Depending on your travel and Olympic games viewing habits, you may not get the chance to hear national anthems that aren’t from your own country very often. Which is kind of understandable…the songs are supposed to be inspiring, but it seems like at lot of them are either about killing everyone or marching. Marching might be a great way to burn calories, but we could do without songs about it.

However, it turns out that Japan’s national anthem, the incredibly short “Kimi ga Yo,” is a bit of a hit with folks from everywhere but Japan…a fact that’s left quite a few Japanese Internet commenters thoroughly confused.

First, here’s the video that’s attracted so much attention online. It’s just over seven and a half minutes long…but the video plays the song seven times in those 7.5 minutes, each time with the lyrics in a different language. Besides Japanese, there are translations for English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Greek.

Like many punk songs, the Japanese national anthem is actually somewhat famous for being short, at least if you’re the kind of person who collects trivia about national anthems. (And if you are, we totally love you for it!) The actual lyrics are a scant 32 characters long–short enough to fit into a single tweet four times.

For those of you familiar with Japanese literature, you might have noticed that the lyrics are actually a waka poem from the Heian period (from 794 to 1185) with a single jiamari, or extra syllable. However, the original poem, which appeared in the first imperial waka anthology Kokinwakashu, had a slightly different opening line.

▼And was much, much less legible than today’s modern printed lyrics sheets.


Though there is apparently no official translations of the song, many English versions have been produced. Perhaps the one to most closely capture the mood of a poem written over a thousand years ago is this four-line rendition by the esteemed Basil Hall Chamberlain.

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

While the song isn’t the most impressive in terms of length, it has captured the interest of quite a few people around the world. While we wouldn’t recommend trying to sift through all the YouTube comments, this one seemed particularly enthusiastic.

▼Probably not actually Christina Aguilera…


However, all the praise being heaped upon the song by foreigners has left many Japanese commenters scratching their head. After someone translated some of the comments into Japanese, 2channel users responded thusly.

“All these comments are making me laugh.”
“May your reign/Continue for a thousand years, for eternity,/Until pebbles/Grow into boulders/Covered in moss. Isn’t it just way too short?”
“It’s too short to translate!”
“I think the American and British anthems are the best.”
“No, the Russian anthem is number one!”
“I like the French anthem better.”
“The lyrics to the French anthem are seriously disturbing.”
“I never liked ‘Kimi ga Yo’ even as a kid. I never had fun singing it in school.”
“Before translating ‘Kimi ga Yo’ into all these foreign languages, why don’t you translate it into Japanese first?”
“How did they translate it? I don’t even really understand the Japanese!”

Here’s the Russian national anthem, in case you haven’t heard it for a while.

And since it seems that the French anthem was popular, be sure to check it out too! We’re not sure it’s “disturbing,” but it certainly is…unique.

But if you think the French anthem is out there, give the British anthem a good listen. It even contains the line “confound their politics,” which might just be the most perfectly British curse ever.

Of course, China won’t be out done!

And we would certainly be remiss if we didn’t share the greatest cover of a (frankly boring) national anthem ever: Jimi Hendrix turning the “Star Spangled Banner” into an acid-fueled trip to the depths of your psyche.

Finally, here’s “Kimi ga Yo” once more with a gagaku, traditional Japanese court music, version tacked onto the end. It’s not quite as trippy as Jimi, but it is definitely not something you hear every day.

So, what do you think, dear readers? What’s your favorite national anthem? Be sure to share in the comments!

Sources: Kinisoku, Wikipedia, Kokinwakashu
Images: YouTube (1, 2), Wikipedia (unkown)