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St. Patrick’s Day fun fact: the Japanese owe their national anthem to an Irishman

Yes, really:

John William Fenton (March 12, 1828 – April 28, 1890) was an Irish musician, [and] the leader of a military band in Japan at the start of the Meiji period. He is considered… “the father of band music in Japan.” …In 1869, Fenton realized that there was no national anthem; and Japan’s leaders were convinced that a modern nation state needed a national anthem. Initially, Fenton collaborated with Artillery Captain Ōyama Iwao, who…was well versed in Japanese and Chinese literature, [and] agreed to find a suitable Japanese poem that could be set to music. Ōyama is said to have asked Fenton to make the melody for it… The melody was composed and was performed before the Emperor in 1870. As it happened, Fenton had only three weeks to compose the music and a few days to rehearse before performing the anthem to the Emperor. Fenton’s music was only the first version of Kimi ga Yo… The version developed by Franz Eckert using Fenton’s and Hayashi’s themes became the second and current version of Kimi ga Yo.

The Shamrock Maria made for Kai to wear to school on St Patrick's DayThe Shamrock Maria made for Kai to wear to school on St Patrick's Day
The Shamrock Maria made for Kai to wear to school on St Patrick's Day17-Mar-2004 17:53, Canon Canon PowerShot S230, 2.8, 5.40625mm, 0.125 sec

And as another example of just how small the world is, Fenton’s first wife is buried in the Yokohama foreigner’s cemetery, which is also where Maria’s family tomb is (her family was native, but they were Catholic…), and he is buried in Santa Cruz, where I went to college.

And since it’s St Patrick’s Day, I’m once again sharing a picture of the Shamrock Maria made for Kai to wear to pre-school back in 2004, to show off his fragmentary Irish heritage.

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