Japanese Flag & Anthem

On August 9, 1999 the Diet adopted a new law which made the Hinomaru the official national flag and "Kimigayo" the national anthem.

Hinomaru (The Japanese Flag)

The Hinomaru, also sometimes referred to as the Nisshoki (Sun Flag), became the official national flag in 1999. The flag is white with a large red circle (showing the raising sun).The flag was used on military banners at least since the 16th century. Even if Hinomaru was officially adopted as national flag in 1999 the flag has been used since 1870 when the Meiji government officially adopted it.  

Kimigayo (The Japanese Anthem)

Kimigayo is the Japanese national anthem based on a poem that is more than 1000 years old, written in the Heian Period (794-1185).  This make the lyrics the oldest in the world for a national anthem. 

In 1869 an instructor in the British military band in Yokohama John William Fenton, wrote the music to accompany the poem. In 1880 the music was rewritten by Yoshiisa Oku and Akimori Hayashi and later on a German, Franz von Eckert, harmonized the song on behalf of the Japanese government. The song is approximately 40 seconds long.  
In Japanese the text is: 
Ki-mi ga yo wa Chi-yo ni
ya-chi-yo ni Sa-za-re ish-i no I wa-o to na-ri-te,
Ko-ke, no mu su ma de

Freely translated to English:

May your life (the Emperor) reign
Continue for thousands of years
Until sand by age turns to mighty rocks
And the rocks hoary sides are covered with moss. 



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