National Foundation Day in Japan: Celebrating the Power of Tradition and Unity

What is the date of National Foundation Day in Japan? Some statistics show that even some Japanese don’t know their nation’s founding date.

Many countries have a day of national pride, such as Australia Day, Independence Day, or the Queen’s Birthday, and Japan’s occurs on February 11th. Despite the fact that it is a public holiday and a celebration of national pride, it differs from its Western equivalents.

The First Emperor of Japan

National Foundation Day, also known as Kenkoku Kinen no Hi in Japanese and also referred to as Empire Day, commemorates the ascent of Jimmu, the first Emperor of Japan, to the throne in 660 BC, laying the groundwork for the nation. The event was originally celebrated on New Year’s Day, but when the country transitioned from the Chinese lunisolar calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1873 (during the Meiji Period), the date was shifted to February 11th.

According to legend, the nation’s first monarch, Jimmu, was a direct descendant of Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess. He was born on the island of Kyushu in Miyazaki Prefecture. During his rule, the soon-to-be emperor waged and won conflicts with every tribe he encountered. He unified Japan via his activities in destroying the various clans that divided the country.

Many legends of Jimmu’s travels and legacy may be found in the Kojiki, which translates to ‘Records of Ancient Matters’ or ‘An Account of Ancient Matters’ in English. The Kojiki is essentially a history of the country.

National Foundation Day in Japan was interrupted after World War 2

What’s intriguing about this day is that, unlike its Western equivalents, there’s relatively little hoopla these days for a worldwide celebration of national pride on February 11th. Until World War II, the day was celebrated with elaborate activities such as fireworks, parades, celebrations, and flag raising. However, due to the events of World War II, National Foundation Day was discontinued.

Though it was eventually re-established in 1966, it never regained its former status. There are a few modest festivities around the country, but large-scale shows of patriotism are unusual. A tiny throng gathers yearly before the gates of the Imperial Palace, the present Emperor’s residence, and there is a little procession in the morning in Tokyo’s Omotesando Dori, near Harajuku, but that’s about it.

According to a 2015 research by the Sankei Shimbun and Japan Today, barely 19% of Japan’s population knows when National Foundation Day is. The survey polled 10,000 Japanese adults aged 18 and above in ten cities throughout the country.

National Foundation Day in Japan
A parade in Tokyo for National Foundation Day of Japan on February 11, 2019. Credit: Wikipedia

It’s very astounding when contrasted to the results of the same study research, which asked 300 foreigners residing in Japan about their awareness of their home country’s national day. Chinese citizens had the greatest proportion of accurate answers in this study, with 100 percent, followed by Canadians with 97.7 percent and Americans with 91.3 percent. Nonetheless, the country appears to be content to have the day off, even if they have no idea why.

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