Friday, December 3, 2010

The Irish Who wrote the First Version of Japan's Anthem Kimigayo

The music for the first version of the Japanese national anthem, the Kimigayo, was penned by an Irishman, John William Fenton. Fenton, who was born in Kinsale, County Cork in 1828, came to Japan as a bandmaster with the British army in 1868, the year of Meiji Restoration. In the following year, he started training of the Brass Band in Japan for soldiers of the Satsuma clan at Myoko-ji temple in Yokohama. This band became the country's first military band.

When the Emperor Meiji inspected the troops consisting of 4 clans including Satsuma, the military band played for the first time in public. In this occasion, Fenton hastily composed a ceremonial melody to accompany the poem "Kimigayo". Over time, this became accepted as the national anthem, although the current anthem is different from Fenton's original version. Fenton is also known as the father of brass band music in Japan and is celebrated for his musical contribution to Japan.

Above is a first day composer featuring a conductor with a band on the cachet issued in Japan on 1989.