National Foundation Day in Japan

Today is National Foundation Day in Japan. The creation of the day uses elements that stem all the way back to Japan’s earliest history but the exact day, the eleventh of February, was decided during the Meiji period (1868-1912)

February 11th is a day that celebrates the foundation of Japan by Jimmu, the first Emperor of Japan and direct descendant of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. Scholars are unsure of his origins but the original date was recorded in The Chronicles of Japan (Nihon Shoki).

The creation of the modern holiday can be traced back to more recent times during the Meiji period when the Japanese government switched from the traditional lunisolar calendar – based on the waxing and waning of the moon – to the Gregorian calendar in 1873. The government’s decision to switch calendars meant that the various dates for events had to be recalculated, including Jimmu’s enthronement.

Creating a national holiday for this event was seen as a way of unifying the country through marches and various celebrations promoting patriotism. However, its nationalistic connotations meant that it was abolished after World War II but it was revived in 1966 as a national holiday and continues to this day. The celebrations usually consist of celebrations at shrines.

Here are two videos that were just put on YouTube showing a celebration at the Meiji Jingo Shrine amidst flurries of very classy snow and an explanation of the day in Japanese.

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