Japanese Holidays: Kenkoku kinen no hi -- Founding of the Nation Day (Februay 11)

Figure 1.-- These Tokyo primary school children are parading on Empire Day (February 11, 1939) in front of the Emperor's Palace. Notice the rifles. The Japanese military throughout the 1920s and 30s expanded its role in society, asssasinating civilian politicians that dared resist. The school system is just one of the institutions that the military set out to influence. Empire Day uis niow calkled National Foundation Day and observances have changed considerably.

Kenkoku kinen no hi (建国記念の日 Founding of the Nation Day) is Japan's national holidayand is celebrated each year on February 11. By founding of the nation, it is meant the accession of its first Emperor, Jimmu. The date was to be January 1 (traditional lunisolar calendar), but was changed to February 11 uith the change of calandar and to avoid confusion with a lunar holiday. . With the Meiji Restoration, the Imperial Government designated the foundation day as a national holiday, the country's national day celebration. The holiday was called Kigensetsu (紀元節 Empire Day). The holiday helped bolster the legitimacy of the imperial family after the defeat and the abolition of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The national holiday helped focus public attention on the Emperor who became unifying symbol for the new regime. It also help connect the Meiji Emperor with the largely mythical first emperor, Jimmu. Amaterasu, the Meiji Emperor declared himself the one, true ruler of Japan. As the natiinal day holiday, impressive parades and festivals were organized. Empire Day became one of the four major Japanese holidays. Empire Day involved Shintoism and the Japanese nobility as well as the country's military prowess and colonial exoansion. As a result, after the Pacific War, theholiday was abolished. Perhaops not entirely coincidentally, General MacArthur approved the draft version of the model Constitution on what would have been Empire Day (1946). After the American occupatiion ended, the Japanese re-established the holiday, but changed the name to National Foundation Day (1966). The celebratiionsalsi changed. Observences becanme much lower key. Customs include the display of Japanese flags and discussions of citizenship. Military displays are never staged. The contriversy over the holiday have not disappeared. Overt expressions of nationalism or patriotism are seen as inppropriate by some, but not all Japanese people.


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Created: 4:46 PM 4/1/2009
Last updated: 4:47 PM 4/1/2009