lyrics start with “Kimigayo (君が代)”. 

The lyrics of Kimigayo were chosen as the national anthem of Japan just after the Meiji era. Is that of 1869. Meiji era was decided to worship the Meiji Emperor as a god existing in this world. Therefore we interpreted the word Kimi in the sense that the Emperor. Then, interpreting the lyrics in the sense of No. 1 is as follows.

This Japanese country governed by the Emperor will continue for thousands of years. It is a long time that pebbles that are crushed finely become big rocks over tremendous time and eventually grow moss.

Kimi (君) has meaning not only the meaning of the Emperor but also the monarch who represents the superior person, and dear man.

In fact, the Waka that became the origin of this lyrics starts with “waga kimi wa (わが君は)”. The modern Japanese national anthem is changing the original first word. The original Waka is in the 7th volume of Kokin Wakashu (古今和歌集).

When you interpret lyrics from the original words, it means the master for me, or my dear man for me.

If it meant a monarchy for me it would be the meaning of the song that my master ruling country would like us to continue forever. That is not the world of the emperor praising God, but that a peaceful world familiar to us should continue.

If it means a man in dear relationship, it will be a song of love.

In the words of Kimi (君) there is a meaning, such as “Emperor” and “monarch” and “dear man.” The meaning of the lyrics will vary depending on the interpretation of the meaning of Kimi.

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Trivial information of the Japanese anthem

Tanka of the 10th century ‘Kokin Wakashu’ is the origin

The national anthem was necessary in Japan during the Meiji Era incorporating Western culture. In the diplomatic ritual, we needed music representative of the country. In 1869 Iwao Oyama (大山巌) chose the original song of the national anthem of the present from the Kokin Wakashu.

Kokin Wakashu (古今和歌集) is Waka collections compiled in 905. The original Waka is the next lyrics.

  • わが君は:wagakimi wa
  • 千代に八千代に:chiyo ni yachiyo ni
  • さざれいしの:sazare ishi no
  • いわおとなりて:iwawo to narite
  • こけのむすまで:koke no musu made

It was in 7 volumes celebrating longevity and prosperity among all 20 volumes. The name of the author of the original Waka is unknown. The melody which is currently used is made in 1880.

By the way, British japanese researcher Basil Hall Chamberlain of the time translated Japanese national anthem in English.

A thousand years of happy life be thine!
Live on, my Lord, till what are pebbles now,
By age united, to great rocks shall grow,
Whose venerable sides the moss doth line.

The officially recognized as the national anthem in 1999

Kimigayo has been widely used as an national anthem since 1893. But it was officially established as a law in 1999 after more than 100 years. At this time the Japanese flag (Hinomaru) and national anthem (Kimigayo) were officially decided.

This is the fact that in the public schools, it is virtually obligatory for national flag raising and national anthem singing. On the other hand, some people opposed Kimigayo ‘s singing and the rising of the Japanese flag.

In the international game it will be played more slowly

The Japanese national anthem is only 32 characters which it is Hiragana. It is common for Kimigayo to play in about 50 seconds.

However, in the Olympic and other international competitions, since it is a performance time of 60 seconds to 90 seconds, it will play quite slowly. So for many people the Japanese national anthem may have a sad lonesome impression. Also too late for the Japanese, it is hard to sing.

For example, at the time of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, Kimigayo ‘s performance at the award ceremony for the men’s individual all-around event. The performance time is about 80 seconds and it is very slow, it does not match the mouth of the gold medalist Kohei Uchimura.


Please compare with the embedded video introduced at the beginning. The impression will change considerably.

Also, the next Youtube video link is Kimigayo of the opening ceremony of the Nagano Olympics in 1998. →[HD] 日本国国歌 君が代 長野五輪開会式 National Anthem of Japan, 1998 Nagano 芝祐靖 宮田まゆみ (reproduction prohibited)

This is performed in Gagaku (japanese traditional court music), and the performance time is slowly 70 seconds.

Finally, there are many things that I have not been able to introduce about the Japanese national anthem yet. But it is difficult to explain even Japanese. Please look up it if you want. There will be many different explanations from what I introduced.

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