Wed, May 31, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Anthem parody is music to rebels' ears

THE GUARDIAN , TOKYO

Japanese who object to being forced to sing their country's national anthem have a secret weapon: the English language. Kiss Me, an English parody of the Kimigayo, has spread through the Internet and was sung by teachers and pupils at recent school entrance and graduation ceremonies, local media reported on Monday.

The song, whose composer remains a mystery, takes the syllables of each word of the Japanese original and turns them into phonetically similar English words, allowing non-conformist singers to escape detection. For example, "Kimigayo wa" becomes "Kiss me girl, your old one."

Weeks after a British music producer caused uproar in the US with a Spanish version of the Star Spangled Banner, the conservative newspaper Sankei Shimbun, denounced the new song as an attempt to "sabotage" Japan's traditional anthem.

The English lyrics have a serious political twist: they apparently refer to the tens of thousands of Asian "comfort women" who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during the World War II.

Left-wing teachers unions regard Kimigayo, which is based on poem wishing the emperor a "thousand years of happy reign," as a symbol of Japan's militarist past.

The anthem was not legally recognized until 1999, and in 2003 the Tokyo metropolitan government, led by right-wing Governor Shintaro Ishihara, ordered teachers to stand and sing it at school ceremonies. Hundreds of teachers in the capital have been punished for refusing to follow the order.

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