National Foundation Day
|National Foundation Day|
|Significance||Celebrates the founding of the nation|
|Next time||11 February 2018|
National Foundation Day (建国記念の日 Kenkoku Kinen no Hi?) is a national holiday in Japan celebrated annually on February 11, celebrating the foundation of Japan and the accession of its first emperor, Emperor Jimmu at Kashihara gū on 11 February 660 BC.
The origin of National Foundation Day is New Year's Day in the traditional lunisolar calendar. On that day, the foundation of Japan by Emperor Jimmu was celebrated based on Nihonshoki, which states that Emperor Jimmu ascended to the throne on the first day of the first month.
In the Meiji period, the government of Meiji Japan designated the day as a national holiday because of the modernization of Japan by the Meiji Restoration. This coincided with the switch from the lunisolar calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1873. In 1872, when the holiday was originally proclaimed, it was January 29 of the Gregorian calendar, which corresponded to Lunar New Year of 1873. Contrary to the government's expectation, this led people to see the day as just Lunar New Year, instead of the National Foundation Day. In response, the government moved the holiday to February 11 of the Gregorian calendar in 1873. The government stated that it corresponded to Emperor Jimmu's regnal day but did not publish the exact method of computation.
February 11 was also the day when the Constitution of the Empire of Japan in 1889 with the enforcement on November 29, 1890.
In its original form, the holiday was named Empire Day (紀元節, Kigensetsu?). The national holiday was supported by those who believed that focusing national attention on the emperor would serve an unifying purpose. Publicly linking his rule with the mythical first emperor, Jimmu, and thus Amaterasu, the Meiji Emperor declared himself the one, true ruler of Japan. With large parades and festivals, in its time, Kigensetsu was considered one of the four major holidays of Japan.
Given its reliance on the State Shinto, the nationalistic version of Shinto which is the traditional Japanese ethnic religion and its reinforcement of the Japanese nobility based on the Japanese nationalism and militarism, Kigensetsu was abolished following the surrender of Japan in the World War II. Coincidentally, February 11 was also the day when General Douglas MacArthur approved the draft version of the model Constitution in 1946. The commemorative holiday was re-established as National Foundation Day in 1966. Though stripped of most of its overt references to the Emperor, National Foundation Day was still a day for expressing patriotism and love of the nation in the 1950s.
In contrast with the events associated with earlier Kigensetsu, celebrations for National Foundation Day are relatively muted. Customs include the raising of Japanese national flags and reflection on the meaning of Japanese citizenship. The holiday is still relatively controversial however, and very overt expressions of nationalism or even patriotism in public are rare.
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